It’s December already.
You just came off a long weekend (or possibly an entire week) and you have a precious 3 week block of time to try to get seasonal sanity before you lose the students again for another break. You may be preparing for a performance or other family/community event. Add to that assessments that need conducting, projects that need finishing, content that needs covering. Sprinkle in the fact that these next few weeks are probably busy ones outside of school as well with social events, shopping and cooking, hosting or traveling plan-making and you have a recipe for stress and exhaustion.
Amidst all the craziness of the season, there are ways to maintain your seasonal sanity in and out of school so long as you dedicate yourself to it. Easier said than done, I know, but you may find it’s worth the extra effort. You will be happier and, in turn, everyone around you will be happier as well!
Teachers are by their very nature giving people.
However, they often forget to give to themselves. When life gets this crazy it’s hard to rationalize taking time for yourself but that is, ironically, when it is most important. If you feel like you don’t have a minute to spare, do yourself a favor and try to spare not 1 but 2 (or 5 if you can manage it!). Try making a list of things you enjoy, things that give you a little pick-me-up that take 5 minutes or fewer to accomplish. You can do the same thing in your classroom. Make a list of quick games, songs, dances, stretches that both you and your students already know and love.
Once your lists are made, put them somewhere visible so you can quickly reference them when the need arises or you find yourself with a moment or two. (I find lists so helpful because when I am confronted with an extra moment or two I often draw a blank and waste that precious moment just trying to think of what to do with it!) Finally, make a promise to yourself that you will try to do one thing from each list everyday. The visibility of the list will help you keep that promise!
Here are just a few examples to get you thinking:
Light a candle.
Try it when you eat dinner, even if it’s take-out, left overs or a pb&j sandwich. It helps set a tranquil mood and somehow makes it feel a little bit special.
Listen to music.
List a few of your favorite songs to sing to, dance to or just listen to. In other words, don’t write “Listen to music.” You may find you waste time deciding what to listen to (or is that just me?!) You may have a playlist on your computer or other device that you can go to for a quick fix without having to list the songs. And don’t cheat yourself by listening to the selected song while you are doing something else. This is not music to do laundry by. Take those 2-4 minutes to sing along, dance along or simply listen along.
Again, no cheating. If you are going to eat that piece of chocolate, sit there and enjoy every minute of the experience. Enjoy the aroma. Let it melt on your tongue. Savor every last morsel. Don’t pop it in your mouth while you are correcting papers. That completely defeats the purpose!
Find a simple mantra that appeals to you. You might only need 30 seconds for it to reset your seasonal sanity and energy level. My favorite to recite in my head is, “Breathing in I calm myself, breathing out I smile” and I actually smile while I’m doing it. It brings new meaning to “fake it ‘til you make it”!
Think happy thoughts.
Seriously. Just take one minute to conjure up a happy memory and revel in it. It can be amazingly refreshing and restorative.
Look at something beautiful.
You may have a favorite piece of art or a window out of which you see a favorite site. For 60 seconds, just take it in. Try to notice everything you can about it and how it affects you. Again, savoring is the key. You may see a piece of art hanging on your wall everyday but how often do you let yourself really enjoy it?
If you take the time to create a similar list for your classroom and use it when the class needs to reconnect, refocus or reinvigorate you may just find it is the season to be jolly!
Deirdre is a teaching artist and AI coach in the San Diego public schools dedicated to helping classroom teachers make arts an integral part of their teaching. Deirdre has an MEd in Arts Integration and over twenty years of classroom and performing arts teaching experience. Email Deirdre.