This is part of a series of posts from nominees for our LifeChanger of the Year educator recognition program. We meet scores of fascinating LifeChangers every year who have interesting perspectives to share about children, education and life.
Life is about choices. Each day people wake with a certain amount of energy and the privilege to decide how to spend it, educators included. I am a Type A personality, and this is the letter I wish I could have given myself as a first year teacher reading through to do lists, high expectations, and ambitious dreams.
Like life and choreography, teaching has peaks and valleys. The peaks don’t have to be the overworking yourself, and the valleys don’t have to be burnout. You love what you do, but you cannot sustain coercing everything into perfection. It causes sleep deprivation, and you cannot serve others well when simultaneously sprinting through mental marathons. But, there is good news. You can make small, daily changes. You don’t have to give up your ambition or service to others. After all, you became a teacher to do and create good. Even Plato said, “For a man to conquer himself is the first and noblest of all victories.” Work on this next.
- Complete one task each day to work toward goals. This will give you the service, productivity, and progress you crave. You can reach ambitious goals and cut down on emotional, mental, and physical stress. Keep working toward reviving the theater, renovating a performance space, integrating STEM and technology lesson plans, completing graduate courses, and attending professional development opportunities. You can do it all at once, but you need to create action steps with attainable deadlines and work toward all of them one day at a time.
- Get a detailed planner the first chance you get. Stop putting to-do lists and events in your phone. It doesn’t work when you ignore the reminders and it adds to fatigue. Stop leaving sticky notes everywhere. Stop using nine different notebooks to sketch out scenic art. You need a paper planner that allows you to map by the hour, create lists to revisit, and keep everything in one spot (lesson ideas, baseball schedules, grocery lists, capital campaign project mind maps, grading lists, etc.). Keep your life in one place, and if it’s organized on paper, you’ll feel organized while serving others, which is the real work you want to do.
- Build as many teams as you can. Constantly look for people with similar goals and motivation. Suck them in and teach them how to help you. Just because you can do it all, doesn’t mean you should. Reach out to community members and parents; your aspirations will reach new heights.
- Have patience! Not everything needs to get done right now. Prioritize. Face-to-face interactions trump email every time. Your colleague will understand waiting a full business day; your student may need you to help find their next meal.
- Get enough sleep and find a healthy outlet. It takes a lot of time and energy to multi-task. Find a way to decompress after achieving superhuman status. You can’t save everything and everyone if you are running on E. Listen to Health Coach, Jamie Raisleger, when she says, “Don’t act on what you think you need or should need. Be honest with yourself about those needs.”
- Problem solve: if something doesn’t work, find another way, and be relentless. I know you want everything to be perfect, but don’t put too much pressure on yourself to make it perfect now. The bulletin board can wait. Spend more time getting to know the hopes and dreams of your students. They’ll guide you to your next goal.
Adam the composer, from An American in Paris, gives great advice: “Life is already so dark, if you’ve got the talent to make it brighter…why would you withhold that?” You have the talent to brighten lives and take control of your energy. Don’t withhold your talents by not managing yourself more effectively.
Learn more about Tracy Bauer on her LifeChanger of the Year profile.TC100537(0418)3