This is for every teacher who refuses to be blamed for the failure of our society to erase poverty and inequality, and refuses to accept assessments, tests and evaluations imposed by those who have contempt for real teaching and learning.
As a parent, teacher, and human being, I’ve been through some journeys and I’ve learned as I went along. One thing that has been universal in all of these experiences is the mental, physical, and emotional impact of each experience. We often ignore these aspects because we are trained to push through and produce. The side-effects are inconsequential to the end goal. I personally feel that is quite the opposite of effective production. The end product will not be the same if it is derived from a period of exhaustion, stress and pressure. Whereas a product generated out of contemplative reflection, peaceful approach, and coming from a physical realm of rest and rejuvenation will be more impressive and have a greater impact. This of course leads me to address these concepts inside our public school classrooms.
Although I could spend a great deal of time pointing out the systemic reasons why schools are a space of high stress, pressure, exhaustion and unhealthy physical practice, I’m not going to for this article. I am going to focus instead on how to solve these problems. How do I solve them? Well for starters, I can always start with myself. No one is responsible for my experience more than I am. Yes, there are pressures that can often feel smothering. The way in which these pressures manifest as reactive behaviors that I either harbor, suppress, or release upon those around me can be destructive to my health and well being as well as the health and well being of those exposed to my reaction. This was quite a quandry for me in my earlier days of teaching. I felt so out of alignment with what felt right when I was forced to do things that felt so wrong.
As I was very aware that I am the only one who will take care of me, I have made it my mission to take pro-active steps to ensure that I take great care of myself so that I can bring my best to the students and of course offer them a safe space where they can also bring their best to the table. It seemed to produce a synergistic energy and the amount and quality of what we were able to accomplish as a result was phenomenal. I saw a quote this morning, which I feel summarized this concept quite nicely. It said the following:
“Discipline is about making disciples. Disciples choose to follow out of love and trust, not coercion and fear. Parental discipline must also be based in a relationship with so much love and trust that our children choose to learn from us, not from fear of punishment, but because our example is worth following” Dulce Chale
Granted teachers are not the parents of the students, but they are given a very similar responsibility that we all take quite seriously. When one is conscious of their own self-awareness, they also teach that to their students. With this in mind, I will offer some basic steps that can be done by any teacher anywhere to help them feel their best and be their best as well as encouraging their students to do the same.
Get plenty of rest
Exercise - daily - in a way that makes you feel good (walk, yoga, run, etc.)
Eat food that makes your body sing
Stretch your mind daily - learn something new
Allow your inner-child to play every day
Create a nurturing environment that rejuvenates you just by being there
Delve into the arts - who cares if you think you're not talented - we all need it
Do not try to control anyone else, but yourself (this is a huge one that will be addressed soon)
Get outside in nature every day (most of the above can be accomplished simultaneously)