“Every season is one of becoming, but not always one of blooming.
Be gracious with your ever-evolving self.”
I have a confession to make…
My name is Danielle and I’m obsessed with the seasons.
Perhaps it’s that I’m a native of the Northeast part of the United States and have always had four seasons, or the fact that the weather shows we’re very much in for a substantial snow storm this week, or maybe it’s because I spent so much time outside as a kid, or maybe because I’ve fallen in love with the concept of Permaculture and try to find ways to apply it to all kinds of broken systems (stay tuned for more of that in 2021), whatever the reason is….seasonality is on my mind constantly.
Today I want to offer you thoughts about how seasonality can apply to our school year and how embracing this concept can drastically support self-care and develop opportunities for together-care.
We all know the stereotypical four seasons: winter, spring, summer, fall. You may or may not fully experience them where you live and the length and duration of them may wax and wane depending on the year, but we have certain traditions and rituals during different seasons. We celebrate certain holidays during certain times and know that certain changes happen at certain times of the year. Some seasons we spend time outside, some seasons we spend more time indoors.
If you take the time to observe, there’s a natural rhythm that nature exemplifies that we are welcome (and encouraged) to echo.
So how can we mimic nature and create our four seasons of school?
As teachers, it’s not difficult to see two distinct seasons: summer vacation and the school year. But what if we break down the school year into smaller “seasons” so that we can enjoy the ebb and flow? What if we work in 12 week increments (about 90 days) and create our own four seasons of school?
Would we gain some respite? Some time to regroup? Would we be able to avoid the potential to burn out or white knuckle it to the end of the day, week, or school year if we only worked in these smaller units of time?
After 18 years of teaching, here’s my attempt at creating this natural cycle and applying it to the school year.
Depending on where you live and your school’s calendar, this may not be exactly how your months go, but you can simply take 90 day or 12 week increments to do this same calculation. The topics of each category will probably follow the same flow, even if your months don’t fully align.
Disclaimer: You may have specific extra curricular activities or other responsibilities that go along with being a parent or community member. You’ll have to adjust accordingly as well, but this can serve as a guide for the flow of a typical classroom school year experience.
[September, October, November]
This is when we are starting from scratch. We are ready to meet our new students. There is anticipation in the air of what’s to come. Because of this intense emotion, we may work longer and harder hours during this season than at any other point in the cycle. The trap can be to think that it’s sustainable (and expected) to keep up with this kind of schedule the entire year.
[December, January, February]
At this point in the school year, 90 days or 12 weeks in, we have some footing and a rhythm in place. This is when it’s imperative for you to pull back and take some time to deliberately leave at assigned times. Keep appointments with loved ones. Don’t work on weekends.
Now that you are in a rhythm, rebuild your reserves so that you can avoid bouts of burnout. If you never regroup from the excitement and energy expansion that the new school year just required of you, you will never be able to get to the end of the school year as the most healthy version of you possible.
[March, April, May]
We spent the last season rebuilding our reserves. In the regroup stage, we reign the students back in, and perhaps even ourselves. We can’t let everything go just because we see the light at the end of the school year tunnel. We need to stay consistent, keep our routines, be consistent. We regroup and decide what must be covered, and what we can let go of.
Each year brings with it different challenges and relationships. Our students will bring different combinations and we will be confronting different circumstances (umm…remember March 2020!). So spend this season regrouping so that you will focus on the most important things to get you and your students to the goals that you have set forth for the year.
[June, July, August]
This is the season that goes without introduction. It’s the classic teacher time to recover from the trials and tribulations of the school year. It’s the romanticized season where many non teachers resent teachers for having this time without “working.” Because I’m a real teacher in the field, I know how easy it can be for teachers to work (and hard) throughout the whole summer in a mix of guilt and overwhelm coupled with an inability to let go of the day job.
But it’s just so important to spend this time as guilt free as possible just recharging your batteries from the school year. The more you’ve spent the year riding the seasonal ebbs and flows of the seasons, the less intense recharging needed. Whatever the case, try to embrace the moments of recharging and enjoy this season to the fullest so that you can be ready to do it all again!
Given this “flow of the seasons” my main point is to say that we all may benefit from “gifting” ourselves a little “rebuild” time during the coming days, weeks, and months ahead, so that we have those reserves in place for the next season of the year.
So what do you think about this concept? I’d love to hear your thoughts about the seasonality of our school year. What resonates with you? What feels like it’s missing? I’d love to hear your reflections about this topic and try to really speak to this as we’re moving into this next season of our year: the rebuilding phase.