Straight Down the Middle
Dear ISG Staff:
“To keep a lamp burning, we have to keep putting oil in it.” (Mother Teresa)
As the sun sets on the penultimate day before the winter holiday, you, like me, have likely have reached a happy state of exhaustion, a brilliant term to describe those who work in the noble profession of schooling. We heed Mother Teresa’s advice, using holidays to replenish our energies, restore our perspectives, reconnect with family and friends, find a new book to read, and generally unwind from the stressors of life. But my thinking is shifting on this matter. Why do we wait for the breaks (nights, weekends, holidays) to take care of ourselves? Should we not carve our time during the school day to replenish our reserves? Would this not best serve children and our colleagues?
Schools are filled with exceptionally good people, who are also notorious for taking care of others first, and themselves last. As a New Years resolution, consider adding one or two strategies to your daily school routine, trying them when you have a few minutes, especially when you feel overwhelmed or exhausted (which is counterintuitive, but it works!). Here are some ideas:
- A walk in the sunshine
- Closing your eyes and taking 10 deep breaths, and then just listening to your immediate environment
- Connecting with one person you haven’t spoken to in a while
- Eating your lunch with the students
- Eating your lunch exceptionally slowly, to truly taste the food, and not doing any multitasking while eating
- Practicing something that is a hobby
- Writing three hand-written notes of gratitude
Research shows that incorporating self-care strategies like these into one’s daily routine not only produces an antidote to stress (facilitating relaxation), but it can re-wire your brain, making you more resilient to the daily (and inevitable) stressors of life.
And sometimes, just being still and quiet can be the best therapy. Chuang Tzu’s Flight from the Shadow illustrates this point.
There was a man who was so disturbed by the sight of his own shadow and so displeased with his own footsteps that he determined to get rid of both.
So he got up and ran. But every time he put his foot down there was another step, while his shadow kept up with him without the slightest difficulty.
He ran faster and faster, without stopping, until he finally dropped dead.
He failed to realize that if he merely stepped into the shade, his shadow would vanish, and if he sat down and stayed still (and quiet), there would be no more footsteps.
This time of year marks a good time to take stock of ISG. I’m happy to say that the organization is in a good place. We have enjoyed a very productive first four months of learning, as evidenced by the knowledge our students are exhibiting through their actions, behaviors, and created artifacts. It has been a half-year of adult collaboration, the best (from my seat) I’ve seen in four years. We are building that professional culture of growth that we know excellent schools possess. We continue to make gains in the infrastructure that supports this learning and collaboration. Bright days are ahead for ISG.
From our family to yours, we wish you a restful break! May the New Year be filled with love and compassion. See you in January.