Wellness & Well-being

I’ve heard of the practice of choosing a word as a New Year’s resolution or intention for a few years now, but I’ve never tried it. Up until this year, I’ve been a resolution person…however, with all the negative consequences of resolutions and the amount that people talk about how no one is able to keep them, I decided to give this up. I’ve set goals instead and have been trying hard to stick to them over the past two weeks.

I’ve also chosen two words for my 2018, words that will hopefully help me make intentional choices and continue pursuing my goals. My words this year are:

Wellness and Well-being

I’ve been thinking for a long time that my health (mental, physical, emotional) needs to be my focus. It’s always in the back of my head, but other things tend to get in the way: lesson plans need to be written or given feedback on, housework needs to be done, or sometimes I just need to feel like I have a life and can enjoy myself. In all of this, my health has never really been a priority. You know what I mean…it has never been the one thing that’s always in the forefront when I make decisions and I never consider it when I am stuck in a rut.

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New Year’s Eve 2017

“The object of a New Year is not that we should have a new year. It is that we should have a new soul…”

-G.K. Chesterton

The last day of the year always hits hard for me. It’s a whirlwind of emotion – excitement that the year is over, nostalgia for the good moments that I’ve experienced, anxiety about the future, a bit of loneliness, gratitude for the wonderful life I have…and the list goes on. I don’t know when this particular holiday became such an important thing for me, but it has been my favorite for a long while.

The concept of being able to start fresh, with a clean slate, appeals to me. Having set many goals for myself and having failed at achieving many of them, I like the idea of having a fixed moment when I can reset and feel like I’m being given a chance to start over. I know that many people would disagree and say that I don’t need to wait until NYE to make this happen, that I can, in fact, start over with every new sunrise. I agree, but NYE offers a specific calendar moment that stands out and happens to be a day  when the world slows down just a bit to pause and celebrate and reflect – and that’s what I love about it. I’m surrounded (well, virtually at least) by people who are taking some time to think through the year, to “close out the books” (a phrase I heard recently on The Good Life Project podcast), and to set intentions for the upcoming year. There’s a much bigger movement taking place around the world at this time and I love being a part of it.

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Am I a Bad Teacher?

Teaching is a difficult job. In every class, I face a wide range of learning levels, personalities, and skills to engage. Every week is different based on how life might be going at that time…for the students and for myself. It’s perfectly normal, then, that there are times when I feel I’m just not doing enough, saying enough, planning enough, etc.

That feeling has hit me quite recently. I look through other teachers’ lesson plans and wonder why I have trouble being as creative, or I show impatience with a misbehaving student and wonder why I can’t shower my students with love and laughter more. Of course, we all have bad days and days when there’s so much that needs to be done that we don’t have time to address things in the way we would like, but I’ve been a bit disappointed in myself for not having more patience or more creativity or more whatever else I think an ideal teacher would have.

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Work and Life

I love my job. 6 years ago, when I started working, I lived alone in a city where I didn’t know many people. Thus, my work became my entire life. I had the time and energy and motivation to work many more hours than my job required in order to stay on top of lesson planning or do extra research and increase my own knowledge. It was a wonderful life. However, ever since then, I was also told by society that I needed to have some sort of “balance” and that my work being my life = me being a workaholic (with a necessarily negative connotation).

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Getting Back into Teaching Mode…

The middle of July always brings about some anxiety for teachers as we prepare to start the next school year. After 5 years of continuous work, even over the summer, I spent half of this summer not thinking about my own teaching and coaching much. I still participated in summer camps and other community events, but today is the first day I’m trying to start thinking about the beginning of the school year so I can get back into “work mode.”

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Stress & Emotions

Classes are over. Students are no longer seen weekly and lesson plans no longer need to be written…at least for a few months. Despite the end of the school year, our system continues to work for about 3 weeks (depending on where you are in the country) so we’re still going for another week. By now, we’re all pretty much exhausted and focused on the light at the end of the tunnel that is at the end of this last week of (official) work.

Due to the exhaustion, as well as other factors of course, stress is high and emotions are on a roller coaster. This last week will involve curriculum planning for our upcoming school year, which involves working in small teams and in the whole group to align the curriculum we’re teaching for each grade level. Although individual work can be stressful, it is often group work for me that becomes extremely taxing. Managing various opinions, background experiences and aspirations becomes difficult and as a teacher lead within my city, I have to be more aware of how I react.

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The Art of Listening

A recent Brainpickings article referenced work by Erich Fromm who wrote about the art of listening and the rules to follow in order to do it unselfishly. Fromm discusses how listening develops a relationship between two people and that relationship is based on love. He also mentions how this love is necessary for unselfish listening to happen. His rules of listening and his thoughts on the listening process made me think about the relationships between colleagues, between teacher and student, between coach and teacher. Take a look at Fromm’s rules below:

  1. The basic rule for practicing this art is the complete concentration of the listener.
  2. Nothing of importance must be on his mind, he must be optimally free from anxiety as well as from greed.
  3. He must possess a freely-working imagination which is sufficiently concrete to be expressed in words.
  4. He must be endowed with a capacity for empathy with another person and strong enough to feel the experience of the other as if it were his own.
  5. The condition for such empathy is a crucial facet of the capacity for love. To understand another means to love him — not in the erotic sense but in the sense of reaching out to him and of overcoming the fear of losing oneself.
  6. Understanding and loving are inseparable. If they are separate, it is a cerebral process and the door to essential understanding remains closed.

-Erich Fromm

Here’s to thinking about listening in a different way.


Susan Engel, in an article for The Atlantic, said “Human lives are governed by the desire to experience joy. Becoming educated should not require giving up joy but rather lead to finding joy in new kinds of things…” Joy is something I’ve spent a lot of time reflecting on lately, because it’s come up in so many conversations. When our team discusses the progress and growth of our teachers, it’s rare to see joy come into the picture. When we discuss our students’ growth and experience in the classroom, joy is a word we don’t often use to describe it.

The type of joy that Engel describes, the ability to be deeply absorbed by something, seems hard to find as adults. We are so engrossed in work and bills and other responsibilities that taking time out for pure joy and pleasure seems almost impossible at times. Where children have an easy time of finding things to be awed by, we take much of our world for granted.

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Reflections on 2016 (the teacher version)

I spent much of my childhood making my sister and our stuffed animals act as my students. I imagined myself a teacher to the extent that I kept a grade sheet on each animal (and my sister, when she complied). I’m pretty sure that not every student passed my class.

Now, half of my 5th year of teaching is complete and although my dreams of writing on chalkboards (or whiteboards) and grading papers have been accomplished, there are always so many things to continue reflecting on as I continue teaching.

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Reflections on 2016 (the coaching version)

At the beginning of the summer of 2016, I was questioning my role in my current profession. I was wondering if I was cut out to be a coach and if I even wanted to stay in this context of religious education, which can be difficult in itself. After several tough, yet enlightening conversations, I was able to come to the realization that it wasn’t the job I wanted to leave, it was the lack of trust and genuine relationships at work.

When we discuss the time that children spend on various things in their lives, we often recognize that they spend much of their time at school interacting with teachers, other staff members and peers. Likewise, adults spend a lot of their time at work (oftentimes, even more so than kids do at school). This is an interesting point to note because we don’t often consciously think about this fact and how much it affects who we are as people and the fullness of our lives as individuals.

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