Monday, August 3, 2015

Beginning the Year with Balance in Mind

Yesterday, my husband and I took our 13-year-old daughter, Sarah, and one of her good friends downtown.  We spent the day as nerdy tourists, exploring all of the wonders that the great city of Chicago has to offer: the ferris wheel at Navy Pier, food, shops, music, and the hustle and bustle of the lakefront.  The day was hot, sunny, with a crazy thunderstorm mixed in for good measure; in short, everything you'd expect from a Chicago summer.  We had a blast!

Was my mind on the classroom?  You bet!  I'm on countdown: t-minus 14 days until in-service, 16 until I meet my 5th graders.  My to-do list is a mile long.  I have unfinished books, both professional and ones that I want to book-talk with my students.  My reading Units of Study are staring at me as I write this, mocking those 14 days I have left.

Teaching is a feast or famine profession: we charge through the feast for 10 long months, working as hard as we can for our students to help them continue to grow and have successful futures.  Then, in late May/early June comes the famine. Our personal reserves are depleted, and we crawl across the finish line, perhaps thinking, "there's no way I can do this again."  However, with rest and the sunshine of summer, our batteries are recharged.  It's August, and I find myself excited about the new school year, ready to go and charge through the feast once again.

I have goals this year, both personal and professional.  Growing and engaging with my PLN, focusing on my students' reading and vocabulary comprehension using learning progressions, and implementing more problem-solving in math are just a few professional goals.  I have one personal goal: balance.

This is the same goal I have every year. Every year I get a little better. At the end of last year, my husband actually noticed!  I was intentional with putting work away, not bringing it home, or leaving the student with whom I was struggling all year "in the classroom." My colleagues and therapist counseled me with that last one, for which I am very grateful.  This year, I will continue to be intentional.  Then, just this morning, my husband texted me this article, written by the always-inspirational Richard Branson, founder and CEO of Virgin.  In it, Branson highlights 5 tips for a stronger work/life balance.  

My favorite tip?  Something I told my husband a year or so ago: "don't do, just be." It's about taking time to stop, look at, and be inspired by the wonder and beauty that the world has to offer.  For me, those wonders and beauties will be within and about my students at work, and my family at home.  I want to notice when my dogs are snuggling in the sunshine.  I want to stop and see my daughter with her nose in a book, then chat with her about that book, why it inspired her to pick it up, and how it relates to her life.  I want to hit our favorite Mexican restaurant with my husband while it's still warm enough to sit outside and enjoy some guacamole.  The quiet conversations we have about nothing are actually everything.

Branson says to "remember the to-do list, but don't forget the to-be list."  The to-be list.  Yes.  My to-list may never quite get done, but my to-be list must take priority in order for me to remain an effective wife, mom, and teacher.

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