In recent years, I’ve tried to stop counting down to anything, actually: days until a family vacation, days until a holiday, days until a special event. Though some people find it motivating to know how many days they have left, the countdown mentality just hasn’t served me well, especially when I’m anxious for summer break. Here’s why:
1. Counting days turned the end of the school year into a “sentence” in which I was just biding my time.
Instead of getting up each day with the intention of fulfilling my calling, making a difference for kids, and actually enjoying something I had committed to spending 40+ hours a week doing, I was just going through the motions and waiting for time to pass.
2. Counting days drained my sense of purpose, which made the school year feel even longer.
Because I was overly focused on the countdown, time seemed to pass even more slowly. I wasn’t focused on helping my students learn anymore, and without that sense of purpose and corresponding accomplishment to motivate me, it felt like I spent all my time on tedious paperwork and assessment tasks. I also had more behavioral problems to deal with, since the kids picked up on my vibe and they, too, assumed no more learning was going to take place. No wonder it seemed like the year was never going to end!
3. Counting days tricked me into believing the time I had left with the kids was insignificant.
Eh, there’s only 24 days of school left, why bother trying something new and innovative with the kids? What’s the point of helping a student understand something I’ve already explained a hundred times—he hasn’t gotten it in the last 156 days, why would he get it now? If I’d dug a little deeper, I would have recalled the times I’d seen huge learning gains or socio-emotional breakthroughs in the course of a single lesson. But instead, I assumed that I wouldn’t be able to accomplish anything worthwhile in the dozens of hours I had left with my students. I let exhaustion shake my belief in my effectiveness as a teacher and my students’ ability to learn and simply gave up.
4. Counting days caused me to miss some of the best opportunities to enjoy my kids.
The end of the school year can actually be a really special chance to connect with students since testing is done and some of the pressure is lessened. I always had a few fun activities planned, but often had a hard time being present with my students because I was so focused on the number of days I had left to get administrative things done. I was mentally checked out and so I missed out on making some awesome memories with my students.
5. Counting days is based on the presumption that today cannot be as good as the future will be.
Because I “couldn’t wait” until the last day of school, I wasn’t focused on what I could have been enjoying or experiencing on the current day. And yet the truth is this: all we have is the present moment. The day we’re hoping for may not arrive, or we might find that our life circumstances are tremendously different when it does, and the carefree fun times we had envisioned never come to pass. Who can afford to waste the time we have right now by wishing for an unpromised tomorrow? Every single day is a chance to do something meaningful and looks for ways to enjoy doing it.
What are your thoughts–does counting down until the last day of school give you more energy or drain it away? What do you do to stay motivated at this time of year?
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