Happy Teacher Series: How Happy Teachers Spend Their Time Off

How happy teachers spend their time off might surprise you! Are you making the most of your vacations?
As teachers we know that we work more hours during the time we are in school than most other professions. We also work when we are not in school, particularly over the summer by attending professional development opportunities, prepping for the school year, and planning with our colleagues. While these are all great ways to stay on top of our teaching game, they are not always the best for our mental health. 

When you think about time off I want you to think about all the time you are away from school. This means that evenings, weekends, breaks during the year, and summer vacation are all a part of time off. When you shift your thinking from just vacations to all of this time, it is easier to make some choices on how to spend your time.

The truth of the matter is that there are a few distinct ways that happy teachers spend their time away from school that seem to make a big difference, and they aren't a stretch either!

Happy Teachers Make Time for Family

Do you find yourself still at school late into the evening when your own children or family are at home carrying on with their lives? While it is bound to happen from time to time don't let this become the norm. Prioritize your family, because they should come first. 

I chose one day a week that I would stay late and take care of everything that needed to happen. My family knew that Thursdays I would be home later, and we tried not to plan anything for that day. The reason I chose Thursdays is that it was also the day most likely to have after school events such as family nights or PTA meetings. This way I didn't have to rearrange my schedule when those events occurred. Some Thursdays I would still be at school way after the sun when down, but most of the time I was able to get out the door just a bit later than I would normally leave. 

By choosing one day and committing to taking care of business on that day I was able to spend more time at home without the worries of when things would get done at school. 

Spending time with your family, and friends, is like hitting the recharge button on life. Getting together, laughing, and enjoying yourself is the best way to reground your life. While it might be hard to step away from something you could be doing for school, you will never regret it. 

Happy Teachers Have a Hobby

Do you ever find yourself with some time off and don't know what to do with yourself? While it happens to everyone, if you have a hobby to fall back on you can feel like your time is more meaningful. Hobbies also give you a chance to look forward to something when you aren't working. 

My personal hobbies include reading, quilting, racing cars, and napping while Netflix plays in the background. All of these hobbies require a time commitment, but some more than others. There is nothing I love more than a day when I can feel a sense of accomplishment from doing something that I want to do. A rainy day of quilting and reading all day? Yes, please! 

It is important for us to remember that before we are teachers we are people, and people need to enjoy themselves. On top of this, when you take the time to do what you like it leaves you more refreshed to re-enter the classroom when the time comes. 

How happy teachers spend their time off might surprise you! Are you making the most of your vacations?Happy Teachers Know When to Unplug

These days we are all so connected at every moment of every day. Between laptops, tablets, cell phones, and everything else we are almost always reachable, and that can be a good thing or bad. When I really want to relax I turn it all off. I put my phone in do not disturb, I turn off the TV, I have even been known to unplug the wireless router to remove all temptation. 

By unplugging I am able to get back to my roots. I read a book, go outside, play with my dog, and just be me. Screen time can be a dangerous thing when we are already overwhelming by life, so while it has its place, it feels amazing to turn it off. 

Lately I have been trying to turn off all screens for two hours before bedtime and I have never slept better! 

Happy Teachers Know When to Rest

When you are a teacher there is always something that can be done, but the happiest teachers know when to stop and rest. This might mean saying that enough has been done that day so you go home and take a nap. It could also mean making sure that you go to bed before that last load of laundry is folded or choosing to sleep in on a Sunday when you could be up and cutting out laminate. 

I know it is popular to utter the words, "I'll sleep when I'm dead," but why? Why would you do that to yourself? When your body is properly rested you are able to be a better you. Your thoughts are clearer, you can make better choices, and you are better to be around. Our bodies need rest. Now this doesn't mean that there won't be times when you are totally exhausted, because there will, but you can choose to limit them. 

Happy Teachers Know How to Work Hard and Play Harder

Teaching is hard work, and we work year round to make sure that our students are getting our absolute best. This means too that when we have the time off we should do something fun. I don't mean sit and read all day fun, even though that is dreamy, but really cut loose and party it out a bit. 

This is going to look different for each person, because while I think a backyard potluck with friends who all bring their dogs is an idea for a great night others are going to think more about a night out on the town or skydiving. The key is to make it something you want to do, and have maybe been putting off. 

