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March 24, 2016

Retreat, Reconnect, Refocus

By Lindsey Petlak
Grades PreK–K, 1–2, 3–5, 6–8, 9–12

    Most of us are either currently on spring break, just returning, or anxiously counting down the days until break starts. For some, that means spring conferences before break begins, for others, you’re back to reality and reentering your classroom for the last sprint of the school year. This time of year is TOUGH. You are stressed, you are tired, you have testing coming up and, frankly, you’re burned out. I know, because I feel your pain.

    A few weekends ago, I joined up with teacher blogger gal pals from Arizona and Minnesota here in Chicago, and then took a road trip down to the French Lick Teacher-Blogger Spring Retreat, organized by Holly Ehle. When the time for this event came around, I wasn’t even excited because I was exhausted. However, this was just what I needed: a designated time to retreat, connect, and get inspired. We all need to do those three things to keep on, keeping on through the hustle and bustle of daily teaching life. You don’t need an official retreat to do so, but always remember (one of my favorite sayings) to put your own oxygen mask on first so that you can help others around you!

     


     

    WHAT WE DID:

    The long weekend began with my teacher blogger girlfriends, Ashlyn and Jameson, joining up with me in Chicago. We ate dinner together and had a good old-fashioned sleepover in a cool downtown boutique hotel. What did we do? We talked about school the entire time, but it was amazing to hear perspectives from teachers of different grades (second, fourth, and middle school) from different states (Arizona, Illinois, Minnesota). Sharing perspectives, lamenting about problems at school, and offering solutions to each other continued the entire LONG trip down to French Lick. We were in a car together for nearly seven hours, and the entire time we talked about teacher issues. This may sound crazy, but it was seriously therapeutic. Little did we know that we had many of the same problems, which is strangely comforting, and could also offer great advice to each other to help provide solutions.

     

    Once at the conference we met other teacher bloggers and educational blog fans. Talking about teaching life and collaboration continued, and this time with an even larger network offering even more perspective and great suggestions for classroom success. Just chatting with new people was such a fun and supportive experience. Additionally, we could choose from 15-minute quick mini-sessions where we learned tips for both classroom and work-life balance. As teachers, we are often siloed in our classrooms all day with few to no uninterrupted conversations with adults. I know it’s hard to find team planning time, let alone cross-grade collaboration for most teachers!

     

    The weekend was also filled with fun. Teachers were divided into grade level groupings where we each brought a small, inexpensive “favorite thing” for another teacher. We played “hot potato” with our goodie bags, and when the music stopped, you kept the gift you had in your hand at that time. It was so fun for each of us to open our gift and then have the gift giver explain why they loved that teacher item so much. I received some amazing new erasable pens that have seriously been a game-changer for me. It’s funny how something so small can be so special and mean so much. We ended the weekend with an 80s-themed party complete with photo booth, music, and munchies. What a great way to de-stress, laugh, and connect on a more personal, fun level with teachers from across the Midwest and even other parts of the country. It was a blast and I’ll never forget it! What I realized afterwards was that I really needed this more than I thought.

     


     

    WHY IT WAS IMPORTANT and BENEFICIAL:

    • RETREAT: You don’t have to go on a lavish vacation (although that would be lovely) or even an arranged event like the teacher retreat. I hope you are able to find a relaxing place, moment, or activity that allows you to take some time for yourself to unwind and clear your head. This is SO important, because we cannot fully focus if we are unbalanced. Whether you’re on spring break or just returning, this could be a yoga class, time to read a new book, lose yourself Pinterest surfing . . . whatever! Just take a little time for YOU.

    • CONNECT: Even if you adore your direct team like I do, I cannot stress the importance of making other educational connections. Through social media and the growing teacher blogger community, you can virtually connect with teachers from anywhere, any time. Take advantage of this great technology so that you can build a broader support network and also gain perspectives on classroom issues from teachers outside your immediate school and district.

    • DEVELOP:  Even if you already know a lot about an educational topic, it never hurts to hear a new take. Whether it’s attending an in-district training, online webinar, reading a new professional book, following a professional educational blog, podcast, or attending an actual conference, spruce up your spring with some professional development. With so many options, you can fit it into even the busiest of schedules and with so many resource options (many FREE), it also fits within any budget.

    • HAVE FUN:  I think I may have benefitted MOST from the 80s party and our shenanigans in the supposed haunted wing of the French Lick Resort. How is that educationally beneficial you ask? I needed to let loose, have some fun, and clear my head. It’s astounding how doing so can remedy so many problems. Even better, was having so much fun with other teachers, many of whom were just as stressed and exhausted as I was. Together, we were able to lift each other up, and return ready to rock.

    • REFOCUS: Doing the suggestions above really helped me refocus, not only on my classroom, but on keeping my connections with other educators, and also on teacher work-life balance. Doing so helped me think and plan ahead for curriculum for the remainder of the year, brainstorm ways to both grow professionally and have more time with my son, and put the stress aside.

