STEMscopes Asks: Vacations—How Beneficial are they?

Posted by Marissa Alonzo on September 21, 2015
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Almost every educator has experienced the following scenario—you arrive in your classroom after summer break with better focus, a positive attitude, and are ready to take on the school year head on. As the year progresses, though, and the number of papers you grade become overwhelming, the amount of in-service and skills development days envelop your schedule, and the feeling that your original plan seems to be going array builds, you begin to develop fatigue, apathy, and a general lack of enthusiasm. This is not to say that this is a reflection on you as an educator, but rather a response to the lack of time that you may find for yourself to self-reflect and wine down. 

Just how important is time to yourself you ask? According to a study done on 131 teachers titled "How long do you benefit from vacation? A closer look at the fade-out of vacation effects" conducted at the University of Konstanz in Konstanz, Germany, they concluded that reducing job-demands and ensuring leisure time relaxation prevented and reduced chronic strain reactions to job stress.

Some may argue—but don't teachers get entire summers off? What is the complaint? While the study conducted may have come from Germany, the fact remains that in the United States an average teacher in the United States works 180 days annually, with an average salary starting at a little over $36K. This excludes the amount of work done throughout the summer, after school hours, and weekends.

What benefits do educators have from getting a vacation and taking a break?

  • Emotional and physical exhaustion can be depleted and restored to a normal baseline.
  • Increased time with family and friends that can lead to happiness and fulfillment is achieved.
  • Increased relaxation and time to self-reflect and catch up on things that are important to you is achieved. 
  • Ability to de-stress from job demands and focus on the overall picture becomes more accessible. 

Despite the numbers and the facts, one thing remains: vacations, as beneficial as they are may not be a reality for some. Some techiques that were suggested to organizations and teachers alike that arose from the study were:

  • Implementation of rules that restrict skipping vacation, as vacation serves as "a powerful instrument to lesson emotional exhaustion and foster work engagement."
  • Reduce job demands and ensure relaxation during off-time. Make sure you use your weekend days to unwind and relax, otherwise emotional fatigue may set in.
  • Encourage short-breaks throughout year instead of one long break, perhaps taking two days off to form a long weekend rather taking all vacation time at once. 

Utilizing some of these methods and realizing the importance of breaks can help you increase your overall happiness, and hopefully help you in the classroom. If you want to experience a vacation that can also be educational and fun, learn more in our blog article "Top Five Places for Science Adventure."

Resources

Journal of Organizational Behavior, 32, (125-143), "How long do you benefit from vacation?..", Jana Kuhnel and Sabine Sonnentag, Department of Pyschology, University of Konstanz, Konstanz, Germany.  July 21, 2010.

The Atlantic, The Myth of a Teacher's 'Summer Vacation,' July 2, 2015. 

 

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