I, Joy Kirr, am a middle school teacher, author, and speaker. My 7th grade ELA (English Language Arts) classes are working to improve their lives through student-directed learning - without marks throughout the year. This is a log of my learning experiences... Want to have me speak with your staff or facilitate a workshop? Here is my PORTFOLIO.

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Teaching Well

I'm in the midst of Spring Break.

I want to do it all.
I want to read books that my students might love.
I want to write blog posts that teachers can read and be inspired by or learn something from or question and comment.
I want to catch up on movies I've been told are great - DVDs from the Library, as we don't have Netflix. I know - I'm on the "older side."

Knowing that I'm on the "older side" of teaching, I want to do more than school work. I want to live a full life BEFORE I retire. Currently, my husband and my students are my entire world. I am constantly seeking balance between school and home.

Today I'm doing a bit of both... it's part of my newest mental wellness plan. It's time for another book review - thank you to Lisa Bush for this next one. It was such a surprise to see it in my mailbox, and I got reading right away this January! (Because I was trying to take care of my mental health, I put writing about in on the back burner until I felt sure I would follow through with her ideas!)

I haven't yet shared about a book I was provided called Teaching Well by Lisa Bush (@purplesemicolon on Twitter and YouTube). If you can take just ONE of her ideas for having a healthier work life, you can probably be a bit more balanced with home life. One quote that stuck with me right from the start: "We have a right to live a rich and creative life beyond the classroom walls." Work for teachers does not end. There will always be work to do. At some point, we need to close the door and leave work behind. Instead of just surviving, we'd should be able to thrive. Therefore, we need to make the difficult decisions to put ourselves first. We are better, stronger, kinder teachers when we take care of ourselves. We canNOT run on fumes.

Another idea stuck with me - when we are the most overwhelmed with work is when we NEED to stop and make time for ourselves. Simply 30-60 minutes is all we need in order to recoup some of the energy we need. Lisa shares four pillars of wellness:
     1. Prepare for a good night's sleep.
     2. Manage stress.
     3. Put nutrients into your body.
     4. Stay hydrated.

When I began Teaching Well, I had two of the four figured out (sleep & nutrients), and I was working on the hydration. (I've been hydrating well since January!) I knew I needed to work on managing stress better, so that is one reason why I felt the need to end the #ShiftThis chat. There are other things I've done since then, as well, such as try to get outside every day. In the winter months, it gets dark so fast - so I've made walking as soon as I get home a priority (running is done for me - too much on my knees - waiting for biking weather next). Since many days I could not walk in the daylight, I got out in the dark anyway, and I've learned to like walking in the dark (no worries, Mom - I'm safe). This March, my husband has come on many more walks with me than in the past, as well, and it's helping his life, too.

What I loved most about Lisa's book is that she's got the science behind the ideas - the PROOF that teachers need to do a better job of taking care of themselves so that they may better take care of their students. As I flip through it again for this blog post, I have many notes that say "share with students." I have not yet shared these parts with them - probably because I had not yet practiced what I would be preaching. This is another point she makes. We, as teachers, need to practice all of the things we wish our students would do - whether it's reading for pleasure and research, writing, or getting a good night's sleep and eating healthy.

She's got some great ideas about working collaboratively with other teachers, changing the way we look at learning, and chunking tasks for preps and after-school time. We cannot "do it all," and we need to be okay with being mediocre at certain things, so that we DO have the energy and time and patience to give our students AND our families our best selves. Bonus - if you teach ELA, English, or the Humanities, you'll truly appreciate the specific ideas she throws in for us.

A bit of this book reminded me of The Zen Teacher by Dan Tricarico (@thezenteacher on Twitter) that I had read just this past November (see more here). This school year has been the year I've really wrangled with doing what I feel I need to do to stay mentally healthy.

I wish the same for you - Do your best while remembering to take time for yourself!