Monday, August 24, 2009

Getting ready for a new school year

It's getting to be that time. I finished my summer job this past week and am enjoying a little bit of time off before the big day. Like many other teachers, my new year's resolutions start with the new school year. This year my goal is balance. I want to have a happy and healthy school year for myself and my students and in order to achieve this, I need to plan. Once school starts, my ability to think clearly is often compromised, so I have to start planning for mental and physical health before it all gets crazy. Below are my realistic goals. After four years of teaching in the NYC public schools, I have learned not to overshoot, because you'll just burn out.

1. Cook a healthy meal at least twice a week. I love to cook and I love eating healthy, but once school starts, I can't do it as often, so I think 2 times a week is reasonable. The other days I can put something together like a salad or veggie burger.

2. Bring breakfast, lunch, and snack to school each day. Yes, this is VERY important. It is so easy to eat unhealthy food, especially if your school is in an area where there is not much variety for buying your lunch. Every night before I go to bed (even when I'm too tired), I make myself pack these three meals. I realized the importance of the snack this past year. I was staying late and by the time I'd get home, I would be ravenous and would make a less healthy choice. I also find that getting to school really early and eating breakfast there helps me to focus and relax before the start of the day. You also save money and eat better.

3. No more committees. Over my last 4 years, I have been on countless committees and I am burned out for the time being. I am going to allow myself one study group and a book club, but no more pointless committees. Whenever I do this type of work I either find that I'm doing someone else's job for free, covering for someone else's incompetence, or working towards something that will never happen because the administration will screw it up somehow. So there, when someone asks me to sign up for something, I am going to say "no, thanks."

4. Work stays at work. I will go in early and even stay a little late, but I am not going to bring my work home with me unless it's something easy like making labels for reading baggies while I zone out in front of the TV, or blogging. This also includes the emotional baggage from work. I am going to try to be as aware as possible not to be venting to friends or family. Enough is enough, they are tired of it and they feel helpless when I tell them things, so I need to keep that kind of talk amongst trusted colleagues.

5. Take long walks. In the past, this has helped me immensely. It's free, so you don't have to pay for a gym membership, you get exercise, and you don't feel guilty if you can't do it. At least once a week (twice, when the weather is nice), I try to walk 60 blocks from my school to a subway station on my line. I find that it really clears my head and keeps me physically active. It also relieves the stress of the afternoon commute (since there is no transfer) and I get to see what other New Yorkers are doing. It's cool to see what's going on in the different neighborhoods I encounter across 60 blocks.

6. Get a good night's sleep. This is paramount for a successful year. You must be well-rested to have the patience and mental endurance it takes to care for, manage, and teach a class of children (of any age).

7. Don't neglect non-school friends. Just because my job is insane doesn't mean I have to alienate myself from my friends. I need their support and their perspective, as well as someone unrelated to school to provide a little bit of fun. Whether it's messaging them on facebook, or making relaxing plans (nothing too crazy, we still need our sleep!). I am going to make a big effort this year to be more social in small ways, remembering goal #4 at all times.

8. Don't stress about things that can be made easier with a little bit of money. I am a saver. I don't like to spend money on things that are unnecessary. So much so, that I would find myself stressing out about regular chores. Sometimes sending the laundry out or getting groceries delivered is just worth it. I'm not saying I'm going to do it every week, but I won't beat myself up about it if I just can't handle it.

Sound realistic?