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You Are Not A Machine

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This Year Feels Tougher

Recently, I saw a quote online that said, ¨No, Itś not just you. Yes, this year is harder than last.¨

I could not agree more with this quote. While last year was tougher in the sense that there were so many unknown things that brought about new fears. And, last year things, seemed to change often. There were a lot of things to learn, and the days were draining. There is something different about this year. Days feel overwhelming and it is only the beginning of the fourth week for some of us.

This year our district is back to a traditional schedule, and I have to admit it has been difficult to keep up with the demand to prepare and give students feedback. Last year events continued to be canceled or slowly eased into. This year, many things are back, and while it is amazing, it is also tough to go back to a packed schedule. No matter what year it is, the beginning of the year is always tough. Some of the days feel like everything, but work has to go. However, I have learned after almost 20 years in education to stick with hobbies, listen to more audio programs, focus on what matters most, spend time connecting with colleagues, sleep, and not worry about getting caught up.

Stick With Hobbies

As a new year begins, it is easy to put a hundred percent of the focus on work. Some days life is not balanced and, work does temporarily require more energy and takes propriety over other things. 

However, no matter how busy things get, don't quit everything that you enjoy doing. 

Educators need a healthy outlet and stress reliever. It is a good thing to take time for yourself and participate in something that you enjoy. We can set a great example for students when we do not abandon everything besides our job. Identities outside school such as being a writer, athlete, hunter, photographer or, parent show students that they too can be involved in school as a student and be well-rounded as a college student and employee one day. 

Listen to Podcasts and Audiobooks

Something is freeing about listening to another story other than your own! Fiction stories can provide an incredible escape from the business. Non-fiction stories offer opportunities for reflection and growth. Some books or podcasts even mirror the experience of going to a conference. And, when you are hands-free and listening to something, there is an opportunity to do work around the house, work out or, make driving time more enjoyable. 

Focus on What Matters Most

There are hundreds of things competing for our attention every day. Emails need to be sent, paperwork needs to be filled out, calls need to be made, planning needs to be done, grading has to be completed and relationships need to be built. Education is messy, and to be effective, there is no way to complete tasks from beginning to end in the way we receive them. I have started making a list of five things. I ask myself, ¨What five things matter most today? Sometimes it is submitting a form that is due, sometimes it is talking to a colleague and, sometimes it is grading an essay so that a student is able to be eligible for the next week of sports.  

Connect with Colleagues

In the past, before our district took to PLCś or professional learning committees, I spent a lot of time planning and preparing by myself. However, the last two years have given me the opportunity to be in a new school and position and granted me a fantastic department of people. Collaborating offers a starting point and an opportunity to work smarter and not harder. Often I find when I talk about what I am doing, it feels less overwhelming and, I even form a few new fresh ideas in my mind about how to approach challenges. 


Sometimes a full schedule is inevitable for a season. There are days when it is not entirely possible to cut many things out.  How is it possible then to keep going? Prioritize sleep. It might not be nine hours, but look for opportunities to rest. Stagger the week so that some days you get up early, some days you sleep in a little longer and focus on a bedtime. I have heard the recommendation of setting the alarm to go to bed so that a person is not tempted to stay up. Sometimes a 15-20 minute nap can do wonders.  

Sleep sometimes feels like an area that can be neglected. While this might be true for a week or two, there is a point where it catches up with us and demands to be taken seriously.  

Caught-up is a Myth

Life is a journey, and there is no way to reach an ultimate destination if you are here on earth. The minute you are caught up on one thing, it seems like there is something to finish in another area. Do not spend time focusing on getting to a point where you are ¨done¨, but rather a place where you can begin tomorrow. Somedays do not start perfectly, and it feels like I am barely stringing enough minutes together to finish evaluating essays or planning bell work.  However, I have found that I try to do the best with whatever I am able to. My goal is often to beat yesterday with energy, a new way of explaining things, or an opportunity to make a connection or build a relationship. 

It is okay to be human. It is okay that each day looks different from the last one. It is okay that our best is different each day. Because we are human and not machines, we are not quickly replaceable. It is important to take care of our physical, mental, and emotional, health by not giving everything and utilizing various strategies to be effective throughout the day. Embracing the journey is about recognizing small wins along the way. Thriving each day includes hanging on to the things that separate us as people from machines that can do five times the work but miss out on the richness life has to offer. 

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