For educators everywhere, the stretch between late October and Thanksgiving is akin to a survivor episode. Second only to March (read my book Practicing Presence for more on March meltdowns), this is when we are most likely to lose our sh_t. I apologize for the profanity, but if you can’t relate, just stop reading.
The New Teacher Center calls this phase the “disillusionment period” for new teachers. The excitement to actually have a job has worn off, winter break seems like it will never arrive, and the realization that this is the new normal can be depressing for recent college graduates. Seeking out their mentors, new teachers don’t always find support because veteran teachers can be in the same overwhelmed state. Everyone seems to be getting sick, including our students.
As we roll into the month of November, why don’t we all try something new? Radical even. Let’s practice extreme self-care. During our lunch ½ hour, let’s walk while there is still daylight because soon we’ll be driving home in darkness. The benefits of sunlight and that much needed vitamin D are proven to help with sleep, and inflammation, not to mention the exercise and fresh air is a much-needed reprieve from being indoors.
Vow to eat more nutritious meals and stay away from the soon to be leftover Halloween candy.
Instead of staying up late to grade papers, set a timer, grade as much as you can for 25 minutes without checking e-mail, Pinterest, or twitter. Then, take a break, and begin again. Do this four times and stop when you’re tired. I know this is unheard of and you’re thinking nothing will ever get done. Yes, it will. This is the Pomodoro technique (see chapter 5 of Practicing Presence: Ever- Lasting Focus for more information).
Recently I finished an eight-week coaching contract with an Assistant Superintendent. After only two months of coaching she is in a better place physically and mentally. When I asked her, what made the most difference her response was no surprise. She said, “I slept through the night, ate breakfast, began my day with gratitude, and practiced presence pauses throughout my hectic days. Unbelievably I started walking during lunch. When teachers spotted me walking at first I think they judged me, but soon, they joined me.”
It’s no surprise that the culture in that district is improving.