I had the idea for a post about busyness and productivity rattling around in my mind for while, but it wasn’t until late November that I had the guts to publish it since I wasn’t sure how it would be received. (In case you missed it, click here to read “Be more than busy. Be productive. Be happy.”) A few hours after I sent my thinking off into the world, I received notifications from Twitter. It seemed a few folks started discussing it during #titletalk. While I wasn’t partaking in #titletalk that night, I got involved in the conversation about the post I wrote. With some encouragement, I decided to devote some blog time to the topic of living a happier life as a person and as an educator.
Since January is often seen as a time for renewal and new habits, I want to encourage you to leave school earlier one day a week. I know I suggested this in “Be more than busy. Be productive. Be happy.” However, I know how challenging it can be to schedule a concrete departure time at least once a week. Therefore, if my post in November got you thinking, then I hope this one will move you to action.
I alluded to the fact that I began leaving school earlier one day a week in the Fall of 2008. I started doing this for health reasons. What did I do when I left the building? I went to Pilates. I did it because physical therapy didn’t do enough to help me rebuild my strength after my 2007 surgery. Therefore, I wanted to try Pilates, which is notorious for helping people develop core strength. Therefore, I started by leaving at 4:00 p.m. every Thursday for a few months to work with a trainer. Eventually, I left early on Mondays and Thursdays so I could do Pialtes. No exceptions. I still called parents using my wireless headset in my car and resumed lesson planning and grading in the evenings. However, the idea of leaving early to do something for myself helped to strengthen me physically, which made me have more energy to deal with an active group of fourth graders.
Prior to getting the wild notion to leave at 4:00 p.m. on Thursdays, which was the only time I was able to get into the instructor’s schedule, I freaked out about it. The two biggest things I worried about were:
How would I ever get everything ready for the next day if I left at 4:00 p.m.?
I had been in the habit of leaving the building around 5:00 p.m., at the earliest, in years past. Seeing as I got into school at 7:00 a.m. and worked from home every night, I realized I would need to become more efficient!
What would my colleagues think of me if I left early?
This was HUGE, especially since I needed to change into workout clothes at school to make it to Pilates by 4:30 p.m. I worried people would think I was lazy or, worse, that I didn’t care about my students.
After having several long talks with my husband and parents about my fears, they assured me I could get everything done and that people could think whatever they wanted because I needed to start taking better care of myself.
I won’t lie, becoming more efficient at the end of the day took a few weeks, but I was able to make it work. (It often meant cutting conversations about the day with my friends short so I could leave by 4:00.) As for the colleagues, I will admit that I did get a fair amount of strange looks when I started turning down requests to stay late to do common planning or to meet with a parent on a Thursday. Whenever I turned down something, I would always come back with other times I could meet (e.g., a prep, before school, or another day of the week after school) so as to not appear uninterested. Once I made it clear that I couldn’t meet at a requested time a few times, it became clear that my personal workout time was a priority, not a luxury.
Sane people make better teachers.
I share that statement with you as a means to nudging you towards carving out some time for yourself. It’s up to you to do something for yourself that will nurture your physical, mental, or spiritual health at least one afternoon a week. What will you do?
Some reflective questions to help you get started:
- What has been standing in the way of you leaving early, one day a week, on a regular basis?
- What day will you select to make time for yourself after school? To that end, what time will you drop everything and walk out of the door?
- How will you regularly schedule time to leave early when it feels hard to do so?
Finally, since Ruth and I write on alternating Fridays, I’ve decided to devote the next four Fridays (i.e., 1/18, 2/1, 2/15, and 2/28*
3/1) to take care of yourself posts. (I’m terrible with titling things, so if you have a suggestion with a title for this mini-series of posts, then please share it!) While I know I should be writing about writing, I think you can only be an effective (writing) teacher if you’re a happy and healthy person. And that starts with taking care of yourself. Now.
*= Updated on 2/7/13: I realized that 3/1 is the first day of the SOLSC. Therefore, I’m going to post my final piece in this miniseries on Thursday, 2/28.