Tag Archives: teachers

Finding Balance

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What is balance?  Where has it gone, and did we ever have it to begin with?

I struggle daily to find balance in my life.  Balance between home and work, balance between what I give of myself and what’s left behind once I do.  The struggle is real to find the right amount of effort for each compartment of my life.  And that’s how I cope with issues – I compartmentalize my life.  Little sections of family, work, friends, church.  Each section is important but as odd as it may seem, they rarely mesh.

My daily battle is somehow equalizing the compartments, and I have to honestly say, there are times when some of my compartments are totally ignored.  There are days when one or two areas devour the other parts of my life.  Can you guess which areas those are?  I bet the same ones you struggle with, too.

As with many jobs, mine tends to devour.  If I’d agree to what it wants from me, I could work from dawn to bedtime every day.  If I would just give in and let it have me, I would eat, breathe and sleep work.  Many people I work with do and have.  They work incredibly long hours, every day of the week, just trying to somehow keep their heads above water.

Here’s the thing, I refuse to let any compartment of my life completely rule over the others in a negative way.  Especially work.  I work my tail off while I’m there, but I’ve learned the hard way that I must have downtime at home.  If I don’t, my family and home life suffers.  My children suffered when they were younger because work zapped me so fully and completely that they were left with a grumpy momma.  I learned a little too late that if there’s no downtown, there’s no energy for friends or church or anything else.

So where’s the balance?  How can teachers find balance in a system that demands more every year, sometimes every month or week?  How can school employees (because our principal, secretaries and staff work just as long if not longer than we do) continue at this pace?  I know my body and psyche and I know that this pace can destroy my gut.  It can wreck nerves and fray the senses.  It can change once kind, jovial humans into fussy, irritated grumps.

How can we fix it?  What can teachers do to regulate their time, to find a balance that keeps them healthy while providing all that is expected?  I wish I knew all the answers.  I wish I had a magic wand.

Here is what I do know (and granted, it’s not much):

  1. Don’t be afraid to leave work when your work day is over.  If the work is still there, guess what?  It will still be there in the morning.  The world will not have stopped turning and somehow, you’ll get it done the next day.
  2. Your children and spouse come first.  Period.  End of story.
  3. God gave us all a job to do on this earth, but I believe we’re still expected to take care of our internal selves.  If we don’t care for the tender parts of our soul, no one else will.  We have to ‘tend the garden’ of patience, love, kindness.  If we ignore them, weeds will take over.
  4. “Don’t sweat the small things” – man, nothing is more truer than that statement.  Let the little stuff go.  Out the door, out of your mind, out of your gut where it will turn into an ulcer the size of the moon if you’re not careful.
  5. When you get tired, STOP!  Stop, walk, run away from the building.  Go home, rest, cook, read, zone out in the recliner.  Just stop.
  6. Be kind.  Smile at somebody at least once a day.  Give a compliment.
  7. Sleep is awesome.  Downright magical, really.
  8. Share the good – like when you figure out this balance thing.  When you figure out the answer, let the rest of us know.
  9. Never forget the reason most of us are there.  I have heard so many teachers say over the years, “If I didn’t love the kids so much, I’d be gone.”  I guarantee you, every teacher in the world has thought that.  I know I have.  Sometimes, when I slow down enough to really look at my students, to look into their eyes and see the churning of their minds, I remember.  I remember that these little people are just little people.  They need us to love them with all we’ve got.  THEY are what keep me there.

Told you it wasn’t much, but it’s all my weary, work compartment can manage.  And I’m serious about number 8.  There has to be an answer to balancing our lives, to keeping our focus on what is real and important.  I’m expecting some really smart educator to figure it out.  That’s what we’re good at, by the way.  That’s why they pay us the big bucks!

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Saturday on Repeat

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So summer’s here…as in school’s out.  And honestly, I can’t believe it.  It doesn’t feel like it to me at all!  Not sure why but regardless, it hasn’t been Saturday for the past two days – it’s actually a Thursday and I’m not at work.  I’m sure it won’t take me long to acclimate to being at home…it never does!

I had to leave you with one more funny from perhaps the funniest group of students I’ve ever had.  Actually two.

How to protect whales.  Public Service Announcement - please read and adhere to number three!

“How to Protect Whales.”  Public Service Announcement – please read and adhere to number three!  And if you see a whale in a lake, please tell the authorities ASAP!

And secondly (and my last, I promise):  What does the mother buffalo say to her son going off to college?  Bi-son!   Like I said, funniest class ever.  I will truly miss them.

