You hear the same thing over and over: The older you get, the faster the years go by. As a kid, summer used to feel like an eternity. I would find myself yearning to go back to school just to see my friends again. While this feels like forever ago, the more things change, the more they stay the same. Being an adult and an educator, I savor my summer. However, there are real benefits to the start of the school year – the return to routine, structure, and anything but monotony.
This summer was an exceptional time of exploration for me. Coming off of a six-week, cross-country road trip, I found myself almost immediately feeling anxious upon returning home. I wasn’t going to be packing up and sleeping in a different city or bed in two days?! I had forgotten what that felt like to be in one place.
Instead of letting anxiety take over, I figured the best way to come back to reality was to decompress a bit from my adventure but also begin setting up smaller routines in order to prepare for the upcoming school year. After a good six weeks of eating out, it was time to start preparing my snacks and meals again. This one small, structured routine has helped me focus, feel healthy, and will be utilized and desperately needed once the flurry of the school year begins. Setting up a pretty regular sleep schedule has been another step. Heading to bed at a reasonable hour so I have energy to get up and get a workout in helps me begin my day.
Perspective is also important for me. At first, too much routine may feel suffocating and plans that go awry can be frustrating. In partaking in such diverse experiences this summer, I have learned a few things:
- Sometimes it is nice to know what to expect and to be on a schedule. Entering new cities every day, we found it comforting to return to familiarity at times: seeing family and friends along the way and visiting cities we had previously explored and knew what to expect. Those were days where the hustle slowed down and we really got to enjoy without thinking.
- Other times, it feels good to be flexible and comfortable changing plans at the last minute. Being on the road is unpredictable; we had issues arise that we could not plan for. A fire in a national park caused us to refocus our route and head to Canada, a country I had not previously visited. Booking or switching hotel reservations while driving, hoping we didn’t lose the intermittent cell signal was also a challenge. Not stressing the small things and making the best out of change will help with my transition out of vacation mode and back into the school year.
I am fortunate that my job is anything but monotonous. Just as I approached every day of my summer, not quite knowing what it would bring me, I feel the same way about going back to school. No matter how prepared I am or how long I have worked on crafting a lesson, I can never predict what the day will bring. Perhaps technology fails and you have to go with plan B. Or teaching the same lesson to a different class provides for a complete change of course in conversation. These situations lead to moments where you just have to see where the day takes you, and often times, they end up being the most teachable and rewarding – the conversations that you and your students will remember beyond the end of the day.
Coming home, preparing for school, transitioning from summer into the reality of September is difficult for everyone. Sometimes the lack of ability to separate tasks when we are feeling overwhelmed, leads to feeling bogged down and anxious. While I certainly do not wish away my summer, I will accept the change in my days. I will welcome structure, enjoy the daily adventures, and then realize how much sweeter my experiences on weekends and holidays become.
Gratitude can transform common days into thanksgivings, turn routine jobs into joy, and change ordinary opportunities into blessings. – William Arthur Ward