Post Traumatic Winter Break Syndrome and the Contradiction

Contextual field trip to Portage Glacier area
Contextual field trip to Portage Glacier area

I get it. According to many people, educators have one of the best professions with regards to vacation time.  Further, now that I’m an administrator instead of a full-time teacher, I reduced my summer and gained more work days, but that also came with higher pay, and the same amount of vacation days during the school year. That isn’t what this is about though-me complaining about not getting enough time off. It’s about this instead:

Post traumatic winter break syndrome.

I catch this syndrome every year because when you get two weeks off, you begin to enter your summer mode mentality. You stay up later and try to sleep in. What is that anyway and how do I get that ability back? People who can sleep past 7 a.m. are superheroes to me; in part, most of the time, I think they are missing out.

Dr. Ginger Blackmon and myself earning the mentor school award from Microsoft's Partners in Learning in Washington, D.C.
Principal Dr. Ginger Blackmon and myself earning the mentor school award from Microsoft’s Partners in Learning in Washington, D.C. in 2012

Back to my point of trying to let your routines fall away and letting go of your schedule. When you have no schedule, you fill your time with whatever the hell you want, and That. Is. Awesome. Slower mornings. Extra coffee. More baths. More exercise. Rich meals. Loads of get-your-hobby-on time. Reading. It’s full-time for working on self. Not only do you get to do whatever, if you’re like me, and have no kids or any other family responsibilities for that matter, you’ve just entered the zone of blissful freedom.

After two weeks of that, going back into your school to try to make a difference in people’s lives is rough; there’s a part of you wanting desperately for everyone to just figure it out on their own so that you can go back to your blissful freedom. The first day back is usually extra draining because not only are you running on your summer battery, so is your brain, and because it’s second semester start-up, there are a lot of new things going on that require your best battery: new schedules, new visitors, new applicants, new whining from adults that you try to lead and support, etc. It’s overwhelming to be in the position of problem-solver all day long, but at the same time, you love the challenge and you love believing in youth and schools when many people tend to run from them. Even so, you can’t help but feel like a bumper car that is getting slammed, stalling, and jamming all at the same time. Rather than managing your day, it is managing you and you realize that the syndrome has hit you once again.

Then you are reminded that many people can’t enjoy blissful freedom because they don’t know how. Zoning out, you remember that one of the reasons you entered education was to help others become independent, confident learners that can lead their own lives in whatever way they feel nurtures their spirit. More important than even that, you learned along the way that it won’t happen unless you help create educational reforms. You slip back to eavesdropping in the halls and speaking to the students about random things, some very important and some, to build relationships because you know that you are probably one of the few people in their lives that they view as stable. Again, your internal voice speaks and all of your instability and lack of knowing all of the answers makes you scared for seconds, but you shut that side off and focus on the side that can help them. You laugh with them. You listen to them. You console them. You discipline them. In some aspects, you do the same with the adults, understanding that your support is sometimes helping them to get through their own version of the exact same syndrome. And still for them, you know that you don’t have all of the answers and that we are all in this together, even though they all, at certain levels, need to know that you are there for them. You are a loyal backbone that won’t ever break.

2010 Staff Retreat House View in Homer, AK
2010 Staff Retreat House View in Homer, AK

Both of my selves were speaking equally loud today, as they tend to do after a vacation period. The self that desires blissful freedom and a life full of self-absorbed engagement and the self that desires to lead change, build community and peace with total passion, and maybe even help propel the educational revolution. On fire within me, both live and breathe and I try my best to nurture both of them with hardcore living on all ends.

Deep down, I know that the above type of person that wants to do all of that well is rare, and the energy required will run out, but I also know that the desire comes from years of gradual practice and failure, and learning from that in order to be better the next day. It comes from learning and observing others doing the same. Educators aren’t ready when they graduate; it takes years to master just a section of the expectations that exist, but the immense dedication and addiction to improving our communities is what keeps us wanting to learn. I think the daily expectations that I have of myself and that others have of me in my current position is completely insane on some levels, but also absolutely necessary.

Highland Tech's Logo, The Phoenix
Highland Tech’s Logo, The Phoenix

Harvey Firestone once said, “The growth and development of people is the highest calling of leadership.”
So tomorrow, I’ll be getting up at 4:30 a.m. out of my immense love of mornings, but also my true love and dedication to my profession. Despite my diagnosis of having post traumatic winter break syndrome, I’ll bounce back in a couple more days; my battery will be back to life and due in part to my work, students will graduate in May, not just holding a high school diploma, but ready to take on the planet in positive ways.

And then, I’ll go get some more blissful freedom.

Here is to all of our professions and the passion we have for them! Thanks for stopping by and reading.

Unfortunately, due to publishing rules, I won’t post close up shots with the students, but they are awesome. Swing by Highland Tech Charter to learn more about our school!

Speak to me

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s