Here’s my wish list for the best summer ever:

Go to Mackinac Island (check – going in July)

Write every day

Read every day

Soak up some sun

Sleep late on occasion

Be thankful every day that I have nine weeks to recharge my depleted battery

That’s not an unreasonable check-list and I plan to make sure each one is accomplished!  To all my teacher peeps, Happy Summer!  And yes, it’s really a Thursday, not Saturday set on repeat.

Writer’s Block

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What exactly is writer’s block?  I won’t pretend to know, but something is going on.  Something in my head.  I want to write but when I sit down at my computer…nothing.  Nada.  Zilch.  And I’m frustrated.  I have this story in my head but it won’t transfer through my fingers to the computer.

I’ve tried to dissect it…this strange clogging of thoughts…and so far this is what I’ve gathered.  Maybe I’m in a funk.  Do you have them?  You know, the I feel thick and sluggish and I’m tired all the time and if I don’t get out of my house soon, somebody’s going to get hurt feeling.  Please tell me that someone else feels this way too!  I’d hate to think I’m the only human being that gets stir crazy.

What’s the culprit?  Many things, I believe.

First, my kids are growing up and they don’t need me as much anymore.  They don’t need me to drive them around.  There are no camps, no trips to town for the thousands of things they need.  Now they do it on their own.  It’s a blessing in so many ways but still…suddenly I’m a momma only needed for the occasional meal, laundry services and advice once or twice a week.  It’s such a dramatic change from life before.  I’ve always said raising children should come with warning labels and this is one of them – I will grow up and leave you.  Suck it up.

Second, I’ve been home-bound this summer.  Not by some injury or ailment.  Just home-bound because I have nothing to do…absolutely nothing.  Which sounds wonderful, I know!  And for the first few weeks of summer it was.  Now, I’m getting restless.  My hubby says I need to get my butt back to work.  Maybe he’s right.

Third, we’ve taken no vacations this summer.  Hubby’s job won’t allow it, and the lack of travel and one-on-one time with my family is making me cranky.  I need to see something else besides the (wonderful) walls of my house.  We’ve always traveled every summer…wonderful places like New York and Maine and Mackinac.  Not this year, and I miss it.

Fourth, I’m not doing enough for others.  I’ve come to the conclusion that my boredom/self-pity/restlessness stems from the giving of myself all school year coming to a screeching halt.  Yes, teachers need a break to recover from one school year before tackling another, but I need to find other ways to give in the summer.  (And honestly, something that has nothing to do with small children – that’s my full-time job.)

So…writers block, writer’s block.  It sucks and it needs to go.  Should I run off to some foreign location for a week?  Or how about kidnap my hubby for a few days and disappear north?  Hmm…or maybe, just maybe, I should go on the hunt for somebody who needs help.  Whatever it is, I’ve got to find a way to clear this funk in my head.  I’m on the count-down for the beginning of the next school year, and I need to start with a fresh, clear, funk-less mind.

Any ideas…anyone, anyone?  Beuller, Beuller?  (Sorry – told you I was going stir crazy!)

My imaginary happy place.

My imaginary happy place.

 

 

Tests

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I’m preparing my room at school for achievement tests.  Keep in mind I teach first grade so we’re talking about six and seven-year olds here.  Everything must be covered in the room, the alphabet, numbers, the days of the week.  All that I get.  It’s not even the rigid rules and structure that bother me.  What kills me about all of this is that the moment the test begins, our children are expected to turn into little robotic machines.  No longer are they allowed to ask questions, to think aloud, to ask for guidance if they lose their place on the test.  In an instant, they are expected to act older, be older, seem older.  That bothers me.  I guess as a mother and a teacher, I’ll never love the idea of standardized tests.  I’ll never be able to accept a test that inhibits what I’ve taught them all year-long to do – ask, question, explore, search, think aloud, share.  Again, they’re only six and seven.  Phew…

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Perhaps my anxiety comes from the fact that I was never a good test taker.  I was one of those kids…you know, one of the average kids who always wished they could do just a little bit better.  It wasn’t until college that all the puzzle pieces that make me who I am, came together, snapping into place.  Like a switch, my grades shot up, my confidence grew, my brain expanded.  I don’t believe any achievement test I ever took had anything to do with it.

Apparently there are great minds (hmm) working together somewhere – where classroom teachers aren’t allowed – deciding what should be done to children.  And testing is one of those things.  It’s been around for decades and most surely will continue.  All any teacher can do is hold their head up high, knowing they’ve taught all they can in nine months.  Whether the students can regurgitate it or not…well, I guess that one is up to the cosmic…and whether or not they need to pee in that moment, or had breakfast that day, or witnessed their parents fighting the night before, or how their kittens are doing at home, or any other countless thing that fills the mind of children.

Bless the little children and their sweet hearts.  Bless the people with hearts big enough to guide and love them every day.