My favorite way to end the semester used to be to throw everything into my office and just leave. I was exhausted and ready to spend some time with my family without the cloud of finals pushing down on my shoulders. I could taste freedom and didn’t want to waste time thinking about next semester.
While it is tempting, that isn’t the best way to do it and I don’t do it now. Do you just throw everything into a drawer in your desk, leave it on top of your desk, throw it out the window and get ready for break? I’ve done that (not the throwing it out the window, but I’ve been tempted). I’ve done that a lot and it didn’t pay off for me.
The problem is that it is all still waiting for you when you come back after break and unfortunately, it has brought friends. The new semester brings more to do and you start off behind. Creating end of semester routines will blow your mind. My favorite takes very little time and has a high level of reward (it’s like chocolate that way).
I don’t care if you’re a teacher or a homeschooler taking a few extra minutes at the end of the semester to create a plan will make you happier and more satisfied as an instructor. Resentment can be a real and present danger in service jobs like teaching.
The truth is when you take a few minutes to get settled for the semester you will find that it will change your outlook in January. I know that sounds like a lot, but I speak from experience.
Changing Your Mindset
I spent 10 years just being happy the semester was done, closing my office door, and saying I would take care of it in January. The truth of the matter is there’s lots to do at the beginning of the semester and trying to deal with the end of the semester and the beginning at the same time is really overwhelming.
Part of it is mindset. The reality is when you’re a teacher you have to do a lot of work that is really outside of the time you’ve been contracted to work. It sucks. You can get really resentful of giving your time away. If you’re a homeschooler, it is easy to lose yourself in the mayhem of teaching the kids.
One of my things I would say a lot was that I don’t get paid enough for this. It was exactly what I didn’t need to be saying. Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t getting paid enough. To top it off they were constantly asking for more from me with no raise.
There is an important need for boundaries, but you need to make sure that your boundaries are helping you and not hurting you. Digging your heals in the sand because you are overworked and frustrated doesn’t help you, I know.
Create Specific Boundaries
I have some very strict boundaries. I don’t check my email during break. That is a hard and fast rule, but I do like to spend the last few days of the semester or the first few days of break getting my schoolhouse in order. My favorite tool is the semester checklist.
You can trust me because I didn’t do this for years. I started each new semester with frustration and some of it was brought on by myself. Where I worked we did a week of professional development and meetings before classes started. That meant that unless you did some crap outside of your time at work you were behind when the semester started. Every. Single. Semester. When you feel like people are taking advantage, it can be really hard to keep frustration at bay.
Create A System that Works.
Y’all know I like systems. A semester checklist is my best friend. It can be really hard to remember everything that needs to be done to finish the semester and get started for next semester while you’re in the middle of it. This is especially true when you’re talking about the fall semester.
I know a lot of teachers put off their holiday shopping or wrapping or cooking or any kind of preparation to get through the end of the semester and it can be really tempting to just scream, “Yes, I’m done!”. The problem with that is that you’re only hurting yourself in the end and your mood for the long bleak month of January is not going to be looking so good.
My Secret Weapon
I’m gonna share my semester checklist as an idea. I want you to make your own and it’s easier to edit something than to come up with something all by yourself. I typically spend probably half a day closing out the semester and half a day getting prepped for the new semester and it has changed the way I look at my job.
This is time I choose. This is not time I spent on email because email is the devil. Email is what makes people feel like they are tied to their job and it builds resentment. Do not check your email over break unless you have a contractual reason you have to. When we check email we’re being reactive and when you’re being reactive it can build resentment. That is a crappy feeling so don’t do that.
Lighten Your Mental Load
When you choose to spend a few hours prepping for the new semester and closing out the old semester with systems you are being proactive. Being proactive will lead you to be less resentful and more satisfied with your teaching.
If you’re a homeschooler sit down at your calendar and pick your days that you’re going to work on school. Meaning don’t do 10 minutes here and 10 minutes there. Choose a time to work on what you will choose to do in the upcoming semester. For instance, I will need to refill my clover crate.
I hope that this gives you some encouragement. When you are serving others it’s easy to give all of yourself away and then you aren’t happy. Set up healthy boundaries and take care of yourself. Spend a little time investing in your mental health for next semester now and you will be happier. You can grab a copy of the checklist below.