My place of employment for the last 18 1/2 years.
“When you come to the point where you have no need to impress anybody, your freedom will begin.”
We all find quotes that ring true for us at one point or another in our lives. Ones that make us think and feel, ones that motivate us to make changes and as a result give us the ability to take that quote as our own. I have reached a point where the want or the need to impress anyone, especially as it relates to the colleagues at my job, is in the past.
Since I am a teacher, I only need to keep the well being of my students in mind. My job requires me to make sure that each of my students receive 100% of my focus, attention and experience every day.
Impress who? Not you!
As a teacher, one of the things I know that I look forward to every year are snow days. This particular storm brought us two days off based on the snow on Thursday and then on Friday as the brutally cold temperatures came in as the storm exited.
This was the scene last Thursday morning a couple of hours after the snow started flying. Not only did we get over seven inches of the white stuff, the wind was whipping, making the “real feel” really cold.
“Your purpose in life is to find your purpose and give your whole heart and soul to it.”
I’ve been doing a great deal of reading lately on how having a purpose in life and how this contributes to our happiness, and in turn, to our longevity. Having a profession where you actually feel as though you are making a contribution to society as a whole is a clear example of having a purpose. This can be well defined through just about any profession. If you are committed to what you do and have a passion for it, this will ultimately contribute to your happiness.
As teachers we know what our purpose is, and since we have chosen teaching as a profession, gone through years of schooling and have made a conscious decision that instead of enjoying early financial gain as you might see in other professions, we would instead be rewarded with nurturing the intellectual growth of our students.
I think that it would be safe to say that we all enter education because we have the desire to impart our knowledge and love of our subject matter to the kids in the communities where we teach. To not only see the intellectual growth in the year that we may have them, but also as they make their way through our colleagues classes as well. The point is that they will see our passion and maybe, just maybe, they will take with them when they leave a life long love for learning.
On the island of Okinawa, Japan, they refer to this as “ikigai”, or a reason for getting up in the morning. This reason, or purpose is what keeps us centered.
But what happens when external, or for that matter, internal factors enter into the equation and stifle the sense of purpose that we have? What happens when a profession such as teaching becomes “just another job”? I don’t know many teachers who have chosen the profession for the paycheck, and the ever present myth of having all of the time off is well, still a myth.
Where am I going with this? Recent events have shown me that although we may have a very clear sense of purpose, from time to time our resolve is tested and when a situation may set up roadblocks that cloud our purpose, or to question it, then it is up to no one but ourselves to balance things out and keep moving on a forward and productive path. Most times it isn’t our love for teaching, or our passion for what we do that comes into question, instead it is those other factors that prove to contribute to our downfall and for us to lose our focus.
So what do we need to do to regain or maintain the balance? The external factors in our life are sometimes easier to correct than those that are internal. Often times internally we do not have any say in decisions that are made that “mess with our mojo.” But we still have to keep moving.
I have some thoughts. One thing that has proven to be incredibly helpful to me is to have other things that you are equally as passionate about and that you can share with others. If you are reading this, then you are well versed on my love for hiking and in turn, my blogging about it. You might also know about my love of building things, not so professionally, but a love none the less. These two things truly keep me grounded so I am not consumed with the daily drama associated with work.
Second, having a core group of colleagues that you can depend on is vital. Now I don’t necessarily mean people that we can just blindly bitch to one another about what we don’t like, but people who will listen and offer constructive advice and support as we meander through our daily work lives. Think about it-We sometimes spend more time interacting with our colleagues every day than we do our husbands, wives and significant others.
Teachers have a unique sense of community that in my humble opinion, can’t be matched by many other professions. We are not driven by money or other material factors, but instead the passing off to others a love of teaching and our specific subject areas. Think about the teachers that you loved the most. Why did you love them? What did they do in the classroom to convey their love for what they do?
Don’t get to a point where you don’t know why you get up in the morning.
I usually get to school around 6:30 am every day. At this time it is pretty much guaranteed that I am the only person walking the second floor where I have been situated now for almost 11 years. Within an hour, this same hallway will be swarming with teen angst. A diverse cross section of humanity waiting for the day to begin, waiting to see what the day will deliver. Sitting next to their lockers, they talk about their day, their classes, their friends and the weekend. As crazy as it sounds, the energy that the kids give off is infectious. That is why working in a high school is the best job you could ask for.
“Being proactive rather than reactive means to control a situation rather than letting it control you.”
Many people look forward to the New Year as a chance to start again or to make changes in their lives that everyone hopes will make us better people. December 31st is one of the two days of the year for educators when they get to reflect and then assess whether what they are doing is truly working in their best interest. Did I do good things this year? Was I a good person at home and to the people that I work with? That also goes along with the myriad of personal resolutions that we all say we are going to follow through on and usually don’t. Unfortunately, resolutions tend to fall apart pretty soon after the New Year and it really isn’t your fault. Any resolution that you were going to make is usually doomed before it even becomes a fully well formed thought.
Think about it. If you really wanted to make changes in your life, why would you wait for the New Year? Since many of the New Year’s resolutions that we make are health related, why wouldn’t you start it when you really needed to? Did you wake up on December 31st and suddenly notice that you were in need of an overhaul? New Year’s resolutions tends to look good at the time, but when reality sets in and the rubber hits the road, we give up.
In regards to teachers, the same thing happens towards the end of June every year. As the school year breathes its final and debilitating breathe, we look back and take a mental inventory as to what went right and what didn’t. On it’s face, it seems like a good idea to do this, and it is. However, I have to ask the question-If you knew something wasn’t working in your classroom, why wouldn’t you change it at the time? Why do you need to wait until the end of the calendar year or school year before you try to affect some real change in your personal or work life?
My point is this-As somewhat educated people, we should be changing and evolving ourselves and our practice every day and not just in January and June. We should be looking at ways in which small changes can be implemented throughout the year so we can prevent a complete overhaul. Compare your resolution to your car. The manufacture has kindly listed all of the preventive maintenance that you should perform at different intervals so your car continues to run in a satisfactory manner. If you fail to do the little things now, chances that something catastrophic will happen at some point increases dramatically and you will have to spend a great deal of money to repair the damage.
If you are going to have any success with a resolution, try this: resolve to be more proactive in every aspect of your life. Most of us, regardless of race, creed, color, age and sex, tend to be reactive in nature. We seem to have a preoccupation with allowing things to happens to us and then when we are overwhelmed, we try to deal with them, usually not very well. One thing that I have kind of figured out, is that it is usually much harder to fix things than it is to prevent them from happening in the first place. Especially when you know that things are out of sorts. When you make the decision to take a more proactive approach to life, you then decide how you want things in your life to turn out and then take specific actions to make them happen.
Happy New Years!!!!