One of the students titled one of his blog posts “Spring Broken” when we got back from spring Break a couple of weeks ago. In his post, he wrote about being disappointed in his break, because he spent much of the week sick. Several other students commented that they were sick too. Our schedule was so rushed when we came back that I didn’t have much time to reflect on any of that.
But that was part of the problem.
Not taking enough time for self-care can make people sick. For the week or two before break, we were all focused on making it to Spring Break. It may be our busiest time of year. For some reason, our third quarter often includes some of the most difficult classes we offer in a year. On top of that, Senior Projects and SP Presentations are due. Despite Spring Break, the quarter feels like it moves really quickly.
“I just need to finish this paper and it will be break.”
“I’ll get these presentation slides ready and then I’ll be ready for break.”
“I’m almost done with my project-just in time for break.”
“I need to finish my book for English before break.”
Teachers assign things to be done just before break. Students work hard on those things with the thought that they can ‘relax’ over break. But when they slow down, and finally take time for themselves, I think that when their bodies finally relax, their immune systems relax too.
And then the germs take over…
The weeks after break, we saw lots of absences (sometimes up to 40% of the students) because of illness. Those of us in the building heard sniffling, snuffling, coughing, hacking, and hocking (gross!) while we were here. It sure made the end of the quarter even more stressful for everyone.
So I made a note to myself after reading that student blog post.
My goal is to do a better job of including some moments to help students “de-stress” in the weeks leading up to Spring Break next year. Periodically, I want to plan a few moments to stretch, take some deep breaths, reflect on what they need to do. Somehow, I will help students learn some coping strategies so that their stress doesn’t build up and lead to illness over the break from school.
I remember an NPR story about how childhood stress can contribute to chronic illness as an adult. Maybe the story referred to stresses outside of school, but I can’t imagine that a lot of stress is good for anyone, no matter what the source is.
So, note to self:
“Help students manage stress before Spring Break next year.”
And (bonus!) maybe there will fewer gross, sickness-related sounds in the building in the weeks after break.