By Brandy Reeder
The school year started quickly, and the excitement of getting back to business was more than enough to propel you forward. But by the holiday season, you find yourself waning. Where has all of the energy and excitement gone? Why does it feel like you are running a race you will never win? Why are your colleagues slowing down, and why does it feel like summer is further away than ever before? Don’t fret. Devote time to working on the three Rs listed below, and you will find you are revved up and ready to get back on track.
Often, we forget the power of reflection. Reflecting on your professional growth, as well as your personal growth, will lead you to greater understanding. As teachers, we are bound by schedules that seem impossible, and we hardly have time to meet our own basic needs, much less those of 25 to 100 students. However, taking time to reflect will pay great dividends. There are several different strategies that can be used as you reflect. I find that typing journal entries is most effective for me, but there are many other ways to reflect on your personal growth and professional practice. A deep conversation, an artistic journey, a letter written to yourself, and even a set of probing questions can start the reflection process. Work to pull thoughts from your mind about how you feel about your performance, your growth, areas for continued growth, and successes you have experienced in your work.
Now that you have made it to December, you probably feel it is hard to remember what was most important to you at the beginning of the school year. You know you wanted your students to succeed, to learn and grow, and to be ready for the challenges that lie ahead. But now, with the meetings, paperwork, extracurricular activities, parent conferences, e-mails, and evaluations, it’s no wonder your focus shifts to day-to-day survival. It’s time to refocus. Consider creating a list of two or three things that you consider to be the most important. Maybe students need to focus on literacy skills, maybe they need to be immersed in the world of math, or maybe they need to polish their 21st century skills. Once you have established your focus items, surround yourself with visuals to keep your focus strong. Inspirational and motivational quotes, online video clips, pictures of outcomes, key words or phrases, posters, and even stuffed animals can help to keep your thinking focused.
After spending 18 years in the field of education, I have learned that rejuvenation is the most often neglected “R.” Teachers are great at taking care of everyone else, but they forget how critical it is to take care of themselves. If you simply keep in mind that the better you take care of yourself the more able you will be to take care of others, you will not feel guilty while rejuvenating. The act of rejuvenation allows you to become renewed. This renewal will not only affect your reflection but also make the act of refocusing stronger. A couple of years ago, I decided that I needed to get a monthly massage and that once in a while I needed a pedicure. I used to feel guilty about these indulgences, but I soon realized that my state of mind was altered and I gave my best to my students when I felt rejuvenated. You may decide that a vacation, a leisurely stroll, an afternoon nap, a dinner at your favorite restaurant, or even a nice hike on a mountain trail is exactly what you need to experience the feeling of rejuvenation. Whatever you choose, make sure you remember that everyone wins when you take care of yourself.
No matter which of the three Rs you are working on, remember that balance is key. Just like with everything else in life, you have to make time for the things that matter most. As a teacher, you must remember that these three things work together to help you be your best. Just as students work on their three Rs (reading, writing, and arithmetic), you must work on your three Rs as well.
Brandy Reeder is an assistant principal for Davidson County Schools in North Carolina. She has a bachelor’s degree in elementary education and a master’s degree in school administration, and she is currently working on her doctorate in education leadership at Western Carolina University.