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Saturday, September 01, 2007

Staying up in a down world



Warning: I'm not talking about technology in this post, but about attitude. If you're looking for technology, wait for the next one!

Attitude is one of a teacher's most precious possessions. The busy-ness of my own life right now would really get me down if I let it!

It is easy to get discouraged. And I'm not any special case, most teachers I know are often worn to a frazzle!

So, as I think about how much I have to do or haven't done (like the fact I missed Blog Day 2007 yesterday), today I share my reflections on how I stay up while working in the highest burn out profession around:
  • Don't go on guilt trips.

    The only way to go on a guilt trip is if you pack your bags and go yourself. So don't pack and don't go!

    This comes from my Mom, I have to work on this one and she tells me this at least once a week! There is someone in my life right now who always wants to make me feel insufficient because I haven't met this person's standard of goodness. I'm sorry, I am who I am and I work for an audience of One and I'm working hard to stop going on guilt trips. Perfectionists (like me) often have this problem.

  • Take time for yourself.

    I always have to work on this. My best days start around 5:30 in the morning when I have my time reading my Bible and then I exercise a bit. I got a new dance exercise video and I love it! When I come on exhausted, I need to jump in a hot bubblebath and just take a moment to think!

  • Don't expect others to understand or care.

    This sounds terrible, but honestly, most people are just focused on the stresses of their own lives and could care less about yours. Don't expect people to figure out what is wrong with you -- if you've got a problem and it needs addressing, speak out.

    Don't play the martyr and give yourself a heart attack expecting others to feel bad about what "they've" done to you -- you're the one with the heart attack, for goodness sakes!

    I reached a point a few years back with the computer system at the school -- we reached around 100 computers and several servers and I was really out of my league, however, I realized that I was killing myself to "band-aid" the problems that were there. So, I had to let things get worse before they got better.

    I said, "that is it, I'm not going to stay until midnight a couple of days a week fixing these computers -- I'm going to do the best I can in the time I have and let it fall a part because this needs two people."

    Now, I have help with the computer systems and things are MUCH MUCH better. (Be careful with this strategy, make sure you're truly justified in your feelings and make sure others know you're putting in as much time as you can!)

    Listen, if you want to play the martyr, there are plenty of people out there who will let you. So don't!

    Do your best, speak out for what is right... and goodness knows don't whine and complain about how you're never understood! No one in this beautiful globe really feels understood.

    We all have to live in the walls of our own heart and it is within those confines that we have to live at peace with ourselves and our Maker.

  • Understand and Care about Others

    I see it every day. When kids come into my classroom, I make an effort to look them in the eye and say hello. To tell them that I hope they have a good day when they leave my classroom.

    I look at them to see telltale signs of problems -- do they look very tired? Do they seem upset? I want them to know I care, and I will often ask them -- "Boy, you look tired, are you getting any sleep these days?" Then, they'll say, "Mrs. Vicki, my aunt died last week and we're having a hard time" or "I'm upset about ___" and even if it is "I stayed up late playing Halo" then I still know something.

    In a world where so few people really care, it is my job to care. Even here on this blog, as tough as it is sometimes to talk about personal struggles of mine with attitude, death or whatever, I see that part of my calling. Yes, I want to share technology, but goodness knows we all need some encouragement sometimes -- especially those in education.

    Teachers are some of the most downtrodden "beat upon" professionals that I've ever seen. Teachers are the front lines and so often have little or no ability to have input into the resources used in their classroom! Accountability without authority is a recipe for disaster and that is the situation of many teachers.

    If you blog, you should give encouragement there. If you read blogs, you should comment sometimes to give encouragement when you see someone having a tough time. Whatever your mode of communication, look to see if you are offering encouragement in that platform.

    Don't let people suffer, come in and be the one who reaches out and shows they care. For those of us of the faith, this is our chance to emulate our Teacher. The more discouragement that a teacher faces, the more encouragement they need! Make it your job!

  • Understand yourself

    I make it a point to pay attention to my own moods. If I am just "crabby" then I probably need to "send myself to my room" because if I go to the teacher's loungue or lunchroom I will probably say something that I wished I hadn't.

    If I'm in a particularly upset mood, I have to tell myself not to blog, or to just take a mini "time-out." There have been times when I felt I was "losing it" that I took a planning period, closed the door, pulled out my iPod with headphones and listened to Jimmy Buffett or Van Morrison or some music that took me away to my last vacation so that I could escape mentally.

    If we can all pay attention to ourselves and our own frame of mind and through this self-awareness know when we are prone to slip into bad habits of gossip, unkind words, and group-pity parties then we can avoid situations where we might do those things and we can avoid a heck of a lot of heartache as we reap consequences of unkindness. We reap what we sow, so don't sow it -- stow it!

    I never make important decisions when I'm sleep deprived. I put them off until I have a little rest and am thinking more clearly. Pay attention to your own moods and act accordingly.

  • Creatively attack problems

    OK, I've got to go to the grocery store right now, and as much as I love cooking I HATE GROCERY SHOPPING. And yet, if I can attach something I like to do (like listen to my iPod or podcasts) with something I don't like then I can motivate myself to get moving.

    Like exercise and losing weight. I've been on an upswing to the tune of 25 pounds since last fall - eating in the lunchroom and not exercising has done it. So, I've looked at my reasons.

    I was bored with my exercise routine -- so I now bike and watch the news in the morning OR use my dance exercise video to learn new dances -- it is more fun! I was bored with fixing a sandwich so I let myself have a little splurge -- I but I went to the grocery store freezer case and bought the coolest lite frozen lunches I could find (that were within my budget) -- I also packed three different drinks in my lunchbox so that I can always have a new cold drink.

    And I packed these cool little Reese's pieces 100 calorie packs. I always have something to snack on that is sweet, have a cool cold (diet) drink in my hand throughout the day, and really neat lunches to look forward to. I'm 6 pounds down since school started three weeks a go and don't feel deprived.

    Yes, sometimes others have the answers, but you understand yourself better than anyone else. I am always giving myself neat FREE rewards for unpleasant tasks. OK, when I get this server cutover done, I'm going to go grab a coffee at the coffee shop or when I finish grading these papers, I'm going to take a hot bath and read a book! How can you creatively attack your problems and motivate yourself?

    A few years back, I read the idea to go and list at least 10 FREE things that make you happy that you can use to treat yourself. I made the list and have added to it -- I keep it in the back of my planner. (Things like: time to read a fiction book, bubble bath, light some candles, etc.) This is my "hit list" to help motivate myself and I pull it out when I need to.

  • Connect with others

    It is tough for those of us within the technological field. Technology has not yet hit critical mass in education and many of us are islands. Although I like to read blogs of all of those in education, I look for the blogs of other teachers to really keep me going.

  • Keep perspective

    It's about keeping the main thing the main thing. My daughter is playing softball and cheering, my son is playing football -- right now, if I have a choice at 4 o'clock of blogging or seeing a game -- my priority is with them!

    I enjoy blogging and love to write, but when my children graduate, I can sit here all day long and blog if I really wanted too! My Technorati ranking or number of readers are transitory things that no one even notices but me! To put inanimate things such as that above my family would be a mistake I'd have to live with for the rest of my life.
So, now you have had my super long thoughts and personal examples on how to stay up in a down world! What do you do?

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