I just typed "Teacher Stock Photos" into my Google image search.
1) Let's talk about white collared shirts.
Teachers of middle or elementary school or ANY project-based class: How long has a white collared shirt ever survived in your wardrobe? I've made it a year max and usually it's a mess by the end. At one point I wised up and never bought them again. Early in my career I actually thought that teachers wore button-downs and blazers. I'd wear these to interviews. Fast forward to my classroom and I've got paint on my pants, chalk on my face, maybe a little bit of glue in my hair. As an administrator I'd often have to figure out how to maintain a professional look after a carpool rainstorm. Learning is messy. Your clothes should match.
2) What's with the chalkboards?
I haven't seen a legitimate chalkboard in years. If I have, there's a smartboard or screen covering it up. Or at least an Elmo. I wish some of these photos would be more representative of the profession in the 21st century! Also all the stock photo teachers are Algebra and Calculus teachers.
3) They're pointing at things.
Just pointing all over the place- sometimes at nothing. Occasionally with a pointer or piece of chalk.
4) Some of them look angry, stressed, or just ridiculous.
Several of them were holding stacks of books. Not 3 books. 10 books.
There were some images where the teacher just had a book on their head ?!?!?!?!?!?!
Some where they are yelling at children, into the air, or just burying their heads in defeat. This is not good. Although I know there are days like this it is not all we are as educators.
5) Many of them have their backs to the children while they just sit calmly in the background.
We all know what happens when you turn your back on a group of 20 unoccupied children for 10 seconds.
Let's try not to perpetuate these crazy images of teachers. I'd like to see stock photos where the teacher blends in among the students. Some of my favorite moments are walking in the class and not being able to see the teacher because they are so engaged with learners. Teachers should be interacting with students rather than standing in front of them holding a book and pointing at a chalkboard. Can we at least upgrade to a whiteboard?! The classroom would be colorful and enriching--not an empty room with a chalkboard full of equations. I'd like to see the teacher wearing normal comfortable clothes that reflect their personality and not a teaching robot. And I'd love to see learning that matches the way we know kids learn best: through technology, building, constructing, interacting, and creating. Let's keep moving the profession forward- and maybe the photos will follow.
This year I wanted to address things that I knew were holding me back. My anxieties, my confidence (or lack of), my stress. What was preventing me from living my best life? Every day I woke up afraid of lots of things. Afraid of car accidents. Afraid of pain. Afraid of loss. Afraid of rejection. Afraid of failure. Afraid of burning my neighborhood down by leaving my hair straightener on. I've called it anxiety for a long time, and worked on it with mindfulness and yoga and counseling. But when I call it fear it takes on a different meaning. This year I decided to actively work on fear.
I didn't find many resources on the subject, but I watched a Netflix documentary on Tony Robbins called I am Not Your Guru. I saw it as a potential to learn more about fear. When my husband was interested in it too I suggested we try to attend one of his programs. For my birthday he got me tickets to one of his events: Unleash the Power Within.
I learned when we signed up that a trademark of this event is WALKING OVER RED HOT COALS. So naturally I was afraid of it for six months leading up to it. But the point is to break through fear, and that's what I was working on. So I activated the part of my brain that wants me to reach my goals and embraced the idea that I was going to walk over those coals and literally move through something that terrified me.
For a little context, the first year that my husband and I were dating he wanted to go skydiving. My reaction was just to immediately cry and start googling skydiving accidents. I don't seek out scary things and actively try to avoid them. But here I was, at this crazy event yelling and screaming and learning and getting ready to walk over hot coals between 1200 and 2000 degrees. How did I do it? Honestly how 9,000 people walked across hot coals is a mystery to me still, but I do know how I felt right before. I felt like I could do anything.
The firewalk, while amazing and empowering, was not the most transformational experience for me. Throughout the seminar there were exercises to help you visualize your life and all that you have. Whatever anxieties, fears, annoyances, and frustrations you have melt away when you step into beautiful moments in your life and feel deep, unbounded gratitude and fulfillment.
