I’m thankful for Sabbath.
I know it sounds old-fashioned and a bit antiquated, but I just mean a day of resting from work each week. That day might involve hobbies, friends, exploring the city, and/or church, but it contains no work for school. No grading, no planning, no work email, no searching for resources, and even trying to avoid thinking about school. I love it. It’s probably because it’s something I never practiced for most of my adolescent years, college, and at the start of my teaching career.
I starting working when I was 15 and continued at that job (and adding others) throughout college. With the rare exception of holidays, summer, or vacations, I worked every Saturday and Sunday from my sophomore year of high school until the weekend before I began my first year teaching. Between school and jobs, I never felt like I had a day off from everything.
During my first year of teaching, I continued my pattern of constant work. I spent at least 6-12 hours each weekend planning lessons, activities, grading, or keeping a detailed journal of the each day of teaching. This pattern continued into my second year of teaching. At the time, I justified my restlessness by thinking it would make a difference or that I was freeing up time for my future self. Somehow, my future self just kept working to free up time for my future future self. In reality, I was really just making myself more neurotic, sleep-deprived, socially inept, and frustrated with my shortcomings a teacher.
My mind finally changed after my third year of teaching. I was exhausted all the time, I felt like my social circle had dwindled, and that my mind was in constant fear of what failure might happen the next school year. I spent that summer searching for answers to my internal conflicts and eventually found some timeless advice from Mr. Rogers that was key. Besides the advice of everybody’s favorite neighbor, something that really helped me in deciding how to make the next school year different was a message about the 10 Commandments. My mom called me after hearing this sermon and told me, “I immediately thought of you.” Curious, I listened to the message and I was immediately humbled.
When I listened to the sermon and thought about my first few years teaching, I realized there were countless instances where my failure to set aside work once per week led to negative experiences later. My attitude, my interactions with others, my quality of work, amount of procrastination at school, and my creativity all suffered because I was convinced more work was better. In reality, I could have been healthy and happier if I had committed to being productive throughout the week and giving myself permission to leave less work at school Friday afternoon. I would have had the time to do the activities that rejuvenate my energy if I had committed to taking a Sabbath each week.
Determined to have a better school year, I committed to doing absolutely nothing school related at least one day each weekend. Without fail, my weekends began to be more rejuvenating as I made time for hobbies and people. My plan time on school days felt more productive, since I planned on not bringing home a “guilt bag” each Friday. I felt like my temperament was most consistent at school and that I was more patient with students, since I hadn’t been ruminating on past misbehavior each weekend. I spent more time with family and friends. The tone and substance of my conversations became more positive. I visited more places and felt like I had a life outside of the school day.
It’s not a silver bullet, but keeping a Sabbath definitely helps me feel healthier physically and mentally. Even with recently starting a graduate program, I know setting aside a day for rest still needs to be a priority if I am going to put forth my best effort in that pursuit and in my teaching. If you’re skeptical, I encourage you to try it yourself for a month and see the difference it can make for you.
I’m thankful for the Sabbath for what it is, but I am also thankful for it because I’ve been able to fix my priorities on what really matters (people, building memories, and enjoying the goodness of life). I hope that even in this busier season of life, I continue to keep these priorities by taking the time to rest.