Spring Break

I’m going to read a paperback
John LeCarre
maybe
King or Mankell

roller coaster
Take my kids to Knott’s Berry Farm
and scream
as I rush downward on a rollercoaster
that makes my daughter laugh

I’m hoping to sleep in
exercise
and get some balance back
finding my feet again after a busy winter
as I pause
in the eye of the storm
that is Spring Break
and look forward to a busy May and busier June.

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My kids and I will go to a ballgame
to Grandma and Papa’s
to the beach
maybe get a doughnut

While all the while
I’ll keep a weather eye on Oregon
a count of the boxes accumulating in our garage
and a list of the things to be done
some over this week off
some soon thereafter
all before the last day of June
when the sweet relief of Spring Break
is replaced
by the wild anticipation of July.

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Laundromat

photo 2 (3)It’s spring break, I’m on vacation, and I’m sitting in a laundromat. A large insect is buzzing  at my ear, a book of poetry occupies the sunken basin of a molded plastic seat next to me, and a cavalcade of tattooed locals have spent the last half hour reminding me, with their laughing vulgarities, that even in paradise people have dirty shorts.

Spring break is one of the most delicious parts of being an educator. It means time to slow down after one of the most grueling stretches of the school year. It’s a time to spend a few days with my wife and kids, change up the usual routine, and breathe deep the renewal needed to make it through Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride from April to June.

Education, like the ocean, is made up of high tides and lows. In my twenty plus years in the game, I’ve gotten better at letting go of the stresses of work and embracing the freedom that comes from a week without an alarm clock or daily planner. Most years we stay close to home, but this year we were able to get out of town. It’s a luxury not part of every spring break, though today, sitting in this sunny laundromat, hugged by a bucket seat straight out of 1978, I’m nothing but thankful to have been gone from home long enough to need to do laundry.

laundromatSpring break for students looks different than mine, with less poetry, less laundry, and less resting. Theirs is often a week of enthusiasm and adventure, climbing things, listening to music, skiing, swimsuits, and fires on the beach. All those things are great too, particularly for the young, though for me these ninety minutes of peace, an interlude between kayaking and an evening walk beneath Morro Rock, are sublime. The hum of dryers, the laughter of locals, the scratching of my pen on this yellow legal pad, even the buzzing of that sinister looking bug, these sounds speak spring renewal to me.

A few short days from now I’ll be back at my desk, elbow deep in the final quarter of the school year. I have no doubt that one day in May I’ll think back to this afternoon at the laundromat and be grateful. There is little sweeter than spring break, in whatever incarnation it takes, and much good to gain if those of us fortunate enough to get this time can allow ourselves to relax, renew, and return to school as fresh as a newly laundered pair of shorts.

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The Tired Time

I’m writing this post from the safety of Spring Break, a steaming cup of tea beside me and my six year old son, still in his Star Wars pajamas, curled at my hip. I’m breathing now, relaxed and renewed, and actually looking forward to returning to school in just a couple of days.

A week ago I was running in a hundred different directions, doing my best to keep up, and trying to figure out all I could do to buoy morale on my campus. March and April are what our superintendent aptly calls “the tired time.”

I remember seeing the graphs when I was a young teacher. They tracked morale and looked like a wave at Mavericks. The trough of spring invites a wipeout.

As a principal, I’m particularly cognizant of the tiredness that begins to creep up on all of us adults (parents, staff, and administrators too) and the importance of counteracting it as best we can to avoid unnecessary conflict, stress, and emotionality.

Ironically, this wave of exhaustion rolls in at the same time the kids are scurrying around like sand crabs. Spring for a thirteen year old is a time of blossoms and bounce, considerably different than it is for the over thirty crowd.

So we do our best to ride the wave. At Diegueño our ASB puts on Spirit Week, when even adults dig wearing Hawaiian shirts for a few days; it’s tough to frown while wearing a lei. April 1st saw a fantastic visit by Fablehaven author Brandon Mull, who talked about imagination and creativity to a packed library. On the Monday before break both staff and students enjoyed a rollicking Spirit Day, and we’re preparing for a week long “Kindness Challenge” in late April.

Still, the best balm for the tired time is Spring Break.

School years have their patterns, their ebbs and flows, high tides and low. As school communities we’re wise to learn these and anticipate (and acknowledge) that our work doesn’t have the placidity of a pond, but the power of an ocean.

Spring Break renews, and alters the mood of people returning to campus. We’ll all come back to a busy time, as we finish the last nine weeks of this school year and plan ahead for the year ahead. When we get back from Spring Break we have just over a hundred days before the opening day of school in the fall.

And it’s exciting.

I’m looking forward to the bustle of the last few weeks of the school year. The purposeful encouragement we shared as a school in March and April and a great week spent with family have refilled my tanks for the mad dash that takes us to June.

And with that tired time on the other side of a week off, I’m optimistic that we can all take a deep breath of spring air and rise out of the valley on that morale graph, finishing strong, healthy, and together.

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