I went to the seminar thinking I would feel empowered to start my business, maybe get in a little better shape and get super motivated. I did get those things and am working actively towards them. But very clearly and very quickly I was shocked at how my priorities shifted when confronted with the things that have held me back in the past, what it is that really matters to me and, the people I love, and how precious and beautiful our human experience is.
I learned that we can change our state in an instant. If I am afraid, sad, upset, or anxious I just think of all that I have. I'm destroying these moments when I don't appreciate them and enjoy them. Advancing in my career, making money, having nice things, traveling, and many other goals do not mean much if we can't appreciate what we have. And I won't be able to do any of those things without my health and energy.
A huge realization I had was how very low energy I have been for a long time. Everything exhausted me. I thought it was my circumstance: the stress of my work, the demands of education. But guess what- it was me! I was just doing the bare minimum to stay in good shape and did not have incentive to do much rigorous activity. I love yoga and I do it all the time- but I gravitate toward stretchy relaxing classes. Now let's reframe that to having enough energy to wake up early, get your workout and meditation in, crush it all day, and be focused and present with your loved ones. That's a new game. I have more energy than I've had in years, and I am working on keeping it up.
Did it change my life? Sure did. Just like every decision we make each day changes our life. Sometimes just little shifts, and sometimes a large push. Have I joined a cult? I've joined a community of people who want to improve their lives. I seek these communities out actively. My tribes. What's next? I've signed up for a coaching program through Tony Robbins Results Coaching to continue working towards my goals. This week it's a 5 AM non-negotiable wakeup. My husband is luckily on board and has created a strategy of playing loud music and racing me out of bed to get on the meditation cushion. We've also signed up to teach a dance class at a local assisted living facility (more on that later).
I am proud of myself for walking over fire but even more proud of myself for continually learning and growing. Tony Robbins says that if you're not growing you're dying. Life is too beautiful and precious to spend it without energy, without joy, and without gratitude. We all have within us everything we need to move forward- we just sometimes need a little (or big) push through the things that scare us.
I don’t know where it started. It may have been in the first A+ on my report card or dinosaur diorama. It may have been my parents holding a set of high expectations and rewarding good grades. It may have been a desire to be like other kids that seemed to have it all together.
In middle school I had a classmate that could color maps perfectly. While studying the geography of South America she would shade in the interior border of each country with colored pencil and then lightly shade the area in between. The result was beautiful- and perfect. I wanted my maps to look just like it. They didn't.
In high school I was in a rigorous art class where had to rank order and critique all of our drawings. I was crushed any time my piece wasn’t first. I also enrolled in AP Calculus and when faced with the speed and challenge of the class I politely asked my teacher if I could move to a different (easier) level. I wanted to protect the A’s that I was addicted to.
I thought that my pursuit of perfection was the key to success. It was always rewarded and praised. Looking back there were many unintended consequences of my perfectionist tendencies.
It wasn’t until I began to study the behaviors and traits of gifted learners that I began to understand the darker side of my perfection pursuit. I had students in my classes who would not try something if it meant that they might not succeed. Was this what I was doing as a child? As an adult? Now I have a better understanding of the behaviors contributing to perfectionism and I am working to recover from patterns that have held me back in the past.
Perfection can fuel anxiety and it has for me for a very long time. Entering into situations where I may look silly, unprepared, or uncomfortable makes my heart race. Creating work that may have errors or that others may critique gives me anxiety. I'm working on it.
The thing about perfectionists is that we will try to do it ALL THE TIME. We can be perfectionistic about everything. We can seek perfection in a report we are creating for school, spending hours on the font size and margins. That will surely get us the A! We can be a perfectionist about what to bring to a dinner party, how to set up a home, or in planning a vacation down to the minute. Perfection is control.
If you saw my car right now you probably would not think I was a perfectionist. The difference in my car and my schoolwork or a dinner party is that other people will see it. If someone important were to ride in my car, or even just someone I didn’t know well I would make a point to get it cleaned.