     


    I hope you can retreat and connect this spring in your own way so that you return to school refreshed and refocused. If you’re inspired and want to read more tips for teacher balance on these blog posts:

     

    Most of us are either currently on spring break, just returning, or anxiously counting down the days until break starts. For some, that means spring conferences before break begins, for others, you’re back to reality and reentering your classroom for the last sprint of the school year. This time of year is TOUGH. You are stressed, you are tired, you have testing coming up and, frankly, you’re burned out. I know, because I feel your pain.

    A few weekends ago, I joined up with teacher blogger gal pals from Arizona and Minnesota here in Chicago, and then took a road trip down to the French Lick Teacher-Blogger Spring Retreat, organized by Holly Ehle. When the time for this event came around, I wasn’t even excited because I was exhausted. However, this was just what I needed: a designated time to retreat, connect, and get inspired. We all need to do those three things to keep on, keeping on through the hustle and bustle of daily teaching life. You don’t need an official retreat to do so, but always remember (one of my favorite sayings) to put your own oxygen mask on first so that you can help others around you!

     


     

    WHAT WE DID:

    The long weekend began with my teacher blogger girlfriends, Ashlyn and Jameson, joining up with me in Chicago. We ate dinner together and had a good old-fashioned sleepover in a cool downtown boutique hotel. What did we do? We talked about school the entire time, but it was amazing to hear perspectives from teachers of different grades (second, fourth, and middle school) from different states (Arizona, Illinois, Minnesota). Sharing perspectives, lamenting about problems at school, and offering solutions to each other continued the entire LONG trip down to French Lick. We were in a car together for nearly seven hours, and the entire time we talked about teacher issues. This may sound crazy, but it was seriously therapeutic. Little did we know that we had many of the same problems, which is strangely comforting, and could also offer great advice to each other to help provide solutions.

     

    Once at the conference we met other teacher bloggers and educational blog fans. Talking about teaching life and collaboration continued, and this time with an even larger network offering even more perspective and great suggestions for classroom success. Just chatting with new people was such a fun and supportive experience. Additionally, we could choose from 15-minute quick mini-sessions where we learned tips for both classroom and work-life balance. As teachers, we are often siloed in our classrooms all day with few to no uninterrupted conversations with adults. I know it’s hard to find team planning time, let alone cross-grade collaboration for most teachers!

     

    The weekend was also filled with fun. Teachers were divided into grade level groupings where we each brought a small, inexpensive “favorite thing” for another teacher. We played “hot potato” with our goodie bags, and when the music stopped, you kept the gift you had in your hand at that time. It was so fun for each of us to open our gift and then have the gift giver explain why they loved that teacher item so much. I received some amazing new erasable pens that have seriously been a game-changer for me. It’s funny how something so small can be so special and mean so much. We ended the weekend with an 80s-themed party complete with photo booth, music, and munchies. What a great way to de-stress, laugh, and connect on a more personal, fun level with teachers from across the Midwest and even other parts of the country. It was a blast and I’ll never forget it! What I realized afterwards was that I really needed this more than I thought.

     


     

    WHY IT WAS IMPORTANT and BENEFICIAL:

    • RETREAT: You don’t have to go on a lavish vacation (although that would be lovely) or even an arranged event like the teacher retreat. I hope you are able to find a relaxing place, moment, or activity that allows you to take some time for yourself to unwind and clear your head. This is SO important, because we cannot fully focus if we are unbalanced. Whether you’re on spring break or just returning, this could be a yoga class, time to read a new book, lose yourself Pinterest surfing . . . whatever! Just take a little time for YOU.

    • CONNECT: Even if you adore your direct team like I do, I cannot stress the importance of making other educational connections. Through social media and the growing teacher blogger community, you can virtually connect with teachers from anywhere, any time. Take advantage of this great technology so that you can build a broader support network and also gain perspectives on classroom issues from teachers outside your immediate school and district.

    • DEVELOP:  Even if you already know a lot about an educational topic, it never hurts to hear a new take. Whether it’s attending an in-district training, online webinar, reading a new professional book, following a professional educational blog, podcast, or attending an actual conference, spruce up your spring with some professional development. With so many options, you can fit it into even the busiest of schedules and with so many resource options (many FREE), it also fits within any budget.

    • HAVE FUN:  I think I may have benefitted MOST from the 80s party and our shenanigans in the supposed haunted wing of the French Lick Resort. How is that educationally beneficial you ask? I needed to let loose, have some fun, and clear my head. It’s astounding how doing so can remedy so many problems. Even better, was having so much fun with other teachers, many of whom were just as stressed and exhausted as I was. Together, we were able to lift each other up, and return ready to rock.

    • REFOCUS: Doing the suggestions above really helped me refocus, not only on my classroom, but on keeping my connections with other educators, and also on teacher work-life balance. Doing so helped me think and plan ahead for curriculum for the remainder of the year, brainstorm ways to both grow professionally and have more time with my son, and put the stress aside.

     


    I hope you can retreat and connect this spring in your own way so that you return to school refreshed and refocused. If you’re inspired and want to read more tips for teacher balance on these blog posts:

     

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GRADES: 1-2
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