summer break

Summer Break: Avoiding the Burnout

It has been a whirlwind since staff returned to school on August 1st. I started back myself on July 25th. Summer was at an end…and truth be told, it was an interesting summer for me. Usually, I spend summer continually learning and keeping up with professional development. I’ll read, research, tweet, and attend conferences or trainings. This summer, I did not. In fact, I did not do a thing that was related to education, and it was probably the best decision I made.

By the end of last school year, there were things occurring that made me unhappy. I disagreed with them (and still do). At the time, I was pretty angry. I also wasn’t feeling motivated to do anything. It took some time before I realized I was burning out, and fast. I was losing my desire and passion, and the last thing I wanted to do was work on continually learning through the summer. I had just ended year 9 of my educational career, so I suppose it’s good that it took that long before I started feeling the burnout creeping up on me.

I decided that I needed to cut myself off from everything related to education and learning for the summer. I would instead focus on the things that made me happiest and let me refuel my “spirit tank” so to speak. I rationed that by stepping away and taking a break, I would come back to work feeling more energized and ready to begin anew. I focused on my favorite hobbies instead. I bought a Nintendo Switch and played video games, mostly Splatoon 2. I focused on my rock kindness project and painted a lot of rocks to be sealed and hidden. I spent time journaling and working through my thoughts. There was even a 2-week visit to see my wife while she worked on an active duty assignment for the military.

When I returned on July 25, I felt so much better and ready to create new projects and provide assistance to my teachers. My passion came right back to me, and I felt energized for the new year. That energy has carried me forward and stayed with me. My current ITRT assignment is larger than last year, but my big goal is to do my best by my teachers because they are the ones who need me the most.

Having now been on the “other side”, I see why some teachers step away from anything education during the summer months and avoid anything related to work until they return to school for the new year. It’s hard to find joy and motivation when your battery is running on empty. Sometimes it takes that drastic step to step away from work and focus on one’s self. It may seem counterproductive, but it does work. Space gives time to think and work through issues and do the things that are most enjoyable.

Now that the school year has started, I plan to keep an eye on my own self and keep a check on any flare-ups of my burnout. That’s when I know to step away, recharge my energy, and then come back ready to go. It’s the only way I can be my best educator self and work at my highest levels for my staff.

Limiting Screen Time This Summer

Technology is something kids love. It’s certainly something that they can have too much of. During the regular school year, their time is more limited than in the summer. With summer, and the endless days, kids often turn to their tablets, phones, gaming systems, and computers to keep themselves entertained and occupied. This can mean hours and hours of time on the technology instead of doing other things, such as being active or creative.

In the days leading up to summer vacation for schools, I’ve seen two ways suggested to provide technology limitations to children during the summer. Both of these methods are rather interesting, though one limits the technology more than the other. Each method does try to give children the best of both worlds. How families choose to utilize the suggestions are entirely up to them.

The first suggestion I have seen many times floating around on Facebook. Chances are, you might have seen it as well. It looks something like this:

image

The idea is to encourage children to do other things that don’t involve the screen before allowing them unlimited time on iPad or whatever other technology tool might be in the household. Children have a list of options to peruse and mom, dad, or whoever the caretaker is must approve completion of the activity. Once enough activities have been completed, then the child is able to access technology as long as they wish. For some households, this is a great option. For others, it’s still too much.

The second idea I found online in my research. I don’t have a picture for this one, but I can describe the idea. This one is a lot stricter in limiting technology time. Each week on Sunday children receive 14 technology tickets. Each ticket is worth 30 minutes of technology time (can be modified to suit parent wishes). These tickets must last them all week in terms of technology use. Parents do have final say on if a ticket can be used or not. Once all 14 tickets are used up, then the child must wait until the start of the next week to get more tickets. Some sites also suggested keeping extra tickets on hand for a reward.

The reason I researched the second suggestion, and remembered the first is because my mother came to me last week and asked me for some ideas on limiting technology use at her daycare in the summer. She runs the daycare out of her home, and it’s run on an open schedule. She does have some scheduled activities, but often it’s free play for the children just as if they were home. During the school year she only has children under 5, so it’s very easy to limit their technology use. They have a little bit of TV in the morning, and they earn a little time on the iPad after lunch if they’ve had a good day so far. They also get some TV after nap and afternoon snack.

With summer daycare, things are slightly different. There are now school age children in attendance the entire day, and they have been used to structure all day long from school, including limited technology time. Now that school is over, many of them want to be on technology devices often, watch TV, or ask for the iPad to play on. This doesn’t include the devices they bring of their own. The last thing mom wants is for them to constantly ask for technology all day long. She also doesn’t want the younger daycare kids exposed to so much screen time. She knows that if one of the older kids has a device, chances are a younger child will be watching them on it.

Cue research and discussion. In the end, we have decided it would be best to combine both of the above ideas for her school-aged daycare kids. This seemed to be the best way to encourage play, encourage helping with the younger children at daycare, and limiting screen time.

The Basic Plan: Upon arrival each day, each school-aged kid is given a technology ticket for the day. The ticket is worth 30 minutes of technology time. Each kid has the opportunity to earn a second technology ticket for the day by choosing 3 activities from a provided list. The list is quite lengthy in options. Each chosen option has to be completed for a period of 20 minutes. Obviously the kids can do more than 3 activities, but they won’t earn more than 1 ticket. The kids have the opportunity to use their tickets at any point during the day, as long as it’s approved by mom.

Materials Needed:

-Tickets

-Alternative Option: chart/dry erase board chart

-Activity List

-Timers

The materials above are the necessities. Since tickets outside of a family environment might get hectic, another alternative is to use a chart to track each child’s activity and their ticket use. A sample chart image is below:

image

Would you like a blank copy of this chart to use? Get the file here!

Rules for the System:

There are only a few simple rules to follow:

– Educational computer time is not included. There
may be times where educational programs, such as Khan Academy would be used
with the kids

-Tickets cannot be taken away for bad behavior.
Once a ticket is earned, it’s earned.

-Only two tickets total will be earned a day (1
given on arrival).

-Tickets cannot be saved up. They must be used
that day or forfeited.

Examples from the
Activity List:

These are just some of the activities that were listed on the Activity List that mom and I created. An Activity List should be created with the needs of the children or family in mind.

-Puzzles

-Building (Legos, erector set, Lincoln Logs)

-Teach Younger Kids- numbers, letters, tracing
names/letters, etc

-Draw/Color

-Read a book

-Read to a younger kid

-Play with baby dolls

-Play a card or board game

The list even includes some more educational choices in case the kids are wanting something different:

-Answer writing prompt with paragraph & illustration

– Design a board game

-Write a story

This program will start today with her daycare, and from there we’ll see how it goes. Like any plan or system, it takes putting it into action to work out the kinks and bugs. If you do decide to use this plan, let me know how it worked, and provide any feedback you can think of. I will be providing periodic updates on it this summer.