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5 Minute Clinic: My "Fake Fall Break" (& The Secret to Create Your Own)

Today we’re diving right into talking about how you can create a school year that’s more manageable and maybe even more joy-filled from the beginning.

Just a little heads up - this episode may not be for everyone, at least not right now. For example, if you’re a parent with young children, the conversation about taking days off may be challenging because you feel a responsibility to use your days for a sick child. If that’s you, I can’t relate but I honor you and I hope that as your child gets older, you’ll revisit the ideas I present here in this episode. Or, if your school already uses a year-round calendar or builds in a lot of breaks, this likely won’t be as helpful since your calendar includes breaks at regular intervals anyway.

If you’re a teacher outside of one of these scenarios, you’ve probably experienced those particularly frustrating days - or seasons - where you were spent and even more exasperated by the fact there was no break in sight. I had one such season several years ago and the following school year I promised myself I would take action to build in time for myself outside of just weeknights and weekends.

So, I decided to DIY my own modified year-round calendar. Since there were several months-long stretches with no break during the school year, I decided I’d break those endlessly long weeks up with pre-determined breaks.

At the very beginning of the school year, I'd started planning. I'd look at the leave days I had already accrued and I would factor in the number of days I’d been “given” for the school year that was about to start. Then, I looked at my district calendar to see what breaks were already built in, paying close attention to where there were no breaks between Labor day and Thanksgiving.

This is where I'd build in my own fall break. I called it my “Fake Fall Break.” It was essentially the creation of my own long weekend where I scheduled time off on a Thursday and Friday. It was time for me to step away from the daily grind and honor my need for rest and renewal.

This mini-break ended up being everything I knew I needed. I remember feeling more encouraged on the hard days because I knew I would have some reprieve soon. AND because I requested, planned, and anticipated this time early on in the year, I had minimal anxiety about taking those days off because I had time to prepare for the absence.

Have I sold you yet on the idea of DIYing your own breaks? If your answer is “heck yes” then let’s talk about how YOU can do the same thing.

How to Create Your Own “Fake Fall Break”

1. Become literate when it comes to your “bank” of leave time. Know how much you’ve accrued so far, how much you will earn this school year and the district-defined parameters for using those days. This part is really important to understand for planning purposes.

2. Determine where there are planned breaks already on your district calendar.

3. Based on your previous experiences, think about how you could break up the consecutive long weeks by scheduling a Friday personal day so that you can create your own long weekend.

4. Plan the days as far in advance as your schedule will allow and make the official request for these days off ASAP. The longer notice you give your building administrators about your absence, the more likely you are to have it approved and the more likely you are to find a quality sub.

5. Think about what you can do that’s just for YOU on that day. Consider a staycation, a massage, or maybe just coffee in bed with your favorite book.

I've talked with a few folks on social media about how they've been building breaks to their school schedules and taking time to intentionally step away from their classrooms and recharge. I’m always so excited when people share strategies that help them to prioritize their own well-being.

We know that many schools and districts aren’t exactly prioritizing breaks for teachers at the moment. Instead, you’re being pushed to the brink all the while juggling the ever-growing list of responsibilities added to your already overflowing plates.

The reality is that even though it may not be given doesn’t mean nothing’s possible. Instead of internalized guilt, I encourage you to consider how you might strategically use your personal days to create space for self-care. Think of how you can push back against the expectations by building in your own breaks.

I hope this episode empowers you to TAKE THE DAY. You deserve to rest and recharge so you can show up as the best version of yourself in and out of the classroom!


If you are enjoying the podcast, please do me a HUGE favor and rate, share, and subscribe to this podcast. My hope is that the experiences and gems shared on this show will inspire teachers to become better versions of themselves as they redefine what it means to teach well and prioritize themselves.

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