As Spring Break comes to a close, I’m starting to feel the familiar stress of getting ready for back-to-school. As educators, we’re busy and we often get stressed. It seems like we’ve just accepted that stress is a part of being a teacher. And we even equate being stressed with having a greater commitment or work ethic. Often, we think that we can manage stress by managing our time. But this is rarely effective – because you can never create more time. There will never be enough time to do everything we want to do! Think about it…how many times have you made a carefully organized agenda for the week, only to have everything derailed over the course of an ordinary day?
But…even if we can’t manage time, we can manage our energy. Energy is a renewable resource that can be replenished, whether it’s physical, emotional, mental, or spiritual. If you have exhausted your energy levels, all the time in the world won’t help.
So, how can we renew, rather than expend, our energy?
Here’s a simple, but powerful, activity suggested by Ron Ritchhart in Creating Cultures of Thinking – at the end of the day, sit down and reflect on all the activities you engaged in, and mark each item in one of three ways:
After a week of doing this, look at the colors – which one dominates? Why? Can you identify activities that are an energy vampire – sucking the life out of you? What changes do you need to make, so that you have more green in your day? in your week? in your year? It’s so important to recognize what drains you and what sustains you.
Stress doesn’t have to be a part of school culture. At times, the year might seem to drag on, and you might feel like you are in the final stretch of a marathon, with barely enough energy to continue. In The Power of Full Engagement, Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz suggest that we think of life as a series of sprints and recovery. There are times when you need to sprint, fast and furious, and give it everything you’ve got. But, be sure that you give yourself plenty of time to recover before the next sprint.
The past month has been a sprint for me, and I was feeling way behind. But, instead of spending the break catching up on work and preparing for the craziness of the final trimester, I attended the NESA (Near East South Asia) conference in Athens, Greece. As I reflect on all the great take-aways from the conference, I realize now that I am more energized and excited to get back to school! (It also helped to have a few days of rest and relaxation with my husband in Santorini).
I hope that you had a relaxing and energizing break too!