Wednesday, August 1, 2018
For Academic Support Professionals who oversee offices that operate year long, it can be very difficult to identify an ideal time to take a break or vacation. This is primarily due to the fact that we are constantly looking ahead to what comes next. We are planning the next program and preparing for the next event of the cycle. To somewhat illustrate this point, when bar preparation is over in July we intensify our preparation for orientation and fall programming (because we were simultaneously working on this during bar review) and in the fall we commence spring program planning which includes planning for students preparing for the February bar exam. At the height of spring semester, we start coaching students to ensure they graduate, work with those studying for the bar exam, and plan summer bar programming. This is just the tip of the iceberg and does not adequately capture the full picture. You have to live it to better understand, particularly when unpredictable incidents and issues surface. In the midst of it all, we have to be human beings and engage with family, friends, and community commitments.
Each year, as I assess my experience, I realize that I have never really had a break. The most consecutive days off I get is seven days at some point approximately a week after the July bar exam and prior to August Orientation. During that week, I continue to keep very busy. I respond to email messages about orientation, messages from recent bar takers, and communicate with teaching assistants. I have discovered that a plan to escape my environment tends to make the possibility of getting true rest more likely. Though it was a very sad situation, the elimination of the summer conditional admission program made my summer slightly more manageable and allowed me to direct most of my energy to one primary task. In retrospect, I cannot comprehend how I managed to accomplish all that I did during previous summers.
As a one-woman office providing academic support and bar preparation support services, I have to be present virtually or physically for most things. Over the years, in collaboration with my supervisors, I have made adjustments to cater to my health and well-being so I can provide optimal service to our students. I have also found it imperative to reset things and be comfortable making adjustments as need be. Here are some of the things I have found helpful:
(1) Take a day or a few hours off if necessary when extremely overwhelmed or exhausted. Leaving the building and unplugging for a short period of time can be rejuvenating and provide better perspective. You might not need it but understanding that this is an option and being okay with it is great.
(2) Take an occasional three-day weekend. This should be strategically planned maybe every 2 months particularly if you are uncomfortable with (1 above). This gives you something to look forward to as well as consumes some of your vacation days that you will lose anyway because you may never use them all. Furthermore, if you work odd hours (earlier and/or later than the workday schedule) and have quite a bit of weekend or evening programming, you can justify not coming in for a day.
(3) Recognize that the students will survive. Students are adults and even though they might “guilt trip” you because you were not present at a particular time of crisis, you know there are a number of resources available for them to use to solve their problems. Also, most things can be taken care of when you return to the office. By this approach, you are modeling good self-care which hopefully students can emulate. Also, the more rested you are, the better your performance.
Let’s all reset and gear-up for a wonderful 2018-1019 academic year. (Goldie Pritchard)