Push ups? In English class? So, two days ago, feeling especially drained after school, wanting only to sit down in my chair and take a nap, I made myself go for a run with my dog Daisy. Well, it was more of brisk walk with a few minutes of running in the still-deep snow around our property. After the initial, why-am-I-doing-this doubts cleared away, I started to settle in and feel alive, heart-pumping, lungs laboring, stress subsiding. Run done, I walked into the house, and as I was taking off my wool cap, I paused. That’s it. I am doing it. No excuses. I am going to make myself a priority. I am going to give myself 30 minutes of life each day. I, no matter what, am going to workout 30 minutes a day. Every day. No matter what.
By now you may be wondering if you linked to the right blog this morning. Yes, this is still my education blog, not my fitness blog. So what gives? Okay, as you may have begun to suspect, I have grand plans for the next twenty years. I, for a lack of a better way to say it, want to change the world. And I hope by now at least, those who know me, trust that that is not conceit but commitment. But if I am going to make that happen, I have to be around; I have to take care of myself. Okay, but what does that have to do with teaching, with education?
Here’s the deal. From the outside, it may appear that we teachers have it made. Seven-and-a-half hour days, one-hundred-eighty days a year. Sounds pretty good, and in many respects it certainly is, but I wish more understood what it really takes for those of us, and we are many, who pour all we have into our years. First, it never stops. We never stop thinking about our classrooms, our kids, our plans, our units, our lessons. It never stops. Second, there’s the “dynamic drain.” Great teachers are dynamic. They bring an energy, a passion, a zeal every minute, every period, every day–even when they don’t want to. There are few jobs where one is on stage every minute with an incredibly demanding audience. For most, it’s five shows a day, with a five minute potty break between curtains. It takes a toll. Third, we are ever torn between our teacher role and the many other roles we play in and out of school. If only I could teach. I am a department chair, I teach a college class, I am on numerous committees, and I am a father and husband. The last in the list, sadly, most of the year, comes last. And so we bear our guilt as we are torn between our duties. My wife, a middle school art teacher, can’t watch a movie without correcting papers. I want to hassle her about it, but I know what she’s going through, and I leave her alone. She doesn’t need any more stress.
So what’s the message, what’s the takeaway? Teachers don’t take care of themselves. I don’t take care of myself. Two days ago I decided to do different. And while I’m still feeling a little guilty about being selfish, I am getting over it, finding wisdom in my decision, wanting to be around for those I serve and love.
So what about the push ups in the classroom? Well, I guess I never really escape my kids, even when I am being selfish. On that same run, where I decided to take care of myself, I decided to take care of my students, too. So, now, for the first thirty seconds of the period, we do some kind of fitness activity. Of course, I don’t make the kids do it, but I at least require them to stand. Surprisingly, most do the activity. I’ve come to call it our brain boost. Because, as we know, activity boosts our brains. And whether it’s real or imagined, I feel better, and when I feel better, I am better. And while I have many for whom I need to be better, I need to be better for myself, too.
Happy Friday, all. Make yourself a priority. Be better.