My husband likes to hike and had been planning to hike the Appalachian Trail this fall, but the pandemic has thrown a wrench into those plans. The AT is about 2200 miles long and he plans to hike about 25 miles a day which means he’d be on the trail for about 3 months. (Stay with me I’ll get back to math talk shortly). I have learned a lot about hiking as I have listened to his plans and one thing I learned about was the Zero Day.
When you are putting yourself under a lot of stress (mentally or physically) it is helpful to give yourself a break. Hikers build in zero days to rest, reload their supplies, and reinvigorate. I think that teachers can gain a lot from adopting this practice.
Now, when I say a zero day, I am not saying that you pop on a movie for your kids and call it a day. On zero days hikers will relax but also plan and reevaluate. For teachers, I am saying it’s okay to take a day to take a load off and break the routine. Here’s some examples of what this might look like.
- Have a day where students design their own learning experience. You get to take some pressure off of intensely planning and instead get to play a support role for your students.
- Take a day to engage in professional development. Sometimes schools offer to send teachers to trainings. Find one that would be a welcome change of pace or something new and exciting and go for it.
- If something big is happening in the world or in your community, take a day to discuss it with your students, even if it is not specific to mathematics. When big things happen in our communities it impacts us and our students. Remember we are teaching human beings, we need to make space to acknowledge them aside from mathematics.
- Take a mental health day to reinvigorate yourself. If you are not in a great place mentally, your students’ learning will be impacted (and not in a good way).
If you are teaching students right now, please be sure to take some time to acknowledge the world events. Students will have questions and want space to discuss issues and the humane thing to do is to make the time and space for them. If you are teaching and need resources to support you in discussing the #BlackLivesMatter movement or how to engage in anti-racist teaching I recommend checking out some of the resources in Resources for Supporting #BlackLivesMatter curated by Tia C. Madkins and Social Justice Mathematics and Science Curricular Resources for K-12 Teachers compiled by Kari Kokka. Taking a zero day to do some learning and planning around these resources would be a day well spent.