Tuesday is for Teachers (& Wednesday this week)
Habits of Heart for Teachers
More than a month ago I wrote the first post of the habit of balance, counting joys. Today’s post is perfect for this time of year.
Take Care of Yourself
The Habit of Balance is all about you as a person – not a teacher. Consider your life outside the classroom. As this new semester begins it’s a good time to make some plans, resolutions, or commitments for yourself. Examine each dimension of your life:
Are you balanced? Are you taking care of each aspect of your life? Steven Covey’s Habit 7 is called this “Sharpening the Saw”, or “me” time. The last thing I want to do is make you feel guilty about any area of your life. I just want to encourage you to use this typically reflective time of the year to examine yourself honestly.
You know the advice for mothers flying with their infant? In an emergency, put the oxygen mask on yourself first so you can take care of your baby. Any profession can be stressful or all-consuming, but today’s teachers have one demand after another pulling them in many directions. No matter how good we get at hiding pain or sadness or distress or anxiety, it takes a toll on every part of your life.
Covey quoted Abe Lincoln to illustrate the importance of taking care of yourself. Like a good woodchopper, make sure the saw or ax is sharp before you begin. It’s worth the time it takes to make sure your tools are ready.
You may feel rested and refreshed from the Christmas break but now is the time to establish some new habits that will give you the balance you need to “stand and deliver” day in and day out. I don’t need to tell you that teaching is stressful, but you may need reminding that your body is exhausted. When you work in a stressful environment or you are constantly in a “flight” or “fight” mode, you may not even be aware of how it affects you.
I taught Special Education students for 22 years, in various school systems with varying types of disabilities. The last 15 years were with students who were moderate to severely handicapped. In 1999 I knew I was burning out but was able to make a change and return to a “regular” classroom. I moved down the hall with two other teachers and taught 8th grade language arts and science. About November I had a startling realization; I was able to stand in front of 25-30 8th graders and relax! I never relaxed when I taught Special Ed. classes. I didn’t know that I always stayed mentally and physically prepared for an emergency or some crisis with my Special Education class.
I pulled a few books and DVDs from our shelves that have accumulated over the years. If we kept up with all this good advice, Larry and I would be in terrific shape. Like most people we go through periods of regular exercise (Larry’s in one right now; I’m not!), eating right, refreshiing our spiritual self, challenging our brains, etc. In this age of technology there is no limit to the expert advice, equipment, calorie-counting, and organizational tools found actually in one website. Take a look at Amazon’s page that puts all the categories and links together in one spot! I didn’t even have to search for this — they sent it to my email! On just one page they give you 9 different categories to explore — even a make-over for your car. Okay, that’s stretching things a bit.
For many folks new habits in the New Year mean losing weight or start exercising. This is not about losing weight, but doing what you need to do to be healthy. Take a look at this blog written by my brother on losing weight, Don’t Try To Lose Weight! I suggest that your examination of your life focus on one area that you KNOW will make a difference in your daily level of stress. It might be as simple as taking a walk around the gym before you leave school or walking through a fabric store (my personal favorite for inspiration). Step outside your world of focus and breathe deeply. The weather may not be accommodating for a stroll in a park, but fresh air is important even in the winter.
Take a look at this PDF with a list of suggestions for sharpening each dimension of your life. Pick one or it you are ambitious, pick one from each dimension. Just give yourself permission to take care of YOU!
Here’s the one that has made a difference in my life this year — counting blessings every day. Join me and hundreds of others in this crazy dare of discovering 1000 gifts in one year.
Praying for your balancing act and your courage to keep on under difficult circumstances.