A few years ago, I learned how to say ‘no’ when I needed to. I started saying ‘no’ when asked to join (yet another) school committee. I declined invitations to Pampered Chef parties. I confidently refused dinner invitations when I knew I needed to hibernate at home on a Friday night.
It turns out I need a little retraining, though.
Returning to the classroom this year has been phenomenal. I feel at home. I love my work. Every day I am challenged and delighted by my students. I love the adrenaline rush of working in a school; there is never enough time to do everything on my list, but I thrive on the constant, joyful chaos that life in a school brings.
Ditto for home – my house isn’t always clean and sometimes we run out of milk, but I love the challenge of family life. Cooking dinner, cleaning up after people and pets, driving people to and from activities, folding laundry, finding time to exercise…these things are just part of living with your tribe. It is busy and beautiful.
Balance between home and school life isn’t always easy to maintain, but it is certainly possible. What really threw things out of whack for me this year are all of the extra things I’ve been doing – things I love to do but don’t HAVE to do.
What am I talking about? Going to conferences. Presenting at conferences. Volunteering on the Science Fair Committee. Extra PD. Blogging. Writing an e-learning course.
First it’s one thing…then another. Before I knew it, I found that I was drowning. Sitting down with my kids to watch Olympic curling left me feeling guilty that I hadn’t been working on writing the e-learning course. I wouldn’t go running at my usual time for four or five days in a row because I was behind on lesson prep or had a presentation to work on for a conference coming up. An invisible mantle of guilt (or responsibility?) weighed heavily on me all day, every day. I would go to work early to make good use of the quiet morning hours at school and wonder if I shouldn’t be at home instead, braiding my daughter’s hair.
About three weeks ago, just when I was feeling particularly overwhelmed by everything on my plate, I saw this tweet:
If we really want teachers to be leaders, we need to figure out a way to make it less impossible. https://t.co/nB7Z9ZlZcH
— Tom Rademacher (@MrTomRad) March 19, 2018
In his post, Tom described emotions I could relate to, and made a conclusion that matched mine:
This was true three weeks ago. I’m feeling a little more balanced this week because the regional Science Fair happened on the weekend – a huge item off my list.
Today I considered writing a blog post about my classroom, but there will be time for that soon enough. Instead, I felt it was important to acknowledge my reality – and that of so many others. No matter what is in your ‘other’ category – coaching, musicals, marathon running, knitting – it is important that we find a way to say ‘no’ when we really need to.
I did not have anything remotely resembling ‘balance’ this winter. I’ve made a pledge that spring is going to be better. As other responsibilities finish up, I will refocus on home and school and be a better teacher and mom.
I’ve also decided to think much more critically about my choices – no more extra projects that require hours in front of a computer screen; no more decisions that will compromise my wellness and take me (mentally) away for my kids and partner for hours in the evening.
So, I challenge the rest of you fabulous teachers, leaders, parents, grandparents, volunteers…if you’re feeling overwhelmed, take some time (ha ha!) to reflect on your own personal busy-ness.
- What things in your life make you feel happy and fulfilled?
- Do you really need the extra money you’re getting for that other ‘little’ job?
- Where are you making the biggest difference for your family? Your students?
- What jobs do you currently do that you could easily share or delegate?
- If something you used to love is feeling like a chore, why is that the case? Do you still love it?
- Is there a job you feel you can’t give up because ‘nobody else can do it?’ How can you fix that problem? (You need to!)
Take care and be well!
I’ll write about my classroom again soon-ish. No promises. 🙂