Sunday, August 30, 2020

A few important numbers to remember this Fall

This Fall, as we return to school, here are some numbers I want to try to remember. Maybe you'll find some of them helpful, too:

0: Zero. This is the number of things that I can actually control. These days it seems like we're all balancing on the edge of a precipice. But it's worse than that--we're falling. But really that's how it always is. There's always this illusion that we're in control of things, but we never really are. And this feeling of needing to be in control creates all this anxiety. There's this cool saying attributed to Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche: "The bad news is, you’re falling through the air, nothing to hang on to, no parachute. The good news is, there’s no ground."  So my goal is to relax into that feeling of falling. In this case, it means remembering that my job is just to do the best I can for the kids. It means focusing on their needs, challenging them while supporting them, and just enjoying my time with them this year. 

1/2: One half. With the hybrid schedule, new safety protocols, new online learning platforms, and just rampant stress that we and our students are dealing with, I figure if we can cover 50% of what we normally do, we are doing really well. And that's OK, because there are more important things to focus on this year, like how our kids are doing emotionally and socially. And we can never require more of them than we can fully support. I put this into practice last week. I started creating a plan for the first week on our new learning management system. Then I realized it was based on a normal year, so I went through it and cut at least half of the stuff out of it and pushed it to the next week. 

1: One thing. What's the one thing I want to accomplish this year if nothing else? This principle is based on the classic book by Gary Keller.  For me, it's that I will not give up.  I will not give up trying to reach and support every single student I have.

2: Two months. I read once that you really can't expect to sustain a high level of intensity and motivation for more than a couple of months at a time. Motivation goes in cycles. We all need periods of rest and deloading. Normally, that roughly fits with the quarters of the school year. But this year, many of us will be starting at the end of a cycle, having been working hard and stressing all summer trying to plan for an unpredictable fall. But that's OK. It just means we may need to start in a deload phase. Our students probably need that, too. And we will all need periods of deloading throughout the year.

3: Three things at a time. As I've gotten older, I've realized I can only maintain focus on about three big things at a time before I start getting stressed out.  This means I need no more than about three big goals to accomplish on any particular day. For example, the first day of school these might be: 1) get to know my students and their needs, 2) support my staff as they start their school year, and 3) troubleshoot and adjust my hybrid instructional approach as needed. There's no doubt there will be other big, worthy goals that want to get done that day, and I may get to them, but they will have to wait in line.

4: Four days. I think exercising four days per week is a realistic goal starting out this fall. I'd like to do more, but we'll see how everything shakes out. These could be gym sessions or hikes with Teddy, and they include the weekends. Exercise is a huge stress relief valve for me, but it's a flexible goal and can be something to toss overboard when higher priorities need attention. It's not something I should stress about. 

5: Five-minute journal. There's this cool little app called the Five Minute Journal. It reminds you in the morning to write down three things you're grateful for, three ways you'll make today great, and one affirmation. In the evening, it reminds you to write down what went well today and what would have made today better. I'm not very good at doing it consistently, but it helps when I do.

7: Seven hours. I always shoot for at least 7 hours of sleep per night, and I do whatever I can to make that happen. It's a priority. But if it I have a bad night, I need to try not to worry about it. It means I cut myself more slack the next day.  Here are some tips if you have trouble sleeping.

10: Ten minutes a day. For the last several years, I've been trying to spend at least ten minutes a day doing mindfulness meditation. I started with this book on mindfulness by Williams and Penman. Some days are better than others, and in general I am not very good at it. They often turn into 10-minute stewing and problem-solving sessions. But that's OK. It's been good for me. And I'm sticking with it this fall for sure.

How are you preparing yourself mentally and emotionally for this fall? I'd love to hear!

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