It’s summertime in the northern hemisphere, and that means that teachers don’t have to work at all, right? Wrong! If only that oh-so-common refrain reflected the reality – that teachers don’t actually have an entire summer to themselves.
Instead, the majority of teachers take summers to reset for the upcoming school year: rework pieces of their curricula, reevaluate their materials to ensure inclusiveness, participate in mandated professional development, add to their certifications, dive deeper into their areas of expertise… and the list goes on. Not to mention that, in addition to these professional responsibilities, many educators take on a side hustle to bridge the gap between school years.
This infamous side hustle is a concept that has grown more prominent over the last decade or so as part of the gig economy. For many, it’s part of a systemic reality we can’t escape.
Educators are undervalued and underpaid in the U.S. and in many other countries across the globe, and the state of the economy paired with the cost of living warrants additional streams of income. As individuals, we’re challenged with conditions that remain relatively outside of our control.
We at The Teacher Think-Aloud Podcast clearly have bought into the side hustle culture; otherwise, you wouldn’t be reading this right now. But that doesn’t mean it’s not problematic. (Do as we say, not as we do!) So, how can we channel our energy in a way that will have a meaningful and positive impact on those things we can control?
In Episode 16, “It’s OK to just exist,” we examined toxic productivity as it exists in mainstream U.S. culture. In case this is a new concept for you, toxic productivity can be defined as an obsession with being productive at all times, and often that desire for productivity comes at the expense of other priorities in life.
We've come to associate work ethic as being an innate part of our identity, as something that drives us—in mainstream American culture, but also in other cultures around the world. We’re all about production, busying ourselves (or at least trying to seem busy) as a way to feel accomplished. In a way, this sense of accomplishment correlates to the value we think we hold, this belief that we are only useful if we’re getting things done. Maybe this means that on “off” days, or days that we’re a bit less productive than usual or feel we should be, we end up with a nagging voice in our subconscious saying “do more, do it now…”
What if instead of pressuring ourselves to get something done, just for the sake of checking something off of our ever-growing to-do list, we could just lean into a slower pace, take a moment to breathe, or enjoy something for ourselves?
Even if our work brings us joy and fulfillment, we weren't designed to be on or working all day. So it’s important to stop and reflect on the things that can take us away from that productivity and help us lose ourselves in the moment:
What do you do, just for you, that has nothing to do with your professional development?
What are you doing to take care of yourself?
When you do get time off, what do you prioritize? Do you unplug and make yourself one with nature? Spend time with loved ones? Do you read for leisure? Binge that new series everyone has been talking about? Do you simply try to get better sleep on a more regular basis?
Whatever you do, make sure that you’re taking that time for yourself. You can’t pour from an empty cup, so make sure to fill yours first.
If this feels unnatural for you, know that you're not alone. Try to go easy on yourself! Set realistic expectations for your “downtime” — try not to over-plan and structure your time loosely enough to ride waves of spontaneity and take advantage of fun opportunities that crop up. And perhaps most importantly, don’t allow sticking to your plan to become yet another stressor in your life.
We’ll be taking a break for the month of July as we get ready to launch The Teacher Think-Aloud Professional Learning Network! Not that we want to give you something else to think about, but we’d love for you to join us for the free launch party on July 25. ;)
Until then, take good care of your self. Happy resting and reflecting.