A mindful vacation for teachers

It’s the last day of a school term, the bell rings and the students rush out, smiles on their faces, waiting to enjoy the next few weeks with friends and family. As a teacher, you watch them stream out and within you there is a feeling of contentment and relief that the term is over and the next few weeks are to relax and rejuvenate.

Teaching is the only profession that gets the maximum holiday or vacation time on paper (12 weeks on an average around the world). As a teacher, you must be getting those envious smiles from other professions for these weeks of paid leave. But you know how hard it is. The rest of the 40 weeks at school are a roller coaster ride. You give so much, physically, mentally, emotionally to help children learn to be the best version of themselves in this complex and busy world. While a corporate person or a professional like a doctor has to handle just a few tough people daily, a teacher is handling 30-40 children all with different temperaments and as unreasonable as children tend to be. The 6-7 hours a teacher spends are extremely tough and requires very high responsibility. No wonder, the breaks are comparatively longer since you need time off to recharge batteries and avoid burnout.

But do you really extract the maximum of these holidays? Agree that a good amount of time amount is spent preparing for the future terms or doing administrative work or spending time with your family and friends, but the holidays are given for a reason - to keep you mind and body active. You need to give yourself the gift of experiencing more, broadening your perspective, reach a state of bliss, in short just carve out a time for YOU.

In the ancient gurukula system, vacation or holiday was not a term to be thought of or needed. Nestled within a pristine forest, in the lap of nature, gurus and shisyas gained formal education as well as picked skills like basket weaving, cooking, singing, agriculture, yoga and meditation. With a continuous arrival of visitors from different regions, gurus were always learning new perspectives, picking a new language and developed a fascinating world view. In the modern life, this is not possible, so holidays fill the need to explore and learn something new.

The best way to gain new experiences and broaden one's perspective is to Travel. It doesn't need to be a exotic place. It can be a trip to a nearby place which excites you. When you visit a new place, it just opens up your mind and makes one more receptive. You will find that there's no one way to live life. Meeting people from other places shows you that your world view isn't the same as everyone else's. You will develop your confidence in yourself, your problem solving ability and your ability to make new friends.

If you can't travel due to some reason, pick up new experiences. Visit a local museum, a local handicraft shop or other interesting places. You could pick a skill like pottery or painting or a fitness routine like yoga or marathon running.

Catch up on those books that you always meant to read. Join a local book club where they discuss these books. It will be good to have a debate with a set of adults from various walks of life instead of the ones you do at school with students.

If your school has a platform for continuing education, use it to upgrade oneself. Else opt for online MOOC courses, or better still take a course which is very different from your subject - join a new language course, you will meet new people and exchange stories and experiences.
Go on a spiritual journey. It could be just reading spiritual texts or watching mindfulness videos or a planned trip to a spiritual place. Use this time to get in touch with your inner self and achieve a clarity of mind. The more self aware and mindful you get, the more the calming effect passes on to your family and students as well.

At the end of each term, teachers usually give a standard holiday homework of writing a daily diary entry about the vacation. It's time now that teachers start maintaining a holiday diary as well, pour down their experiences in rich detail, write down the interesting anecdotes and add some photographs. Reading those diary entries will be the most interesting first day of school for the class. Students will wait for your account and love writing and sharing their own pieces. It is a good way to strengthen the bond you have with the little humans under your care.

So, this holiday break, remember to take some time off, experience more, take a deep breath, and relax!

-Madhavi Agnihotri

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