The beginning of the school year is one of my favorite times. The week before the kids come back all the teachers are back and getting the rooms ready; everyone's buzzing with excitement and talking about the fabulous summer they had. This is a great time to reconnect with colleagues and just get excited for a brand-new school year. Then the first days come and the students arrive in their best clothes and with brand-new school supplies. Everyone is excited for the possibilities a new school year holds.
This year, however, I don't get to experience this. While I thought I would be content not to go back to school, there is a part of me that is really sad. That being said, I am so thankful to spend this wonderful time with my son. I get to watch him grow and change over the next few weeks and months. I know how lucky I am. Most parents barely get 12 weeks, if that. Knowing this, the question is, how do I create a new balance in my life? How do I stay present for my son, but also keep my foothold in the World Language and teaching community?
Each of us finds balance in a different way, but here some ideas to maintain the connection with work while enjoying the precious minutes with your little one:
Stay connected through social media.
Whether checking school email or reading tweets, it can feel good just to know what is going on at school and in your personal learning community. While the little one is sleeping or while pumping, take the time to scroll through emails, tweets, pins, etc. There is no need to respond unless you feel like it, but just reading can help make you feel like a continued part of the school community. If you want more, participate in a Twitter chat, such as #langchat. In doing so, you carve out time for yourself while staying up to date and part of the conversation.
Stay connected to the material.
I'm hoping my son will be bilingual, so I speak to him in Spanish, but talking to myself all day can be tiring. There are plenty of books and thousands of songs available. Not only does it give me a break, but also keeps me connected to my subject matter. As I come across new songs or other things that relate to my classroom, I take note and tuck it away for my return to school.
Stay connected to your colleagues
Making coffee or dinner dates with friends from school does more than just get you out of the house. By staying connected with colleagues, you stay connected to the school community; even if it’s just for the latest gossip. If I maintain relationships with my colleagues, school, and district, it will be a smoother transition back into school. If at all possible, try to attend a special assembly or holiday party that doesn’t feel too disruptive to you or the school. For those at the elementary level, visiting for Halloween can be fun for both you and the students, especially if you dress the little one up for the parade. Bring your little one to a special concert or holiday show. The students will love to meet the baby and it will help you continue to be a part of the community.
Stay connected to your goals.
What is it that you want to get out of your time at home? What are you hoping to accomplish once you get back to work? Your priorities have probably shifted, so it is essential to take time to reassess your short-term, and possibly long-term, goals. It is possible that your goals have not changed at all, but rather that the way in which you reach them has changed.
There is no right or wrong to creating a new balance to your life. It has to be about what works for you in that moment, knowing very well that it could all change once you return to work. No matter what, be sure to enjoy your leave as a way to re-energize yourself for work, and take work time to re-energize yourself for home.