Six Ways Leaders Can Recharge and Refresh This Summer
If you’re a teacher, you know the sounds that surround you after the final day of classes in the spring. It’s deafening silence. No students are chatting or yelling. No one is asking you to do something for them. No rustling in the hallways. No noise at all.
The spring semester is over, and summer is here. At least for two months, right? But that doesn’t mean you won’t be working during June and July. It just means your work will look different. The emotional expense of your day declines. You have a little more margin as an educator. For nine to ten months, you have taken care of others. Now—it’s time to take care of yourself.
So, what should you do?
Let’s Get Real
The first reality we should come to grips with is that we all have different ways of refreshing ourselves. I will be the last person to tell you that “self care” must look a certain way for everyone. In fact, consider these facts:
1. We all have a different capacity.
Some educators run out of “emotional fuel” rapidly. They have a lower capacity for projects and people. Others can take on lots more and not feel spent. You need to discern how you need to recover from your year.
2. We all are energized differently.
Some of us are energized by time alone. Others, by time with people, depending on our Myers Briggs Temperament Indicator. You should discover what enables you to gain energy and feel at your best.
3. We all need different amounts of sleep and rest.
Everyone I know understands their sleep cycle. As a Type One Diabetic, I need eight hours of sleep each night to perform at my best over a week’s time. This summer is a great time for you to catch up on your cycle.
What we all have in common is that we need to refresh ourselves periodically. Every human has the innate need to refuel. Passion for an issue does not equal preparation for it. We must be emotionally prepared for any new task, knowing it will consume some of what’s in our emotional tank.
Most of us are guilty of becoming “starving bakers.” It’s one of our Habitudes. These are images that form leadership habits and attitudes. The Starving Baker is the baker who spend so much time baking bread for others, he forgets to eat, and he starves himself. Do you see any metaphor here that illustrates your life? It’s the number one occupational hazard for leaders and teachers. So just how do we feed ourselves?
During Summer Months—Recharge and Refresh:
1. We should cultivate an identity beyond teaching.
It’s helpful to remember teaching is what you do, not just who you are. We should always place our sense of identity in something that can’t be taken away from us. Some suggest we should add a hyphen to our identity: we are a teacher-mom. Or, a teacher-friend. Or, a teacher-reader.
2. We should be students during the summer—and learn something new.
Why not reverse roles and approach summer months looking for “input” in your life, learning something new about a subject you’re interested in. Growth comes from seeking and discovering new and relevant insights. Choose a topic and go for it. Read, interview, view, and visit to learn.
3. We should join a community that is different and new to us.
One way I have refreshed myself in the past is to join a group of leaders or a learning community I had no association with in the past. It was a summer commitment. Winston Churchill said, “Change is as good a rest.” I’ve found it not only helps me grow but it exercises a new part of my brain.
5. We should let ourselves rest and relax without feeling guilty.
Forty years ago, Tim Hansel wrote a book called, When I Relax I Feel Guilty. It has sold hundreds of thousands of copies. Why? Most of us experience guilt for pushing pause and just chilling, with no agenda. I suffer from this myself. I need to remind myself that I will be more valuable at my work when I DO relax.
6. We should fully engage with our family and loved ones.
During a busy school year, we can be distracted from family and those we love most. Summer may just be the best time to fully engage with our loved ones and give them our undivided attention. Take trips, play games, grab coffee times and pay full attention to the people who’ll still be in your life after you retire.
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