That’s what’s messed up. We are often not perfectionists about things we do for ourselves, but we try to be perfect for others. We create perfect pictures of our lives with Instagram filters and Facebook posts. We delete anything that makes us look like we don’t have it all together.
Whenever I hear little miss perfect chime in I remember one of my favorite phrases. “Done is better than perfect.” It has helped me countless times to wrap something up, put a bow on it, and be done with it. If I’ve done my best and met my expectations then we’re good.
I still seek excellence in what I do but I try not to waste valuable time fretting over things that frankly other people may not even notice.
Luckily I am no longer incentivized by A’s and B’s. I hope that we are moving away from a grading system that fuels perfectionism and encourages excellence, honest and frequent feedback, and risk-taking.
If you give me a map today I can color it perfectly too but don’t ask me to label the countries. In those lessons we weren’t learning how to color but that's what I remember most about the activity. I don’t know what opportunities or risks I didn’t take because I was afraid of making mistakes. I don’t know how much time I’ve lost in my life overthinking and overworking something that was just fine. I don’t know the cost of being a perfectionist but am working on being mindful of when I’ve moved into an unhealthy pursuit for of perfect, which is the pursuit of the impossible.
In an era where new education technologies are introduced daily, school leaders must be knowledgeable about the tools that teachers and students use to learn. Too often teachers are learning about new tools, becoming passionate about how they can transform learning, and bringing ideas back to their leadership. It should be the other way around. Teachers are doing too much of the the heavy lifting when it comes to technology. Leaders should be equally informed and engaged with EdTech.
Leaders often rely on those go-to teachers to seek out new tools and platforms, try them, and implement them in their classroom. If it seems to be working the leader may agree to purchasing and implementing the tool. At the end of the day, leaders have the purchasing power for acquiring new technologies and supporting their implementation- but they are often not the person in the building who has the most knowledge of the product or program.
I get it. And I am guilty. I am writing this as someone who did not always do a great job keeping up. Once I left the classroom EdTech became harder to experiment with and learn. New EdTech comes so quickly and as a leader there are so many other responsibilities to juggle. It’s a crowded and busy space to keep up with.
Teachers should not have to be the technology leaders in their schools. It should not be their job to evaluate technologies and lobby for resources they need in the classroom. If they do find a new technology leaders should learn the tool, do as much as they can to support teachers, and make decisions about how technology fits into the vision and goals of the school.
If leaders are able to outsource this area to the technology department, a coach, or a lead teacher then they will probably do it in order to create space for parent relationships, discipline, hiring, facilities management and the many many other responsibilities of a school principal. It is so important that we don’t see technology as an additional area of work and we see it as integral to all of the work in schools today.
The following actions can help leaders remain involved and informed of educational technology.
1. Get training on your admin dashboard. The first thing you should do when you acquire a technology for your school is to get trained on the dashboards or admin views that can help you see engagement. This can help you see great info like which teachers are using it, how students are engaging with it, and how parents are accessing it. This can be great data in determining which tools to stick with and which to ditch.
2. Attend the teacher training at least once. You don’t have to go into the deeper levels of the tool but you should get comfortable with what the teacher is doing. It’s also a great way to gauge reactions to the tool and give you a heads up on who may be a leader and able to teach others.
3. Attend a tech conference. A one-day EdCamp can teach you more about new technologies than a four day leadership conference. See what teachers are excited about. Or just follow the conference on Twitter. You’ll notice emerging technologies that may be worth looking into.
4. Get curious. Follow EdTech leaders on Twitter and experiment with tech that intrigues you. Subscribe to EdSurge. You may stumble on something that could support your teachers or fellow leaders.
We have to do better. There isn’t any time and there is never enough money. But that’s not an excuse to disengage in the technology that is driving the future of learning. If teachers are passionate about a new technology leaders should do their best to learn it and empower them to use it and teach others. Conversations about technology should be collaborative and lateral- with teachers and leaders making decisions together with students at the center. Technology should be evaluated regularly and connected to school and district goals. Teachers should be involved in the acquisition of new technology but should not shoulder the necessary leadership for its success. With teachers and leaders both learning new EdTech and leading together, learners will ultimately benefit.
