I should read that article on hybrid learning. I should sign up for the PD on using Google Meets. I should talk more to my at-home learners. I should get those reading assessments done. I should stop eating Halloween candy at my desk. I should get my flu shot this week. I should email that parent. I should call my parents. I should fit in another run this week. I should get to bed earlier. I should set my alarm earlier.
When I returned back to school in August, I found my brain running a constant list of all the things I should do. By the first day of school, that list was waking me up at night. I would lie in bed and run through all the things I should be doing. By the time morning came, I would have subdivided my “should” list into more to-do items. My brain felt like a giant pile of post-it notes, all of them peeling off the walls.
I spoke to friends, I spoke to colleagues, I spoke to professionals. I realized that I was not alone in my world of “shoulds”. Since the start of the pandemic, it seems that many of us have been in a mental race where we've set a pace that is too strenuous for the distance we need to cover.
I recognized I needed to change, so I returned to an article about managing uncertainty from @MindShiftKQED. It gave me the pillars to the change I needed.
“Do or do not. There is no try.” Yoda
Thanks, Yoda. I am reclaiming the Jedi’s words of wisdom. I am choosing to “do not”. I have looked at my professional practice and my personal life and stripped away those things that do not need to happen right now. It means my class spends more time doodling, and math lessons are occasionally replaced with free time outside. It means my home is a bit messier and we are ordering in take-out on weeknights. It means I make calling my mom a priority and it might take a few days to get back to a parent about the curriculum objectives for grade 3. I’m happier "not doing". My family seems happier too, and so do my students.
My stress is not my badge of honour
I read this line in an article about “toxic positivity” @WeAreTeachers. It lept from the screen and I immediately felt stronger from reading it. I will speak my truth. I have taught for over 20 years and this year is my most challenging yet. I feel stressed, I feel burnt-out and I occasionally find myself getting teary when the photocopier doesn’t work. I’m not “ok” and when the situation calls for it, I am being honest about how I am feeling. I am not ashamed that I cannot work at the same capacity I normally do. I am not blaming myself when I need to say “no”. I refuse to wear my stress like a badge of honour. I can be strong and vulnerable. I can make my well-being a priority.
Find time for joy and renewal
Like many of the recent blog posts @Cohort21, I too have found solace and energy in my connections to others. Without these personal connections, I would feel very lost. Making the time for others has been a priority for me. It means putting off marking those math quizzes so I can hear about a colleague’s weekend. On weekends, it means that some Sundays are for hiking and not for catching up on school work. In my classroom, we have had several impromptu dance parties (thank you, GoNoodle) that brought laugher, movement and a sense of community. Who knew I could learn how to “floss”? I am consciously choosing to do things that contribute to my sense of belonging and happiness.
We are in the midst of a global health crisis. In the education system, it is a time of uncertainty, heartbreak and stress. Parker Palmer said, “We teach who we are”. Never before has this line resonated more with me. As I prepare to wade through this year, I recognize that I need to abandon my “shoulds” and a facade of “I’m ok”. I commit to finding joy each teaching day, maximizing time for human connections and saying “no” when I need to. Since I began mindfully focusing on these changes, I have reclaimed my heart as a teacher.
What “shoulds” have you let go of this teaching year?