To Don’t List- Give Yourself A Break!

“You are so lucky you get a two week break for fall break!”

Yes. Yes, I am lucky. I am also unpaid during this two week break. My contract is for 202 days and these 10 days do not count. At the end of last year, I had some serious health issues and decided that giving as much as I did needed to stop. I was no longer willing to compromise my health, my family, or my sanity. If I wanted to keep teaching, I had to make a change.

In my 17th year of teaching, I finally took a good hard look at that and decided, after listening to the Top 10 Tips For Back To School, that I was going to make a “To Don’t List” and be a victor, not a victim. 


Things I did not do during my two week break from school:

  • Lesson Plan. I had some ideas that I wrote down or emailed to my work address so that I could address them upon my return. I didn’t read any books related to my job or watch any documentaries. I needed to create space for my brain to wander and wonder. I come up with my best ideas when it’s not full of meetings, calls, lessons, and the 10,000 other decisions I need to make during a school day… wait, did I eat breakfast?IMG_2363
  • Answer or send work emails. Although I couldn’t turn it off because I have 4 other jobs that require me to still be available {which is a conversation for another time}, I didn’t answer any district emails relating to my main job as teacher. And I did not feel bad. I am not being compensated, and I will not give up my precious family time. And I did not send any emails to my staff because IT IS BREAK. 
  • Keep up with current events. As an AP Government teacher, it is quite a time to be a teacher, however the two weeks allowed the news to percolate. With the breakneck media cycle, it was nice to just stop. All of the issues will still be there, however we now have more data and information. 
  • Feel guilty. Look, this is ingrained in me as an Irish Catholic. I had to actively tell myself that sitting on the couch and watching football all day was fine. As was extending our family vacation by a day. Or going to a midday workout.  For the first time in forever, I didn’t have to reheat my coffee a thousand times. And I deserved that. 


  • Engage in any professional development, either in person or online. If you follow me on Twitter, you know that I travel quite a bit and I am so lucky to do so. After my last trip to Philadelphia, I decided that I was going to stay home the rest of the year. That meant missing out on NCSS, and other opportunities, but my health and well-being needed a rest. My brain needs a break. 
  • Make a bunch of plans. Here’s the thing, for some reason, everyone wants a piece of your time during breaks. This year, I just said no. If you really want my time, it’s available during non-break times. Time to just sit down with a cup of coffee and Netflix isn’t always available. Time to play cards with my daughter, or wander around Trader Joe’s at noon on a Tuesday isn’t always available. As a teacher and a mom, I just need time to do nothing. We can catch up for coffee another day. It’s not you, it’s my need to protect my time. 


I wish I could go back and tell my past self that taking a break was an absolute necessity, not an indulgence. Poor, poor past self was working so hard to “get ahead” yet never actually felt ahead and wasted the opportunity to rest. Present self struggled some days with just being. Future self will be thankful for the lessons and the ability to regroup, refocus, and refill. 


Guess what happened when I didn’t work for those days? Nothing. Nothing except when it was time to go back to work, my cup was full, I had a smile on my face, and I had the readiness I needed to be the best I could be for second quarter. For my staff, for my students, and for myself. 


When you have days off of school, make sure you take care of the very person that is responsible for your amazingness. You deserve it and so do your students. 



Elizabeth Schley Evans

I am starting my 17th year of teaching and have taught most of the social sciences in a public school setting including; 8th grade, AP Government and Politics, and dabbled in APUSH, World History, US History, and College Prep Government and Politics. I have a Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education, Early Childhood Development and a Master’s in Secondary Education, History from Northern Arizona University. I am also a National Board Certified Teacher in Social Studies/History (Early Adolescence). I write a blog for social studies teachers, Teaching AP Government, which has become a great passion of mine because I believe civic education is incredibly important to the continuance of democracy. I write for The Standard (National Board Blog) about civic education!

When I’m not writing or teaching, I’m hanging out with my two favorite people, Chris and Emma, watching The Office or Parks and Rec.

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