A blog for the year book!

My last blog for 2018, and what a ride I’ve been on.

If I had been told this time last year that I would have to go through everything that the last twelve months has presented me with, well, I think I would have hopped on the next plane out of the country. What a year. What a bloody, hard year. But the lessons it brought and the things I have learned about myself over that time have made it worthwhile…I guess.

I’m not going to go into the gory details, but let’s just say that my health has been dodgy (sadly not unusual - although this year brought new adventures in that department), my home life has been incredibly challenging (namely the breakdown of our foster care placement), and my career has been possibly the most difficult year I’ve faced. On the up side, I have made some wonderful new friendships and relished some older ones, my husband and I have sold our house of the last 18 years and downsized in readiness for the next stage of our lives, and I have had the unexpected joy of writing for Smile Teachers. What an unexpected blessing that has been – to think that someone might actually want to read what I write, let alone be able to benefit in even a small way from the ramblings of my inner monologue, wow, what a privilege.

We teach.

Well, we research, we plan, we prepare, we teach, we assess, we moderate, we evaluate, we teach again…

We live and breathe our magical job. We love it and that’s why we do it.

Teaching is never going to be the kind of career we can ‘settle’ into. No two weeks are ever the same and the pressure is seemingly relentless. I can honestly say that our job has never been so demanding in terms of keeping up with so much fast paced change.

So, that said, it’s time to rest and recuperate once we get through the next two weeks. Physically and mentally, it’s time for us all to make some sort of commitment to recovering from the events of the past year.

It’s funny, and quite frustrating, how people think that we get all those holidays. You know what, we do get more than many people and for that we are grateful, but we also know that during all these ‘holidays’ we put in many hours planning, setting up and preparing for the following term.

How many hours do you expect to be in at school over the break?

I found this great little prompt on Teach Starter. Sometimes we need to see something like this to remind us to actually stop and appreciate our own needs. We matter – our physical and mental health is important and worthy of prioritising. The school holidays are the perfect time to do exactly this, so no more excuses – we can make it happen if we really want to.

1. Take time to de-stress.

I find it interesting that de-stress and distress sound so alike. This focus is number one for a reason and there really isn’t an excuse not to put aside a small allocation of time, just for your own wellbeing. The time isn’t prescribed, and only you can know just how much time you need. During the term it’s hard to find as much time as we probably need, but over the holidays is should be easier.

2. Have a chat.

Now some of us love a bit of a yarn; I for one love a good coffee (wine?) catch up with family and friends, old and new, especially over the holidays when there’s no need to rush. But ‘have a chat’ could equally apply to talking to a professional. Psychologists and counsellors know just what to ask in order to get you talking. What’s that old saying? A problem shared is a problem halved! Sometimes talking to someone who doesn’t have a preconceived idea about where you’re coming, from is a great thing for offering a fresh perspective. When you go over the same stuff with the same people they’re more likely to go along with what you’re saying without challenging you on your own understandings or beliefs.

3. Have a good work/life balance.

The old work/life balance is definitely not an easy one to master, and I am envious of anyone who has this mix right. I feel like a fraud telling others to make this a priority after spending my Sunday afternoon and evening planning for this week’s teaching. I prioritised more life than work this weekend, and it came at a price. Not that I’d change a thing – we had a ball at the family Christmas picnic on Saturday. Consequently however, I now find myself writing this blog after midnight (now 1am Melbourne time) because I wasn’t more organised with my time this weekend. Now in a couple of weeks when it’s holidays, that balance will obviously come more easily. It’s also the perfect time to plan for how to make it work in the new year.

4. Take care of your physical health.

I wish I could be the kind of person who bounces out of bed each day to start with a circuit at the gym or a refreshing swim, but I suck at mornings, I always have. My husband is a bound out of bed person, and it’s all I can do not to stab him in the eye when he starts proclaiming the news of the day while I drag my arse out of bed (and that’s only because my bladder is such a bitch and won’t let me sleep in another minute). I confess, I only sit up because I don’t want the cup of tea he has dutifully brought me every morning for the last 30 odd years, to go cold. And it’s probably that same cuppa that really stops the aforementioned eyeball stabbing if I’m being totally truthful.

Oh boy, how honest am I prepared to be? When it comes to my physical health I could probably come up with a list of reasons for being this unfit, and a million excuses for putting on so much weight over the last twelve months, but the harsh truth is that I have not made any effort to be healthy. Forgive me bathroom scales for I have sinned. It has been six months since my last weigh in. I have been living in such a bloody state of denial, keeping a wide berth (extra wide in my case) from any mirrors or scales. And exercise?

Seriously, I’d rather complain that I’m unfit and watch $44 a fortnight disappear from my bank while my gym membership collects dust, than get off my fat arse and actually do something about it. Now I know a lot of teachers are super fit and super active, and I applaud you, I really do. But taking care of my physical health has never been a priority for me and it’s the area of greatest need in terms of improving my health.

5. Be mindful.

It’s a pity this area of self care doesn’t exert any calories! I have written at length about being mindful and of the benefits of doing so. It was the central theme of Blog 6, and an increasing focus within my own daily classroom practice. I can’t tell you how gratifying it is to be able to share the act of mindfulness with children, explaining the necessity to develop their abilities in self-regulation, then watching as they come inside after recess, sit down on the floor and take themselves through the process of being mindful. They have one job and that’s to breathe, feeling themselves being calm and quiet, focussing on their individual mental and physical state.

Now, if we can teach eight year olds the importance of prioritising their calm and focussed state, then we should be able to manage it for ourselves; we hardly have the right to teach wellbeing if we don’t make it an area of significance in our own life.

So, what will your self care priority be over the summer break? Just pick one area to start with, something you feel confident about being able to work on. It’s time to prioritise your own body and mind, ahead of all others; believe me, you don’t ever want to wake up on the stroke ward of the hospital. I don’t think I have ever wanted to get out of anywhere so quickly. It was one hell of a reality check and one I never want to put myself or my family through again.

Which brings me to my own priority for the summer… I think I need a holiday.

Bali perhaps?

Many thanks to all in the Smile Teachers community, for choosing to spend your precious time with me over the last few months. I wish you much joy for a safe and restful Christmas and I look forward to meeting many of you in Bali. May Santa bring you what you wish for!

Sharon :)

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