Teaching is hard.
It is a selfless act requiring enormous amounts of patience and passion. It is no wonder that, after months of work, teachers feel as though they have transformed into zombies—crawling towards whatever break is on the horizon, grabbing desperately at the sweet release of freedom. It doesn’t mean we have lost our love for teaching; it is just that we are exhausted.
Really, really, REALLY exhausted! Because . . .
Teaching is hard.
But am I the only one who struggles with returning to teacher mode after a break? I can’t be. Right? There are others of you out there, too. I know it. People just like me. You adore teaching ballet. You can’t imagine your life without it. Or maybe you can imagine it and you would rather not imagine it because it makes you feel just so sad. Teaching ballet is your calling.
But then, why is returning so difficult?! You want to get up, put your dance clothes on, and go teach all the people about tendu and pirouette—but you also just . . . don’t.
My theory on why it is so difficult? Go back and read the first sentence.
**I will make a little side note here: I do have some teacher friends who do not struggle with this. They have no idea what I am talking about. If you are one of those people, congratulations! I envy you.
But for anyone who experiences “Back to work? Yay! Back to work? Ugh!” perhaps these tips will give you a little boost and help you segue a bit more easily into work after that lazy break.
1. Unplug Entirely
I don’t know about you, but not thinking about teaching ballet is trying for me. My brain just keeps at it. When I am on a break, I tend to not really be on a break. I just keep on thinking about this student’s brisé or that student’s lack of focus. Getting my brain out of the dance studio and into true break mode takes some purposeful thought. But when I apply myself to this task, I find myself feeling more rejuvenated in much less time.
2. Do Work
Now, although I advocate unplugging entirely sometimes that might result in chaos upon your return. Perhaps the last costume choice for the performance was not made before break arrived. It slipped through the cracks. Hey, it happens. Remember, teaching is hard! If you just leave it hanging there, you will experience mild stress over it for the entire break. Well, I don’t know if you will, but I most certainly would. I make a list of the things that absolutely MUST be completed before the break is over and I set aside an hour or two at the start of the break (if possible) to get those things done. But that is it. No getting side-tracked and sucked into the vortex of the ballet teacher’s mind.
In my experience, nothing gets my mind off teaching ballet more than actually doing ballet. The reason for that is obvious: Ballet transports me. It is my high. But it also centers me. Reminds me who I am apart from ‘teacher’. It inspires me. And when the class is done I feel valid in resting. Taking class is pretty much the healthiest thing I can do for myself.
4. Go Back Early
I go back to work a day or two early. I might not go into the studio, but I “go back to work”. I get back into lesson planning and ease my way back into teacher mode so by the time I need to step into a class full of students, I have already made the transition. I am there. Ready to go for them. Chances are, they are not ready (they just had a break too), so I’d better be!
5. Do Better Work Before the Break
I don’t mean work harder. You already work hard enough. I mean work in a more balanced way. As I mentioned earlier, teaching is a selfless act. We are constantly giving and giving. We love giving. We love the sacrifice. How could we not? The rewards are astronomical. But, when we allow imbalance to rule always we set ourselves up for a variety of difficulties; one being that we just don’t know how to relax when the time comes to relax. It is as though we must train for relaxing. What a strange thing to say, but I believe it to be true.
With teaching being as hard as it is, and with teachers loving the hard work as much we do, breaks are essential for our well-being. Without them I am certain we would be terrors carrying on about stretched feet and turned out thighs while everyone else is just trying to chill and enjoy dinner. We must teach ourselves to take breaks in ways that are productive to us and set us up for success as we return to work.
Happy Breaking to you!