The alarm never actually went off in the morning. I would open my eyes a couple of minutes before the buzz, almost without fail. Immediately, my mind ticked off the to dos: pack a lunch for my son Aden, check email for where the meeting was supposed to be, get coverage for 5th grade music class, run a fire drill, and on and on and on. I’d move as quickly as I could to the bathroom, where my clothes for the day were already picked out, hanging on the hook on the wall. Hair and makeup were next; more often than not that meant an easy bun and just some mascara. I’d silently slip out of the bedroom, my husband Rob still asleep, and get Aden up. We called it a Get Up Get Dressed and GO morning. Breakfast in the car, Aden dropped off at before-care or his dad’s house, all well before 7:30am. My mind raced the whole time, my emotions braced for the day ahead. I’d get to my office and more often than not, be greeted with requests, questions, concerns and would start making the first of the 300 or so decisions I would make that day.
This went on for years.
Sure, I took some respites. I learned from a school psychologist once to always have something to look forward to, and I did. I looked forward to certain things at school, like the spelling bee, a school dance (I LOVE THEM. I NEVER MISSED ONE!) time with teachers who cracked me up. I also looked forward to doing things with my friends and family, like hiking, community events, concerts, house parties. Summers were mostly free of work, because I stopped volunteering to work off-contract (even for a stipend) after Aden was born.
But I never felt balanced. And I was starting to dread going to work. I was actually experiencing pretty traumatic things at school with children and their families. I acted out of fear sometimes and felt myself closing off. I know that I was brittle and impatient with my family. I sought out support from a life coach, who helped me think through the pressures I was putting on myself that I could most likely relieve. I was in the middle of a doctoral program and my colleagues in the cohort understood what I was dealing with too, so being with them helped. My husband was a really good listener.
With my doctoral coursework pretty much complete, I began to seriously consider resigning, citing my desire to focus on my dissertation and my family. While that was true, that was only half of it. My spirit had been drained. I couldn’t find any joy in too many parts of my job anymore. I remember reading somewhere, “Create your future from the best parts of your present.” Being a principal - my eighth year in building administration, my fourth year as a principal - was objectively the worst part about my present life. So I quit.
Then I began a quiet journey of reconnecting with my spirit, without even realizing it. For two years, I decided to listen, think, write, bake, read, cry, meditate, care, travel, watch, and just be which has brought me to this new way to work and live.
That quiet journey is what I wish for other teachers, administrators and professors.
Join me and members of our teaching community in reviving your spirit - your teaching spirit - against all odds. I know what your day looks and feels like from those minutes before the alarm even rings, to the last bell of the day, through your interminable faculty meeting or case conference. As I stepped back from the daily operations (and tears, hugs, drama and little victories) of the school day, I saw a different way of working and living that I went after. I want to share with you how you can do that too, so you can feel excited and happy to walk into your school every day with energy to devote to your students and plenty left for your family and friends, and most importantly, for yourself!