As an educator you may feel stressed, overworked, and overwhelmed. You may find yourself in a community where self-sacrifice and time spent at school are markers of heroism. You may have come to school with walking pneumonia or missed your own child’s special events. Maybe you have been congratulated for your dedication. I remember a time when I was so motivated by the idea of being perceived as busy that I would get up in the middle of the night to send emails so that people would be impressed with my dedication at all hours. I call this wearing the “busy badge” and it can be a powerful motivator. For the majority of the time in my career in public education, exercise, healthy eating, and boundaries between work and home were all in crisis.
“We ask teachers to be a combination of Albert Einstein, Mother Theresa, Martin Luther King Jr. and, I’m dating myself here, Tony Soprano,” said Randi Weingarten, President of the American Federation of Teachers. “We ask them to be Mom and Dad and impart tough love but also be a shoulder to lean on. And when they don’t do these things, we blame them for not being saviors of the world. What is the effect? The effect has been teachers are incredibly stressed out.”
As you look forward to the school year, consider what it would mean for you to make an even stronger commitment to taking care of yourself and incorporating new tools that help you manage stress as a gift to yourself, your students, your school and your loved ones.
Dr. Reggie Ray is his article: Busyness is Laziness says the phrase “I’m too busy.” is self-deception: “I am too busy to relate to myself.” I don’t care if you have four children and three jobs—we have one human life. And if you can’t make the time, 15 minutes to relate to yourself, everyone else in your life is going to suffer. You have to realize that you are harming other people by making up excuses and not working on yourself. This is serious.”
After serving as a public school teacher and administrator for over 20 years, I was completely frazzled, exhausted, unhealthy physically and emotionally and planned for another 20 years of the same. It took a major professional crisis to get me to slow down and consider that there might be another way of being in the world while still being effective. Two years ago, I was asked to resign from my role as a principal. It was an ego crushing, earth shattering, wound. Instead of going back to public school, I decided to work for one of my all-time favorite organizations- PassageWorks Institute. While I was attracted to the organization for its support for the development of Social and Emotional learning for schools, I quickly became interested in the mindfulness components of the organization offered by such courses as SMART in Education- an 8 week 20 hour evidence based personal renewal program for adults working in K-12 settings. I began to practice periods of silence, mindfulness, and develop compassion for myself. I then accomplished the terrifying challenge of going on a 6 day mostly silent retreat supported by the Hemera Foundation which provides retreat scholarship support to people who currently work full-time in pre-K or K-12 education, or are enrolled in a Master’s degree program in education.
I began to see that these mindfulness tools could help me to be a better teacher, principal, mother, spouse, friend, and whole being.
As you head back into the school year, I ask you to consider experimenting with new methods of mindfulness and stress reduction, as well as developing a self-care regime that nurtures and sustains you. As you consider how to do this—you may want to consider the following resources:
- The book The 5 Dimensions of Engaged Teaching which supports: cultivating an open heart, engaging the self observer, being present, establishing respectful boundaries, and developing emotional capacity.
- a course called SMART (Stress Management and Relaxation Techniques for Educators) which is a 20-hour evidence based personal renewal program designed for adults working within ECE-12 environments.
- a course called Creating Engaged Classrooms which offers core practices and principles that foster students’ social, emotional and academic development and support teachers to develop and sustain intentional teaching practices.
There are many resources available outside of PassageWorks such as:
- The Mindfulness in Education Network http://www.mindfuled.org/
- Mindful Schools http://www.mindfulschools.org/
Visit us at http://passageworks.org/ to see our upcoming Fall schedule.