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February 14th is a day of dread for most teachers. Kids are high on candy, hormones and rival the vibrato of wolves during a full moon. Helium balloons bounce around, red and pink packaging fill the hallways and the scent of $5 roses linger in the air like a bad perfume that won’t go away. Teachers eye each other in the hallways and with a somewhat silent consensus agree that the day cannot end soon enough.
In a sad way, teachers on Valentine’s Day remind me of the story of Pagliacci, an opera that was cited in the graphic novel The Watchmen. Pagliacci is not feeling well and goes to the doctor. He tells the doctor his symptoms. Essentially the guy is depressed, burned out and doesn’t know what to do. The doctor thinks about it and finally tells him he needs to smile and laugh. That maybe he should go to the circus in town, that the main clown is hilarious and will lift his spirits. The punchline is that Pagliacci is the clown.
If teachers were Pagliacci, we could likely tell the doctor much of the same. Add to it, however, the endless amount of paperwork, stifling curriculum, helicopter parents, crowded classrooms, worsening discipline problems, dilapidated buildings, frivolous meetings and the overall lack of respect. If we the teachers are supposed to love, care and give to students, who is caring for the teachers?
Thus, this is a Valentine's to teachers. Not candy, cards or coffee mugs from Starbucks. The following are simply loving reminders to love yourself. It’s not selfish. It is essential:
- (L)oosen your plans - Teachers love control and that is not a bad thing. They are hired because they are knowledgeable, great managers and often times do know best. However, you teach kids and kids are messy. Nothing can be more frustrating when your plans (the ones you carefully crafted with the multiple learning objectives, state curriculum, and endless PLCs) go off the tracks. Sometimes, let them. Some of the greatest moments in the classroom come when you move off the plan, adjust and like a great dance, follow the movements of your partner’s steps. If your students are not responding, fix it. If your students are taking the lesson in a different direction, go with it. Sometimes magic happens on those days. Allow it.
- (O)nly healthy choices – It’s easy at the end of a long day to plop down, catch up on your social media on your phone, chow down and drink up. While it feels good in that moment (trust me, been there), this is not good medicine for how you are feeling overall. It is a bandaid that is ignoring the bigger problem and may actually contribute to the problem growing (along with your doctor bills and waistline). The best way to love yourself is to give and feed it with loving choices. Not to say a good pinot noir isn’t a great addition occasionally, but not every night. Plan healthier options, better meals, sleep and add movement to your daily routine. Take a peaceful walk or vent your frustration on the elliptical with some heavy metal. Both are therapeutic.
- (V)alue your time – Don’t be that martyr teacher. You know which one I’m talking about. The one whose car is always in the parking lot. Every teacher has a large to-do list, but the idea is to prioritize which items need to be done now and which can wait. Learn to better delegate your time, manage your commitments and leave at a normal hour. Spend your time wisely, not grading papers in a windowless room long after the air conditioning has been cut off.
- (E)nd each day – Lastly, when the day is done, let it be done. Go home and live your life. Of course, there are times when you need to take something home. That is understandable, but if you find yourself carting things back and forth from your vehicle every day, then you need to rethink some decisions. And even if you go home bag free, don’t let your mind carry the baggage of the day and be an endless wheel of thoughts, conversations, or lessons. Leave the room, the building and campus physically and mentally. Your free time is just that, free.
So this February 14th, while the kids are bouncing off the walls and among the shower of heart glitter, remind yourself of what is best for you. Undoubtedly some of your kids will show you love that day, but the best Valentine you can get as a teacher is the love you decide to show yourself.
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