This post was originally published on Wonder of Children, by Lisa Dewey Wells, on September 28, 2011.
Lisa Wells has taught for 20 years in independent schools in MA, NY and MD. She currently writes a blog on child development, teaches yoga and tries to spend as much time with her two high schoolers as they will allow. Lisa’s committed to knowing each learner as an individual, creating a classroom community where the social curriculum is interwoven with the academic fabric and sharing her work with yoga and meditation with teachers and students. As a consulting teacher for the Northeast Foundation for Children’s Responsive Classroom, Lisa facilitates training on this teaching approach, as well as presents on constructivist learning, research workshop, yoga/meditation in the classroom the and reflective teaching practices. Her blog, Wonder of Children, is a Teach 100 blog.
Photo by State Farm on Flickr
Honeymoon is over.
If you've been in any long-term relationship, you know that feeling. The initial adrenaline and excitement begins to wane. Now things just feel off. Unsettled. Different. Change, no matter how much we crave it, can make us tighten our shoulders, deplete our patience, and may even trigger feelings of frustration or loss. When the excitement wears off, the new normal doesn't quite feel normal at first.
The new normal will prevail. If you are patient. If you are committed. If you can remember to inhale. If you can pause at that quiet space (you know, that one that calls you just before you exhale) and reflect. If you can then really exhale as you accept the new normal with patience, faith and determination.
I am talking to you -- teachers, parents, kids -- and me. For most of us, we're hitting the third or fourth week of school. The honeymoon is o-v-e-r. The new reality might feel uncomfortable. Unfamiliar. Unsteady. But with patience and resolve, you will settle in and probably even thrive.
To get down and dirty, folks are getting tired, sick, overwhelmed. As a parent, it is easy to give in and cave to the whining for help (when they've been learning to be more independent) or to let them sleep in or stay up late (because they are mentally and physically spent from all this adjusting). It's easy to do homework for them when it feels hard. It’s tempting to blame new, undesirable behaviors on other kids, the teacher, or the school when it might just be that your child has moved into a less-smooth phase of development. Or maybe they're acting different out of fear or worry about the new school year.
As a teacher, it's easy to feel like you're not doing enough in the classroom and become gripped by that overwhelming sense of how much you're not doing. But really, you're doing so much for so many. Maybe you're reaching for some Advil by 3:30 because you've been using so much redirecting language your neurons need their own redirecting. It's a good thing that you invested the time in modeling how to take a break and benefit from quiet time, because they each need it. In addition to teaching, you're also writing newsletters, calling parents, preparing curriculum, attending meetings, skipping lunch, a workout or just making your own bed. Your to-do,list(s) haunt you at night and keep you on the move all day. It’s the end of September.
“Chirp, chirp,” cries the grasshopper. "Patience."
Learning a new routine, getting to know new people and/or a settle into a new grade takes patience and time. Rome wasn't built in a day. A class community or a year of learning is not established in a week or a month. So if you feel like you can't get a handle on things, or even if you're just trying to figure out what's next, here are 6 ways to settle into the new routine and enjoy the ride.
Think Positive - Make a list of what's working. There are things that are working. Re-read it often. Mine's over my desk and on my phone as a way to combat those self-doubting gremlins. Not sure if your family routines are working? Read Are Your Family Routines Working for tips on evaluating what works and what could smooth things out at home.
Chunk It - Set small mini-goals for the week. Mine this week included "yoga once, run twice," and "Have a spontaneous chat about life, not school, with colleagues."
Commit It -- Take a critical look at your calendar. Plan to be busy and plan to slow down. Commit it in your planner or PDA. We all get 24 hours a day, use them to your benefit.
View the forest. Set aside an hour to look at and plan for the next 2-3 weeks at school. Carve out time to look at the forest and then smaller blocks to plan the details. Dedicate a period of time to look at the big picture, so that when the time comes for the details, you can chunk projects, tasks and assignment in the context of your goals, philosophy and values.
Check It Off -- Make a short list of things that do not need to be done. Your list should include identifying Whose Urgency you need to attend to and whose you do not. Or perhaps you let go of a few chores at home that can slide or that you can delegate. Or maybe, you make it through a week of meetings without volunteering to do even one more teeny tiny task.
Be Happy -- Make a list of what makes you happy and do at least one a day. Simple. Actionable. Life’s really too short not to have some fun each day. If you spend your days with kids, there are so many ways to have fun if you don't take yourself too seriously. Be sure to find things outside of school that bring a smile to your face, too!
At the end of the day, we all have things on our to-do list. Chances are you can go home, relax, sleep and when you return, tackle it with fresh eyes tomorrow. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, peel off the layers that have become roadblocks. Simplify. Enjoy. This not only helps you maintain a sense of control with your new schedule, but it also sends a powerful message to the little people in your life. Change is apart of life, and we've got to adapt and ease into change so we can enjoy the ride, Grasshopper.
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