Happy Teachers Know When to Think About Work

Up until now I have been talking about turning your school brain off and focusing on  your life outside of school, but the truth is the happiest teachers don't ignore school during time off. When you think about the tasks that need to be done and how you can get them done in the most efficient way, sometimes this means doing them in your time off. 

For example, the summer is the longest period of time in which we have few commitments to school. This is the time in which I would print, color, laminate, cut, and put together math stations or things of this sort. Doing this during the school year would totally stress me out, but doing it during the summer while binge watching my favorite Netflix shows is just something to keep my hands busy. 

Along the same lines, I am a sucker for a great professional development session. Even more, I am a sucker for a girls trip. Why not get a couple of teacher friends together, choose a fun destination with a great PD opportunity, go in on a hotel room together, and make a trip out of it? I am not talking flying across the country, although you could, but driving a couple of hours to get a little space and check out another city with your friends. This can also be a great relationship building experience with coworkers! 

Do What Makes You Happy!

In the end, I could tell you what makes me and many other teachers happy, but you have to decide for yourself what works. The important thing to remember is that how you spend you time off should be fulfilling, restful, and leave you feeling ready to conquer your classroom!

For more ideas on how to be a happier teacher check out
11 Things Happy Teachers Don't Do

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20 Books For Your U.S. History Block

20 books that are sure to make your U.S. History block come alive!
Are you looking for ways to incorporate more literature into your United States History block? With more and more needing to be fit into our classrooms each day the only way to get it done it through content integration. In addition to saving time, reading books about United States History builds engagement with out students and gets them excited to read and learn more about our country.  The following are all books that I have shared with students that we have all loved. 

The links included in this post are Amazon affiliate links, which means if you click and decide to buy Amazon gives me a little back without increasing the cost to you. This helps me to maintain this blog. 

Some of the books included on this list are nonfiction and others are historic fiction. I have found that using a good mix of genres that pertain to history encourage students to learn more. Click on the title of each book to be taken to the Amazon listing. 

The Guts & Glory series.  This series covers a variety of American history events with high interest topics such as the American Revolution and the Civil War. My students were totally entranced by this series and continued to check out more and more of them over various history topics throughout the year.

Our 50 States is a beautifully illustrated story of travel through the 50 states and features unique qualities of each of them. This book is a great way to get students a lot of information about sights in different areas of the country in a concise way.

By the same author is America an alphabet book which is a fun way to start the year of American History.

When it is time to discuss the formation of our country and founding fathers some of my favorite choices are:

Another GREAT high interest series that students are sure to love are the Nathan Hale's Hazardous Tales series. These graphic novels will get even your most reluctant learners excited about reading and learning their history. The first one that I read was Big Bad Ironclad, but soon my students were begging for more to be added to our classroom library. 

Yet another wonderful series for getting students excited about history and placing them in the shoes of historical figures is the You Wouldn't Want to Be a... series

This series covers topics such as life on the Mayflower, as an American colonist, during the American Civil War, and a part of the Boston Tea Party among other topics.

This series was always highly sought after in my our classroom and spent very little time on the shelves.

I have found that one of the surefire ways to get students interested in history is to talk or read about some of the shall we say grosser parts of history.

This book, The Dreadful, Smelly Colonies is a great way to capture all the "ewwwws" and "ah grosses" that you kids have to offer. Make no mistake though, later they will all be rushing to check this one out to read more about how terrible life in the colonies way.

 Are you done hearing about series yet? I sure hope not, because the
If You... series is another great, historically accurate series with topics that will take you all the way from Colonial America to Westward Expansion.

This series has great illustrations that capture the imagination of students and lead to amazing discussions that will have students digging deeper into history.

One period of history for which there is a ton of amazing literature is the time period surrounding the Civil War and the history of slavery in the United States. Some of my absolute favorite books to share with students take place during this period, and I never seem to be able to fit them all in. My favorites include:

There are also an amazing collection of books for the Civil Rights era. These books are amazing for showing the triumph of the human spirit as well as the diversity that makes our country so great. By sharing stories of the difficulties that people have suffered through in order to make their lives, and the lives of those around them better we can encourage our students to always strive for better.

If you are keeping count, I missed the mark by a couple, but I just couldn't help myself! I can only hope that your students will be as excited by these books as well! 
20 books that are sure to make your U.S. History block come alive!

