Thanksgiving was the most important holiday for me early in my teaching career. Four consecutive days away from work meant I could actually turn off my teacher brain for a bit. Single-day holidays like Veterans Day or Columbus Day were just opportunities to try to get caught up on work, or to develop a plan that felt less desperate than whatever it was I was doing at that moment. I spent those days, along with nights and weekends, unable to get away from work, but at the same time unable to do much about it.
The combination of mental, physical, and emotional exhaustion I experienced as a new teacher left me with losing options on days off: Spend my down-time in a low-return investment on work, or make a half-hearted attempt to relax while constantly worrying I wasn’t doing enough to stay afloat.
Thanksgiving brought me a day or two to regroup. Far from family and with no desire to travel, I’d sleep late, play guitar, watch football, cook a luxurious meal, and otherwise do nothing. Importantly, it was a guilt-free nothing. With four days off, I knew I could take a day or two to myself and still survive in the classroom. And with a long holiday just a few weeks away, and the end of the semester a few weeks after that, more relief was on the way.
Twenty years later, Thanksgiving stills serves as an important benchmark for me as a teacher. It’s time to take a deep breath and think about the small tweaks and adjustments that can carry us through to the end of the semester. And it’s still an opportunity to relax. For that I am thankful.