We often talk about education technology in terms of what happens in the classroom, but there are several technologies that can empower school leaders. The following tools have helped me in central office and school leadership roles
Calendly is a tool for scheduling evaluation meetings, classroom observations, and even parent meetings. Calendly works by syncing up with your calendar and reading your availability. You send a link to your teachers and they can follow the link to select times to meet with you or to come visit their class. With the free version you can create a generic 30 minute meeting that folks can use to schedule dedicated time with you. Once scheduled it will show up on both of your calendars, and can easily be changed if you need to reschedule.
Slack is an incredible tool for communication among teams and is very popular in the startup space. In schools it has tremendous potential for internal communication. In my last school our school secretaries were awesome at using Slack to find students and minimized interruptions in the classroom. We used it to communicate when there was a power outage and the intercoms were not working. Teachers knew they could try me there if I didn’t hear my walkie talkie. It’s also a great way to share shoutouts and build culture.
This is the 21st century notebook. For notes in meetings, tracking conversations you have with people, and learning at conferences Evernote is a great tool. It is searchable so you can quickly access old notes. You can also take photos of cards, docs, whiteboards, and sticky notes to collect everything. You can quickly capture screenshots and links for future reference.
When you feel like going analog Bullet Journal is the best “planner” I’ve ever found. This is because the planner isn’t pre-determined for you. Have you been caught in an endless planner loop- always looking for a better one? I’ve tried them all. Bullet Journaling allows for flexibility within form. You can bullet journal using any notebook. It is a super simple way to tie your long term goals to monthly projects to daily actions.
What tools help you stay focused and grounded? Is there an old-school practice that you’ve improved with a new technology? Please share! As leaders we should always be seeking new tools that could help us do the most important work of supporting teachers and students.
This week I embarked on my first days outside of working in the public education system. It is a system that I am a product of and a system that I have dedicated eleven years of my life to. During this time I have worked with thousands of kids and families, hundreds of incredible teachers, and a handful of leaders who each taught me something.
I’ve always been equally curious and terrified by the phrase “leap and the net will appear”. It is not in my nature to take actions without thinking through several alternatives. Often to the eventual decision of inaction, or safe action. At the first sign of risk I almost always take the safer route. But here I am- a couple of days in to my new life having quit my job and now working as an independent contractor.
What I didn’t know is that you don’t even really have to leap far for the net to appear. It is always with you. You’re weaving it together in every role you are in, with every coffee meetup you have, with every conversation. The net is the people you surround yourself with every day. It’s the digital communities you connect with and the podcasts you listen to. We are all connected.
In the past year I was the Assistant Principal at an incredible project-based elementary school. Toward the end of the year I regularly saw kids doing things that I am too scared to do. I saw them give TED-style talks, sing and dance in a talent show, create commercials and build websites. They put their ideas and talents out there although they were probably afraid too. Even at a young age they are creating their nets and taking risks.
I love working with kids and teachers and I would not trade those years. I don’t regret any of my moves or roles as they all taught me lessons about teaching, learning, and leadership. But the work is hard and is getting harder. The expectations increase and the resources stay the same or often decline. It is not a sustainable path for many people, especially those who are giving care to young people or the elderly. I can’t imagine raising your own children, while working in education. If that’s what you’re doing- I salute you! When you take care of others for a living you are consistently drawing from a limited supply of both energy and time.
Instead of searching for the next public school job on the leadership ladder I’m stepping off and scanning the horizon. There is so much more to education than what happens in schools. John Dewey said that “education is life itself”. And our lives as we know them are changing. Virtual reality, artificial intelligence, space exploration, and rapidly shifting socio-economic conditions call for radically different systems of education.
While not knowing exactly what my next job or project will be is very scary, I can feel the net all around me. It’s my husband who is cheering me on, putting up with my meltdowns, and coaching me through the scary world of self employment. It’s my family who may think I’m nuts but who are supportive and proud nonetheless. It’s my global tribe of educators from TED-Ed to Pike Road to TEDxBirmingham and beyond who are nothing but positive and helpful.
