Its here. Winter break is finally here, and we all could not be more excited. On the surface, we see that this winter break might be spent with family, with friends, traveling to beautiful cities, eating elaborate holiday meals, and maybe unwrapping a gift or two.
But underneath a festive exterior, teachers are thinking about the rest of the year ahead. When we finally stop and slow down, we can begin to paralyze ourselves with overwhelming thoughts of lessons to plan, how to improve and deepen connections with our students (especially the tough ones), and the laundry list of items to change in our classroom that we know will never end.
Teachers (and particularly myself) get caught up in the game of comparison. We see social media of our co-workers who are hammering away at lesson plans or waking up early to be productive, and we start this internal conversation of "Should I be doing this too?" and "Am I doing something wrong?" or the worst of all: "Am I good enough?" These comparisons we materialize can crush our ability to mentally prepare for the school year left ahead.
So. This is my one (two-part) wish for all educators during this winter break:
Part 1: Do You
There are an endless amount of ways to spend your break and to prepare yourself individually, so in no way, shape, or form can I give you any other advice but to do what is best for you. And the follow up question to that statement should be "Why would you do anything else?"
If being at your best this second half of the year means doing 0 (and I mean truly 0) teacher/work-related tasks over break, then don't. Sleep in, be lazy, relax, read a book, binge-watch the Office on Netflix. Whatever is relaxing and fulfilling for you, do it.
For those of you busy bees out there: keep being busy. Wake up early and read the news like you normally do, get a early-morning workout in, fill your schedule with errands to check off your to-do list, bake cookies for the entire neighborhood. If that is what helps you feel fulfilled during your break, then don't let anyone stop you from doing so.
But that's just the first part.
Part 2: Get Rid of Judgement
The second and most crucial part is to stop comparing yourself to others. This applies to humans in general, not just teachers. It is in our nature to compare ourselves, to see how we stack up. We identify and analyze our characteristics, our behaviors, and then force ourselves to change with the fleeting hope of meeting somebody's expectations. We will do almost anything for approval, even if it means doing things that we don't enjoy or go directly against our own well-being. Furthermore, we relentlessly judge ourselves for why we might not be a certain way. Our minds go crazy and we beat ourselves up for "not doing enough" or "trying too hard" or whatever insecurity we fear most. This, compounded by the approval of others, creates deep, internal unhappiness that becomes difficult to uproot.
You must realize that when it comes to your individual happiness the only person's opinion that matters is your own. Every person is unique with different lifestyles, talents, and needs. When our own happiness is at stake, we cannot allow the approval and judgment of others, and even more so, ourselves, dictate the outcome. How could anyone else truly know what you need, what you should be achieving, or what your life should look like? Only you internally can answer the question of what brings you happiness. You must activate the mental barrier to block out judgement, both internal and external, and decide to choose your own happiness over anything else.
This is not easy. It takes practice and immense self-awareness. You might even feel uncomfortable thinking about blocking out someone else's opinion because you're still scared by the possibility of judgement. But when happiness is on the line, we really have no other option. Once you make the decision to put your happiness first and get rid of judgement -- period -- life becomes incredibly simple and fulfilling.
Therefore, my one wish this Winter break is for you to do what makes you happy. Take this time to reflect on what genuinely bring you fulfillment. And please, I implore you: stop taking judgement from yourself and others, and just do you. Your happiness will thank you.
For more information on how to deal with judgement, I have attached an insightful Gary Vaynerchuk podcast episode that discusses this idea more. **Explicit language in this episode**