As teachers, we always want to be there for our students. Taking a sick or personal day fills us with guilt. Not to mention the hours it takes to prepare for a day away from the classroom. However, our jobs are full of stress, and everyone requires the occasional day off to recuperate. Here’s how to plan a guilt-free mental health day.
The past few weeks at school have been crazy.
- Parent emails
- Unannounced observations
- IEP meetings
- Red Ribbon Week spirit days
- Report Cards
- Upcoming Parent-Teacher Conferences
The knot in my neck keeps growing. When I found out I have five more meetings this week, I decided that I need a mental health day. I’m going to be spending more time at school than with my family on Monday and Thursday this week with before and after school meetings. Three of the meetings start at 7:30, so I have to get my daughter out the door at 6:45 to make it on time. I’m exhausted just thinking about it.
Plus, we have a really busy weekend ahead. Saturday is my niece’s birthday party, and Sunday my son is playing in the bell choir at church. I just need a kid-free day to myself. That’s why I decided to take a mental health day on Friday.
Planning for a Guilt-Free Mental Health Day
One of the worst parts of taking a day off is writing sub plans. They take forever to write and aren’t even followed by some substitutes. I’ve taught many times with a bad cough and no voice just because I didn’t want to write sub plans.
The most difficult sub plans to write are the first ones of the school year. Schedules change from the previous year, and you’re basically starting from scratch. Friday will be my first day off this year. I have a week to get my sub plans done and prepare all the materials. That’s so much better than trying to throw everything together at 3:00 am with the stomach bug. Been there, done that.
Now, when I’m feeling awful and need a last minute sub, it will be much easier to get my plans together.
When you decide to take a mental health day, look at the upcoming weeks, and choose a day that is easy to plan. I selected Friday because it’s a math review day. That’s a lot easier to leave for a sub than a guided math lesson.
Use these tips to make writing sub plans easier.
What to Do on Your Day Off
I always plan a doctor’s appointment if I’m taking a mental health sick day. That always makes me feel less guilty. Plus I always put doctor’s appointments off, so this is a good excuse to go. On Friday, I have a 9:00 gynecologist appointment. Knowing that I have a kid-free day ahead of me makes my least favorite appointment bearable.
The doctor’s appointment is also so I can go out in public on my day off. When I’m actually sick, I tend to stay at home, so I don’t have to worry about running into anyone. However, on a mental health day, I want to be able to enjoy myself. Everywhere I go, I tend to see my students’ parents. That’s especially awkward when I’m supposed to be teaching their children. A doctor’s appointment is the perfect reason to be out and about on a school day.
The remainder of the day will be spent doing things for myself. Here are some ideas:
- Get a manicure or pedicure
- Get a massage
- Go shopping
- Go out for breakfast or lunch
- Read a good book
- DON’T DO ANY SCHOOL WORK!
Even though my report cards are due on Monday, I’m going to resist the urge to do school work on Friday. My goal is to have most of them finished by Thursday night. Anything that still needs to be finished can wait until Sunday.
Get Rid of the Guilt
My first few years of teaching, I didn’t enjoy any of the days I took off – even personal days. I spent the whole day thinking about what my class was doing at that time. I worried that they weren’t being good for the sub.
Then, I realized that I deserve a day off every now and then, and I can’t change their behavior from home. Now, I focus on enjoying myself. Anything that happens at school I will deal with when I go back.
Everyone benefits from my mental health day, too. I get to relax a bit, and that makes me more patient with my family at home and my students at school. Sometimes you need to put yourself first to help those around you.
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What Do You Think?
What do you do to overcome the guilt of taking a mental health day?
Let me know in the comments below.
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