“Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” Ferris Bueller
One of the things that I say to teachers beginning the profession is that they should be much better than I was from when I first started teaching. The big difference today and when I started in 1999 was the access to other great teachers. On any day, you can be blown away by the plethora of things that you can try within your teaching context shared openly by other educators.
But this doesn’t mean you have to try everything. And that abundance of choice can become overwhelming. Barry Schwartz, author of the “Paradox of Choice” discusses this idea:
“Learning to choose is hard. Learning to choose well is harder. And learning to choose well in a world of unlimited possibilities is harder still, perhaps too hard.” ― Barry Schwartz
When you try to do too much for others, it can often lead to too little for yourself.
I have been thinking a lot about this inundation of ideas in my own journey toward better mental health. Here is a question I have thought a lot about…Where do I put my main source of “energy” and what gets the “leftovers?” When I refer to things as “leftover” are those things that should have received more energy? This quote from Jenny Anderson resonates:
“The thing that makes us happiest in life is other people. And yet other people are often the first thing to fall off our list of priorities.”
So when I look back at my career, from the beginning until today, I have shifted a lot of my focus on what fuels me and what depletes me of energy. Hopefully, some of the advice below can help others in their process.
It is okay to enjoy things that take you away from your job. I had a conversation with an educator recently, and they shared that they were losing themselves in their job. My advice was that students connect better with people that are teachers, not those that only identify as teachers. Having those outside interests and hobbies makes you more relatable to students. Don’t get caught up in teacher guilt. Take some time to relax and have fun.
You will never be done so quit acting like it is possible. Here is a little secret in education. No matter what you do, or how hard you work, there will always be more work waiting for you. There is no”done.” I have tried to provide professional learning opportunities for educators at times where school might be a little slower but they don’t exist! There are deadlines that we must pay attention to, but learn to take breaks. Email will still be there when you get back. Also, look for opportunities to hand over things in your school or classroom for students to lead. Not only does this take some stuff off your plate, but it also helps to give students more ownership over the school.
You don’t have to try everything. There are great ideas and things you can implement every single day. That is awesome! But if you try to do all things, you will do no things well. Great ideas will be there in the future as well. Look to do more items of depth, rather than everything at a surface level.
Find people that give you energy. I limit my circles to those that lift me up. This doesn’t mean they don’t challenge you to get better, but you know they have your back. You often are who surrounds you.
Not all days will be good in education. You might look back and laugh, you might look back and cry. That is part of the journey.
Just take care of yourself.
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