Happy Teacher Series: Dealing with Stress

Teaching is stressful, but it doesn't have to be as bad as we make it. Try these 4 proven tips to be on your way to happier teaching!
Teaching is stressful. There is no arguing that point, and if you would like to I have a classroom with 25 nine year olds that were just given cupcakes to introduce you to. There are so many parts of the job that can make us want to hide, and spoiler alert the kids with cupcakes are rarely one of them. Instead teachers are given what seems like an unending list of tasks to do, paperwork to complete, and then there is the actual teaching. 

While we can't really help that teaching is stressful, there is a definite difference in the way that a happy teacher handles stress versus a teacher that is feeling burnt out. The truth of the matter is that happy teachers choose to put themselves and their health first, and when you consider every situation through that lens the stress becomes a little easier to deal with. 

No two people, or teachers, relieve stress in the exact same way, but there are a few tried and true methods that pretty much everyone can agree on. 

Happy Teachers Exercise

If you can make the time to exercise you are really getting a double whammy. Exercise is taking time for yourself, keeping yourself healthy, plus it just feels good to sweat it out sometimes. Trust me, even when I am feeling at my absolute worst, if I make myself work out I always feel a bit better afterwards. 

Find a routine that you can stick to. For me, it is group work out classes because they are fun, and once you meet a few people if you aren't there at your regular times they ask about you. The accountability is key and will keep you coming back. I joined a regular old gym that I liked the classes at, and it has done wonders for my waist line and mental health. 

After exercising is when I feel at my best. I am ready to take on whatever comes my way. I also tend to let thoughts that are bothering me simmer just a bit during a workout, and often I think of something to try. Some people make breakthroughs while showing, for me it is while I am sweating.  

Teaching is stressful, but it doesn't have to be as bad as we make it. Try these 4 proven tips to be on your way to happier teaching!Happy Teachers Take a Break

If you are able to stop what you are doing when you are most stressed and take a break it can be a life-saver. Not all situations allow for this, so use breaks with caution, but giving yourself some time to think and formulate a plan rather than going full steam ahead when completely overwhelmed is worth the wait. 

Often by gaining a little bit of distance between yourself and a stressful situation you can find some composure and are ready to tackle the problem later. 

For me, parent emails where the tone was a bit tough were some of the biggest stressors I have ever faced. I always felt that I needed to respond right in the moment when my feelings were strong and I might have lost a bit of my professional filter. Instead I learned to walk away, think about how I wanted to response, and come back to it later. This doesn't mean that I would let the email sit in my inbox until it started growing wildflowers, but I would wait an hour or two and gain some perspective. 

Side note: I also learned that when I received what I felt was an email with a harsh tone it was about a million times better to pick up the phone and have a conversation rather than respond by email, and this is coming from a person that dies a little inside every time they have to make a phone call. 

Happy Teachers Use the Buddy System

One of the absolute best things about being a teacher is the colleagues. We are one great bunch, and even more than being amazing people we are fantastic listeners and problem solvers. If you are feeling overwhelmed then find a buddy and talk it out. 

At the least you will find a sympathetic companion, and sometimes all we need to know is that others are feeling the pressure too. I am willing to bet though, that more often than no your buddy will have just the idea that you need to get through. A fresh set of eyes on a situation always offers a new perspective. 

Using the buddy system will also let you know when you are being irrational about something that is stressing you out. Sometimes we get caught up in the minutiae of teaching, and need to be told that worrying about a tiny detail is not time well spent, because we can't always do it for ourselves. 

Teaching is stressful, but it doesn't have to be as bad as we make it. Try these 4 proven tips to be on your way to happier teaching!Happy Teachers Remember
That They Are Only Human

Sometimes it is hard for us as teachers to remember that we are mere mortals. I mean our students worship us, so our heads can get a little fuzzy on the idea. It is okay to take a step back and say that is enough for today or it is okay to not be perfect. We don't have to be all the things all the time for all the people try as we might.

For me, learning to accept imperfections within the classroom was one of the hardest lessons for me to learn.  I had the worst time not redoing items that had a smudge or practicing my handwriting when both of these things were trivial, had no effect on my students, and really just stressed me out more. Talk about lose-lose.

It wasn't until I was able to tell myself that I could only do so much and stopped pretending to have it all together that I was able to flourish as a teacher. I spent more time on what mattered and less time, if any, on the things that didn't. This also allowed me to rediscover some hobbies I had before teaching.

For more ideas on how to be happier as a teacher check out 11 Things Happy Teachers Don't Do.

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