At some point last school year, you began a list called “Things I’ll Tackle Once School is Done.” Some of you said you’d revamp your curriculum or read that one PD book you’ve been hearing about or begin studying for that new course you’re teaching next year or paint your classroom walls or reorganize your room. Some of you wrote these things down; others just stored them subconsciously every time you said, “Next year, I’ll…”
We all make The List. This is because we are professionals, and a professional's work is never done.
But great professionals are great people leading great lives. That last word is important. So how do you plan to hit “Reset” on your professional brain before you tackle The List? How do you intend to re-balance yourself after a year of going all-in on your work?
The Mental Reset Button
Back in the days of the original Nintendo Entertainment System, you had to hit the Reset button when the game froze or the machine glitched. You didn’t want to do it – it always meant stopping the game you were playing, and, oftentimes, you’d lose some progress – but you had no choice.
Too many great educators pretend that they can just power themselves through the last weeks of school and then plow straight into tackling The List. Don’t fool yourself; you need to reset.
The Mental Reset Button (n): an activity or event that involves a complete lack of productivity and some form of final reflection on last year; ideally at least 24 hours long.
Here is one way I like hitting the Button each year.
Doug Stark, my friend, mentor, and CSHS colleague, gave me the idea for this post and its title. As the years go by, I see him as a model not just of leading an intelligent, reflective, and focused teaching career; he’s also great at encouraging other teachers.
For nearly ten years, Doug has encouraged teachers to hit their Mental Reset Buttons through his annual, last day of school male teacher overnighter. As soon as the school year officially ends with the superintendent’s farewell, we carpool an hour north into rustic Baldwin, MI, and for the next 24 hours we have a ball at his family’s lake cabin out in the middle of nowhere.
Essentially, the overnighter is about doing everything but thinking about The List: we enjoy food, laughter, beer, and a campfire; we fish, we reminisce, we compete, we celebrate. Since we’re out in the middle of nowhere and staying the night, the constraints of time and space slip away as we mentally shift from the pressure of a school year into the decompression of summer break.
One of my favorite parts of the overnighter is when we give out the awards. Doug makes up the categories and, prior to the trip, assigns the awards to various teachers who are then responsible for writing up nominations. This was my first year giving an award, and I didn’t realize how intense it was: some award-givers showed up with typed manuscripts, and a few of them belong on the stand-up circuit. These awards are a tradition I look forward to each year.
On the drive home the next morning, I always feel distinctly different than I did on the drive up. I’m excited for the summer, both its work and its relaxation. I’m thankful for the year that’s passed, free from any frustrations I was holding, and ready to start on The List in a more relaxed, refreshed fashion.
What's your reset plan?
I realize that some of you have already figured this out. Stop reading. You're good.
But some of you are like I was early on in my career — I glorified work. I felt like I had no time to reset or unplug. As soon as I waved goodbye to the kids at year's end, it was time to follow up on them or get to work on next year's classes or or or or ororororororor. Just, The List.
But that's crazy. Don't be like I was.
Go do something with a group of teachers. Or by yourself. Or with someone you love. Or with your kids.
Get on a boat or in a car or on a bike or in a balloon.
Don't take work or PD books or plans. Do take time to think or write or dream.
Look: I try not to be pushy on this blog. It's a place for generous encouragement; it's where you and I come to tell each other to keep going.
But you need to go be a regular person for a bit, especially at times like the end of the school year.
So, seriously — go take a break. Cheers to a great summer 🙂