In my opinion there is no better place than Michigan…in the summer! Well and actually spring is ALWAYS a welcomed season and fall is a beautiful one too. Since “perfect” weather days can be rare and don’t last long in this midwestern state, Michiganders are good at maximizing them when we get them. On those days it seems like everyone heads outdoors. They golf, spend time at one of the numerous lakes, tinker in their yard or on a car in the garage. People are out, running, biking, or walking their dogs, kids, or both. Summer in Michigan is my FAVORITE time of year! I love being outside. I love the fresh air, the sounds of nature, the colors around me and especially the warmth of the sun.
During this pandemic, walks outside have been a lifesaver for me. Depending on my mood, I have a regular route I take and other times, I’ve enjoyed exploring new neighborhoods. I’m usually on my own, quietly collecting my thoughts or just zoning out. Often, I’ll take my headphones and lose myself in the memories the songs conjure up for me. And on occasion I’ve gone with a friend, or one of my children may join me. There are days I am on a good clip, making my way up and down side streets, while avoiding other people whose paths I may cross. Then there are days my pace is slower, more of a stroll. Sometimes I go 2 miles and some days I may go 5. It differs based on my energy level and what I feel like I need that day. I tune into my body and allow it to guide my steps. Earlier on this season, I was tempted to feel guilty if I “only” walked 2 miles. But now, regardless of how far or fast I walk, I acknowledge that I was taking care of myself that day. It has been a balm for my soul.
Not to state the obvious, but our world is in an upheaval right now, including (and especially?!?) in the field of education. Everyone is aware of the current dilemma surrounding “school”. How will students be educated right now? How can we keep everyone in the building safe? Do we even go into the building? How can we support students who are anxious, traumatized or need additional learning supports? What about all the teachers who are also needing extra support? So many questions, so few answers (and truthfully there seem to be no right answers). We are all in such a difficult time.
I talk to educators every day. The person on the other end of the phone line (or zoom camera) may be different but the conversations are the same. Educators are worried, stressed, exasperated, exhausted, and yet determined to do the right thing for their students. They are diligently making lemonade out of lemons. Working hard to adjust and be responsive. Looking for help and inundated with resources and emails but have no time to sift through them for answers. This pace is not sustainable. The pace BEFORE the pandemic was not sustainable.
What is the answer? How can those of us in this arena pace ourselves? I believe it’s possible, albeit not easy. There has to be a shift in priorities. Ideally, our education system as a whole would make this priority adjustment, but realistically even a commitment to shift at an individual level can be an effective place to start. Recognizing your worth and establishing boundaries that are feasible to maintain is a step in the right direction. Your mental health and wellness are essential to your ability to meet your students’ needs. They need you to be at peace, happy and whole. They look to you as a touch point and a role model. Ensuring you have what you need to be able to show up for them is important.
Think ahead about the coming week or month. Is there a way you can pace yourself? Educators are good at helping students’ scaffold and chunk out their work. Can you do that for yourself? What are viable expectations? What do you have the energy to do, today? Is this a “short route” day or do you have a little more to give? Do you need to go SLOW and quiet or can you juice it up some and push a little harder? Regardless, just know that whatever you have to give is sufficient. That fact that you continue to show up is significant. Listen to your body, let it inform and guide you. All you can do is what you can do. This is your journey; you get to determine your steps. Go at your pace.