If you have something scary on the horizon and are worried that the net won’t appear I want you to think about the nets you have in place already. You might not see them because you don’t always need them, but they are always there waiting for you when you leap.
We always hear about crises in education. Teacher turnover, teacher shortage, achievement gaps, budget shortages, and the list goes on. There is a more insidious crisis that is affecting educators around the world. In a profession that demands you always do more with less, burnout is a very real problem.
I experienced burnout firsthand, and hope that strategies I used can help others. I have met teachers who have reached such a state of burnout that they leave the profession. We can't afford to lose more teachers. In pre-flight emergency instructions we learn to put the oxygen mask on ourselves first. If we don't take care of ourselves we will not be able to care for our students.
The problem with burnout is that you are usually well into it before you can identify it. You may be irritable, negative, exhausted, depressed, and not even recognize it. But then you think back to another time in your life and realize you weren't always that way. There was a time when you laughed more, smiled more, socialized more. There was a time where being an educator inspired you.
The following strategies- in order from easy->hard allowed me to crawl from a deep place of burnout. I hope that some of these can help you and that we can move forward together.
1) Baby Steps: Moving & Meditating.
I remember a day on my couch feeling helpless and exhausted. My mother asked me to go on a walk with her and I felt like that might make me feel better. I walked, and thought to myself "I feel good. I need to do more of this." I also began working through the Headspace app and fitting in 10 minute sessions. I am currently using Simple Habit for my meditation practice.
2) Talk to Someone.
We have an unhelpful stigma around mental health in our society. Counseling is the number one way I have managed my anxiety and stress throughout the course of my career. See if your school has an Employee Assistance Program or seek out someone local. You can find them on Psychology Today. I also recommend Talkspace.com. It is a digital asynchronous counseling service that works with an educator schedule. If you sign up and don't like your counselor, you can request new ones until you find a fit.
3) Change your diet.
I never realized how much diet affects my stress and anxiety until I cut out gluten, dairy, sugar, and coffee. Teacher Appreciation Week is an outpouring of support and love. Unfortunately it can be a sugar overdose in the stressful month of May. I remember in my first teaching job we had a big M & M jar that we all gravitated to at the end of the day. What is it about chocolate and teaching? Eliminating sugar and caffeine from my diet have helped me manage my stress. This one is further down the list because this change is very challenging but it works.
4) Quit your job.
If you are in a situation where you are not supported or the stress is overwhelming you may need to consider a move. Sometimes a move within your own system to another location or into another role can help. Sometimes you may need to seek new work with another school or system entirely. No matter where you are in your career you should always cultivate your network. The act of looking at roles and applying for them can help you to see potential future paths. This is the most challenging but it is sometimes necessary.
No matter your role now- it will always matter in the scheme of your career. Even jobs that lead you to burnout can be transformative in your life. They help you learn coping mechanisms and they make you stronger. These are often the most meaningful times of our career.
At the end of the day we can't pour from an empty cup. If you haven't done this in a while dedicate a day to yourself. Get a massage, do some yoga, take a nap. Use the summer to recharge for the fall. Whatever works to recharge your battery. Your students deserve you at your best.
If you are experiencing burnout I would like to help. Please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org for more info !
2016 was an incredible year for me. I got engaged, married, and was recognized for work in my field. I took my first yoga and meditation retreat and I spent more time with friends and family than I do in most years. But it was also one of the hardest years of my life. I hit all-time highs of stress and anxiety, to the point where I lost interest in many activities I normally love. In the spring I picked up Gretchen Rubin’s book, Better than Before, and began to intentionally exercise, rest, and create the foundational habits that would eventually get me out of my malaise.
I learned several things in the process and have used those to set the foundation for 2017. For one, Rubin’s framework helps you understand how to deal with habits and accountability. I discovered that I am in the Obliger category. (Take the quiz Here to find out your tendency). I am excellent with commitments to others, but terrible with commitments to myself. This explained why I’m terrible at going to the gym without a class scheduled, and why I will often move events and tasks that others ask of me in front of my own on my To-Do list.
