The Balance


That pretty much sums up life as a teacher.  Or at least my life as a teacher.  Especially in October, in the week after i just spent 4 days in the homeland for the beautiful wedding of my friend.  There is so much catching up to do!  As I was trying to decide what to blog about this week, my roommate received an e-mail from a friend that lay within the same vein.  He is in his first year teaching (TFA also) in Baltimore.  This was his message:

question…when u go home, or during ur first year….did all u think about was ur kids? i like cant separate school and home, its driving me nuts. like i went for a jog and blasted music and i still thought about them. I need a psychologist.

So, as a house, we brainstormed.  I realized that I had had similar feelings, as had my roommates and we came up with a response to his concern which I have decided may be helpful to one of you.

First, we decided this was a standard feeling.  It is very difficult to separate work and life in your first year teaching, and especially in your first year teaching in TFA.  This is partly due to the extremely high expectations that are set upon us and partly due to the fact that most people who join are passionate about what they are doing and generally type A perfectionists.  Throw high expectations mixed with failing conditions our way and we’re bound to be stressed and obsessive.  It’s the nature of the beast.  Second, because of this, it is difficult and perhaps impossible to turn off your thoughts about work.  However, it is important to find a way to make those thoughts positive or at least less stress inducing.  In my roommate’s words, “It’s about self care because you seriously will drive yourself nuts or burnout and drop out if you cant find a way to live your own life separate from teaching.” 

We decided the two big things that helped us, actual ended up being kind of common sense.  1.) find an activity that calms you and de-stresses you and that you enjoy enough to relax about your work-related thoughts (camping, baking, or canoeing worked for me) or 2.) find an activity that you definitely cannot think during, like intense adrenaline-rush activities, such as rock climbing or insanity, or activities that require total focus, like chorus, video games, or painting.  When you are able to take an hour or two out to do these things, it actually refreshes your mind and you are able to tackle your classroom problems in a more positive, efficient, and productive manner.  Often it seems like we don’t have time to take for ourselves but really, in the end, we usually use the time we are given.  If we have an hour to do something, it gets done in an hour.  If we have ten, it gets done in ten.  The third thing I would like to add to the list is also common sense and most of you already probably have a system for, but just in case…prioritize.  Any time I am feeling overwhelmed, I make a list of the things I have to do or want to change.  Cross off the ones I have no power over and then organize the rest into manageable chunks.  Usually, I have done all of this with a very elaborate sticky-note system that my roommate loves to laugh at, but this year I made a grown-up planner system that is working pretty good as well.  I have the long term stuff I have to do across the bottom (broken up into categories) Then have the days at the top where I can split up and prioritize those long term tasks as well as daily stuff like lesson planning.  I attached it as a PDF because I used funky fonts but just shoot me an e-mail if you would like it in .doc form!

Weekly Planner

I didn’t want this to be a post about ideas to de-stress because each person is different and it will take a different thing to get them refocused.  What I wanted, was to let you know that if you are feeling this way you are not alone and it is ok to do that thing that is going to get you recharged and then come back to the task at hand.  Don’t let teaching change you being you.  And with that, I’ll leave you with the wise words of Walt Disney…