When I come home from school, I relax on the couch and tell my (retired) husband about my day. Just last month I would think, "If I could just get started on some school work now and talk to him later..." Now I feel I have the time. I don't worry about what I need to do next. I simply am present, enjoying our time.
A couple of days ago, when dinner was almost ready, I went to the cookie jar for a bite. I watched my hand reach for the lid, then come back to me without lifting it. It was kind of awkward watching my hand, so I paused to figure out what was going on. I realized - I still have some will power left in me. I used to use up all my will power at school.
One day on my way to work this week, I was frustrated at the speed of the vehicles around me. They were going way "too slow" for my taste. I was upset because it's the only stretch I have where I can go 50mph instead of 40 or less. Grrrr - I was feeling my blood pressure rise. So I shook my head and heard myself say aloud, "Shift your mindset," and wondered how could I simply enjoy this moment? Sadly, I was not able to shift this mindset, but thinking about it out loud made me realize I have some tools I can use. I was also able to laugh about it later when I shared with a coworker.
We had a twelve-hour day Thursday this week, due to parent/teacher conferences. Heading home in the dark is never my favorite, and the vehicles were going faster than I was willing, so I stayed in the right lane. Approaching the street where I turn left to get home, I realized it was going to be tough. Suddenly all the cars in the left lane were nestling close to one another, and I didn't want to fight my way in. Instead of getting upset, I made a conscious decision to turn right, and take another route, simply to get away from the rush.
Friday night, we got our fire pit raging hot with all the twigs we'd collected the last few weeks. We had the Soultown station on. A bit of Roberta Flack ("Killing Me Softly"), a bit of Sly and the Family Stone, and even some disco mixed in! I found myself getting up and dancing - like nobody was watching. I just wanted to get up and MOVE. It felt good. It felt healthy. I testify to that!
These last few instances are occurring outside of school. It made me wonder, what have I been doing IN school that has helped me be more present, save some will power, and remain calm?
Teachers vent. I get it. I've written about complaining before. I've noticed a difference now - sometimes we just need to share something with someone who understands what we're going through. I'm not immune to it, either. What I do now is listen. Then those of us in the conversation move on to something else, and it's forgotten for awhile.
I hear rumors about other teachers, and I think about how it affects me. Much of it doesn't matter to me. It's not my business and doesn't affect me in the least. I know I'm not hearing the whole story, and will probably never find out how it all turned out. If the conversation becomes all about rumors, I either say something nice about the person, try to talk about something else, or I excuse myself. If the rumor may mean children are being affected, I simply share what I've heard with someone who MAY be able to do something. Then... I let it go. I will continue to act the same way towards the person I have always acted, unless I, personally, notice that person doing or saying something that would make me act otherwise.
In the classroom, I'm taking deep breaths when I need to. During transition times, heading out of a meeting, just before students arrive, before I head to lunch, and on my way out the door, I breathe in an out more deeply - or should I say "with more intent" - for a few breaths. I've come to relish those breaths.
Angela Watson taught me a huge lesson in her book, Fewer Things Better. We all put our own "rules" on things. I had "rules" for the photos I take in my classroom. I share photos with parents in my two-week updates on our blog. Since reading her book, I've ditched two rules that I realized take up a ton of my time and concentration. I no longer take a photo of the date each day, and no longer do I make myself share 5 photos from each class each day. I now take photos when I feel I can, and there are no more rules anymore. I simply take photos and videos. Some days. Of some classes. And it's okay. As long as I'm fair about taking them in ALL classes, I'm happy and proud of getting parents photos of their children. (Here are our updates with photos. I use Animoto's educator account.)
I've gotten more exercise - in and out of school. One line that stays with me from Teaching Well by Lisa Bush is that "exercise rejuvenates our willpower" (quote from Simone McCreary). Even simply walking around the school halls before school or during lunch has helped me. Another idea to remember - "...exercise increases circulation - thus there is more blood in the brain..."
The huge lesson I learned from The Zen Teacher by Dan Tricarico is to do at least one thing just for myself every day. I'm getting OUTSIDE. I've gotten my last class outside more days than not in the first month and a half of school, and the fresh air rejuvenates me, makes me happier, and calms my mind. (When the snow arrives, I'll strap on those snowshoes once again.)
I've eaten healthier lunches and fruit or nuts for a snack third period. A few years ago, I would eat a lot of frozen meals. Just last year, I would eat boxed snacks. I'm eating more (healthy) leftovers now, and I'm not including chocolate in my lunch bag anymore. I still have it sometimes when I feel I need it, but it's not a staple food because I don't really need it. I'm not gaining or losing weight - I'm simply eating healthier.
I'm drinking loads of water. With the prompting of a coworker, I did some (albeit in-store) research and purchased a reusable, BPA-free (free of bisphenol A) water bottle. I'm now needing to refill it during lunch!
A HUGE SHOUT OUT to these three books that have really made a difference in what I'm doing for MYSELF in the last year (no, I don't get compensated for sharing - they're just that good, in my opinion):
- The Zen Teacher by Dan Tricarico (My thoughts & Amazon link)
- Teaching Well by Lisa Bush (My thoughts & Amazon link)
- Fewer Things Better by Angela Watson (My thoughts & Amazon link)
I needed these books on my way into my 25th year of teaching...