Armed with this knowledge, I knew what worked and what didn’t work. I sought out professionals, apps, and other tools that would provide me the external accountability that I needed. To get in shape before my wedding (and through the New Year) I worked with a personal trainer. I began to use the Headspace application for meditation and made plans with friends when I wanted to stick to a commitment. I noticed that these worked much better than the habits I tried to build all on my own. I learned that (for me) if I want to build habits I have to create an external accountability structure around my goals.
I learned that trying to do things for more than 20 minutes at a time was a recipe for failure. Planning one-hour exercise sessions, 30 minute meditations, and other blocks of time every day did not work. It was sporadic and I usually fell apart after 10-15 day streaks.
So this year is the year of the tiny habit! Everything I want to accomplish, I am shrinking into less than 20 minute chunks. I have Headspace set to 10 minutes. I am keeping a 5 minute journal. I am creating habits around a 7 minute workout app and 20 minute yoga downloads. In one hour, I can accomplish all of the daily habits I want to build.
There is one more element I discovered that works well for me: Routines. I have always struggled to create a morning routine. It usually falls apart on the weekends or when I’m traveling. In the week leading up to New Year's Day I began working through routines. I started with an app called Marv that walks you through your morning routine. Although I loved that robot voice talking me through my morning, I needed something a little more subtle throughout the day. Now I am using an app called Routine although there are several available. I set the routine and it lines up a series of timers to keep me moving across each habit. Here is a sample of my routine:
Brush teeth (3 min)
7 min workout and 20 min yoga (30 min)
Meditate (10 min)
5 minute journal (5 min)
Side Room Tidy* (3 min)
Get Ready (20 min)
Make Bed (2 min)
Bed/Bathroom Tidy* (3 min)
Breakfast (10 min)
Main Room Tidy* (3 min)
Water Plants (5 min)
Pack work bag/lunch (5 min)
Total: 1 Hr, 40 minutes.
*Adding in tiny chores can help your place stay organized or even make progress on a chore without realizing it.
Having an evening routine really helps smooth out the morning routine, especially if you include picking out clothes for the next day, making sure lunch is easily accessible, and any other elements that can be moved from the morning to the night before. I also have a work routine set up that includes to-do lists, focused work, email management, and intermittent breaks.
As an Obliger, I realize and embrace the fact that I need external accountability in order to reach my goals. Even if that accountability is a robot or a computer program, I respond much better to an outside voice than to the one in my head. I can’t say whether I will stick to this excellent beginning-of-year habit, but I hope I do. It has helped me have grounded quiet time for reflection in the morning, to live in a clean and organized space, and to leave the house feeling at peace before the workday begins.
Happy New Year! As you know, the educator has a completely different annual cycle than the average person. The new year for us is not January 1st, but rather August 1st (or September 1 for the Northeasterners and Canadians) or maybe even later. All that to say that our year starts and ends at very different times than the calendar year. It's a great time to make resolutions and build habits that will sustain you throughout the next ten months of school. A mentor teacher once told me, if you don't take care of yourself, you won't be fully there for your kids.
The following are some productivity and wellness tips I've picked up over the years from rockstar teachers and leaders. Pick and choose what works for you, and get set up to have the best year yet.
1. Bring your lunch. And snacks.
This will save you time at lunch to collaborate with colleagues and give you more control over what you eat. If there is something that you like on the lunch menu, just plan around that. I will always love square pizza. Planning around the food that will fuel you through the day is important. Bagging up snacks for the week so you can grab and go can be a great time saver and can help combat the non-stop sweets that seem to be everywhere in schools.
2. Set out your wardrobe for the whole week.
This is so much better than the night before, because I find I get increasingly exhausted as the week goes on. Teachers make decisions all day, so any that you can eliminate from your routine will save that valuable brain space for the tough stuff that you will inevitably encounter in this profession.
