Dear Linda: Unwinding after a stressful school year

Dear Linda,

My school obligations have ended; I am finished with report cards and such. But now I have this strange feeling that I am forgetting something. I can’t seem to relax. What do I do now?

I appreciate your advice,
An ACTE member from Kentucky

Dear Kentucky,

Congratulations on making it through the year! We need to celebrate that milestone!

Many career and technical education (CTE) teachers feel the same way. The school year ended without fanfare or long goodbyes. Students and teachers, alike, miss a sense of closure. Take that away and we are left feeling upset and, often, devalued. These feelings filter into the stress of not knowing what fall will look like. It is important to find some relief. To take some time for self-care this summer and prepare for the new year.

Feel your feelings.

Don’t try to minimize your emotions. You might say, “Well it was a stressful experience this year and I wanted it to end anyway.” But the reality is, that won’t make anything feel better.

  • Reach out to a colleague or two to talk it out. Recall the good parts and the frustrating parts. Discuss what things you look forward to next year (even though it may be uncertain).
  • Journal some of your experiences and feelings.
  • Email yourself: things to remember, things that helped you get through, what worked and what didn’t work. Keep these emails in a folder and send more as thoughts pop into your head.

Practice self-care.

It has been a difficult year. We spent months glued to our computer screens, taking little time to relax. Start now. Break the habit of rushing to check emails; unless you are currently teaching, your computer can wait. Self-care can mean different things to different people.

  • Enjoy a cup of coffee or tea outside. I placed hummingbird feeders and I highly recommend them. Hummingbirds are active early in the morning and evening; these moments quiet my mind as I enjoy the sweetness of nature.
  • Begin a summer project. Clean out closets, or organize your home. Plant a garden or learn a new skill.
  • Exercise to get your blood circulating. Taking a walk in the cooler times of day can increase your endorphins and give you energy. I feel joy when walking outside in the evening here at my house; I see bunnies, birds, deer and an occasional black bear.
  • Hydrate! Drinking water cleanses the body and refreshes. Have some fun and use this water calculator to learn how much you need.
  • Challenge yourself to plan and prepare healthy meals. You might even invite a friend to create healthy meals at their home too. Share photos and recipes!

Plan for the future.

If you are like me… I still think of work. The large number of emails looming in my inbox only makes it worse. So, my last piece of advice is to clear out and organize your inbox. This is a great rainy day activity and one your future self will thank you for.

Remember to give yourself a break.

You are important! You are valued, and you are loved!

Take brain breaks and develop a mindfulness practice for yourself. And then you can use those strategies with your students. Always bring gratitude and kindness to everything you do for yourself and others. I wish you all the best!

With love and gratitude,

Linda Romano


Click here to submit your questions. Linda will have the answers.

Linda Romano is vice president of ACTE’s Health Science Education Division and a health science/nurse aide educator for Newburgh Enlarged City School District, where she has been a CTE teacher since 2006. In 2018, Romano was named ACTE’s Teacher of the Year. She also serves as president of the New York Health Science Educator Association.

Romano is an active registered nurse and serves in several volunteer capacities for her state of New York and within the local Newburgh Community/ Newburgh Armory Unity Center. In addition to mentoring new teachers, Linda Romano developed and leads a program called Scholars in Scrubs, which provides education, health and wellness, and opportunities for young people (pre-K to high school) and their parents/grandparents.