Have you ever been driving along and all of a sudden you hear a low chime and look down to notice your fuel gauge has lit up and you are in desperate need of a fill up? Well, I can truly tell you this last week was just that feeling. It was like I was running on fumes and was hoping to be able to make it to Friday afternoon and the start of March Break. When I look back at a bad cold and three days off work, demands of our class’ annual play, contract voting, work on local committees, ETFO Executive role, monthly team meetings, staff meetings, report cards, school initiatives etc… there is no wonder that my tank was nearing empty. The bigger and more important question is how I let myself get to such a low.
In the first two thirds of my career the above stated condition was just what teaching was about. That is why we had Christmas Break, March Break and of course the famous summers off. What I found was that throughout the year I had put so much into my teaching, my students and my school that there was very little left for me and my family. The first two weeks of summer felt like being in recovery where my body just shut down and said, ‘REST’. I would then enjoy several weeks of life trying to get caught up with family time and me time. By the second week of August, I was starting my new cycle by pondering and preparing for the upcoming school year.
Then it hit me, well it felt like it hit me as I lost my voice for a two-week period and had damaged my vocal chords. The simple diagnosis was that I was doing too much and not allowing enough rest time for my vocal chords. I thought to myself, if that was occurring with my voice, it is likely occurring with all of me both from a physical and emotional state. That simple but important event helped me understand the word balance and how critical it is to every one of us no matter what career path we choose in education or other fields. The simple remedy was that I needed to get and maintain balance in all aspects of my life.
I began by prioritizing events, tasks, extra curricular time, family time and me time. My first professional priority was to teach and help my students be successful. That is where most of my school time should go. Any extra events I choose to be a part of are now based on my overall balance picture and what I think I can contribute while still maintaining a healthy life balance. As I have learned, that changes from month-to-month at times.
The second shift was to ensure that what I needed to maintain a balance in life (exercise, time in the outdoors, family time, friend time, alone time) was also a planned component of this new and improved work smarter not harder picture. No longer was I ever going to listen to my youngest son (5 at the time) tell me it is okay that I was not able to talk to him now, we could do it in the summer. So I have found that by just writing this blog it once again has forced me to revisit my life/work balance. It seems I was moving into unhealthy patterns again. Take care of yourself by striving for balance as teaching is a marathon and not a sprint.