3. Long Term Planning
In whatever way works for you, map out your whole year on your calendar or in your notebook. As you do these plans, make sure they are editable from year to year. Think in terms of Yearly Plans, Monthly Plans, Weekly Plans, and Daily Plans. Your school or system will ask a lot of you in terms of goal-setting and continuous improvement, but it is important to have easily accessible things that work for you. I'm currently obsessed with The Bullet Journal. In the past I have made my goals and plans visible on chart paper or whiteboard, or have held them digitally in Google Drive, Evernote, and Trello. Always be moving toward your yearly goals or even those goals that are 5 or 10 years out. So many of us are in additional degree programs or other professional advancement opportunities, that keeping your goals and plans at front and center is so important not to get caught up in the busyness of things.
4. Stop taking work home.
You don't need to take work home with you. At least, you should do everything in your power not to. My dad always said "Everything takes the amount of time that you give it.". Granted, teacher time is taken up by the actual instruction of students, so how could they catch up on grading, emails, etc? Teachers that don't take work home are usually masters of time. They will get to work early each day, or stay later. They will use every bit of planning period or transition to accomplish small tasks. This one isn't easy for most people, but if you think about it there have been times in your life that made you keep work at work. Maybe you had a child, or enrolled in a time consuming masters or doctoral program. I bet during that time you found ways to contain your workload within the confines of the 40 hour week. Try to keep that up, it will give you the energy you need to make each day better.
These are just four resolutions that have made a big difference for me in my education career- but I am curious to hear from you. What resolutions are you making for this school year?
Happy New Year to the teachers and educators who are changing the world every day. 2016-17, let's do this.
Breathe. Take a deep breath in, a deep breath out, repeat.
I have days sometimes where I feel I haven't taken a breath at all. I wake up, begin doing, without pause-without breathing. I scroll through Facebook, then Twitter, then Instagram. Text. Email. Work Email. Slack. Repeat.
Breakfast on the run. Work, looping through the same communication tools, while trying to focus on one task at a time. Lunch at my desk while checking email. Might fit in a workout sometime, if I left myself enough time in the morning and if there aren't evening plans which for a period of time felt like the second work shift. After all of that, some food, maybe a show, a breath, and then sleep.
Last week I attended a retreat at Tassajara Zen Center deep in the Ventana Wilderness in California. I took an unprecedented 5-days-in-a-row vacation and headed to the west coast for time with friends and a new experience, a meditation and yoga retreat: Balanced & Awake. Here are some things I am taking with me from my experience there, that may be of help to you.
1) Meditate Daily.
Meditation has the same effects on me as anti-anxiety or anti-depressant medications. You can't feel those effects until a prolonged period of practice. I am so early on my meditation journey, as I have practiced yoga for much longer. A daily meditation practice will be a challenge, but I now see the incredible benefits of a regular practice.
When you do any pose where you arch your back, you often do a counter pose. Each pose has its opposite. In life, we must remember that we can get far off of balance, and it is important every now and then to counterpose. So, if you've spent an hour in front of a screen, it may be a good idea to keep an hour away. If you have been extremely social, you may need some alone time.
3) Finding Balance in Imbalance
We are never totally balanced. Try standing on one foot, you will notice your toes and the balls of your foot moving around to keep you stable. There will never be perfect harmony between your work and life, but we can always strive to move closer. We have to be comfortable in the instability of things.
4) Slow down. You're moving to fast.
Four days without my phone made me realize how our lives are passing us by while we look at other people's lives in our newsfeed, and wait for the validation of our own. Just days after my retreat I feel sucked in to my phone and the instant gratification pace of life.
At least once a month I'd like to attempt "retreat days", where I don't do any work and I just let myself enjoy the day. In the meantime, scheduling and planning yoga and meditation breaks so that I can constantly be reminded to breathe in, breathe out. When we've used our phones up, and the battery is drained we have to plug it in and wait. When your battery is drained, take the time to do the same.
Education careers are tough. These entries are dedicated to making the lives of educators easier and empowering those who have chosen this path to reach their potential in work and life.