It is Sunday, August 19th, and I am literally flying across the country as I write this blog. At the start of the summer, I wrote about my upcoming travels for Responsive Classroom and how I would spend a large chunk of my summer traveling and training other educators in this approach to teaching – one that is based in evidence and creates classrooms filled with joy, engagement, and safety. This current flight is the final leg in my summer journey and will include stops in San Diego and Ohio before I put my suitcase away.
I’ve learned so much this summer. How to pack everything I need for a week of work only in carry-on luggage. How to navigate Penn Station (because all flights from LaGuardia have been cancelled.) Oh, and I have definitely learned to be flexible.
Knowing that I would be gone often, away from my family, and that there would be inevitable changes to plans, I decided that in order to make the most of my summer, I had to live by the mantra of Quality over Quantity when it comes to time. (I wrote about that mantra here.)
I am happy to report: the mantra has worked for me. When I was home, I did my best to be present and enjoy family time. I saved emails and other work-related tasks for the evenings or those rainy afternoons where we watched a little extra TV.
As the summer draws to a close, and I think about the start of my school year, I’ve decided to carry that mantra with me. This will be my 16th year of teaching. Every year, for the last 15 years, my classroom has been set up at this point in the summer. All the materials are in order, and the bulletin boards are decorated. Not this year.
This year, I have the furniture in place, and that’s about it. Upon this realization, I let the panic set in – but only for a moment. Then I reminded myself of my summer mantra – Quality over Quantity.
The physical space in my room may not be ready yet; however, I am absolutely ready for the school year. Spending quality time with my family allowed me to rest my teacher soul and make room for my new group of students, whose names I am eager to learn! Traveling the country and sharing an approach to teaching that I firmly believe in allowed me the opportunity to meet so many amazing educators, all of whom taught me something along the way.
I’ve grown in the way I take feedback, whether it is from my adult participants or my lead consultants. I’ve learned new methods for adjusting my plans based on that feedback. That is a skill I can carry into my classroom this school year.
I’ve grown in my ability to work with different people from all types of backgrounds and experiences. I’ve learned ways to find commonalities and communicate with one another. That is a skill I can carry into my classroom (and my faculty room!) this school year.
Most importantly, I’ve learned that living by my mantra of Quality over Quantity of time suits me. I thought about what that will look like during the school year… I always have high hopes for the school year, but unless I establish my routines early on, and put them in my favorite Erin Condren planner, those hopes turn to lost ideas.
I’ve decided that when I am at school, I am focused on school. I use my time wisely. Even if that means shutting my door at times to make the most of my 45 minutes of planning and saving the chats with my colleagues for lunch time. I love my chats, and they are important to school culture, but some can wait until lunch. When the school day is over, I will again make the most of the 40 minutes left in my allotted hours, and then leave at 3:00.
I have not had a steady workout routine since my son was born. He’s four. Fortunately, there is a YMCA directly across from his Montessori school. With my school being only 5 minutes away, I can work out for an hour before picking him up. He’s having fun at school, so why not take this hour for a little self-care? After picking him up, and until bedtime, it is all about family. Get outside, make dinner, and enjoy each other’s company. This also means that my phone has to go somewhere out of reach. If you haven’t read this article about “technoference” and screen time for adults, it’s a must read (after you finish this blog, of course!).
If I have work that is a “must do for the next day,” then I’ll get that done after my son goes to bed. One last part to my plan: pick one “work late day” per week, if I need it, to do all the other “stuff that doesn’t need to be done right now but has to get done at some point.” I can work until 4:20, and if I am efficient, I should be able to get everything necessary done.
Now, does this mean that I won’t have days where I stay late or have meetings after school? Of course not! Does this mean I won’t miss a workout here and there because the “must do for the next day” list is too long? Absolutely not. It will happen (um, Report Card time anyone?), and that’s okay.
But this year is about balance. I can be a great teacher – and still be a great mom and wife who also takes care of herself. Sometimes our professional growth lies more in our personal growth. As I sit on this plane, I am reminded of the safety briefing to “put on your oxygen mask before assisting others.” I know that taking care of myself this year will result in my ability to do my job at home and at school that much better.
So, no, my classroom space isn’t ready, but I sure am.
16th year of teaching, here I come.