As we ease into Labor Day weekend, many educators, who have not started school this week, have already begun the mental preparations necessary for the start of the school year. This is the weekend when we try to cram in all the fun activities that we enjoyed doing over the summer one last time! As technology becomes more entrenched in our practice, we’ve already started using our devices to get school work done from home, often multitasking as we spend time with friends and family. I myself have just said goodnight to my kids and as they drifted off to sleep, I logged into our school website to upload one or two docs that just got emailed to me from my teammates. My instinct is to bang those things out now so I can relax later. I have to be mindful of the trap that this thinking may set for myself. Whenever we put off leisure time to tick off a few more lines of our to-do list, we are squandering precious time that could be devoted to being present with our loved ones, to enjoying a hobby that keeps us youthful, to exercising, or even to just having some much needed solitude. While being effective at my job brings me great satisfaction, I must also keep in mind that my family, my tech hobbies like keeping this blog, my running, and my reading for pleasure bring me immeasurable satisfaction as well. As we begin another school year, we educators must remember to “sharpen the saw,” that is, keep ourselves sharp by paying attention to the things that make us whole.
When we are mindful of the need to detach from work after giving ourselves fully to it for the day, we will be better able to coach our students to adopt this mindset as well. Many students struggle under the weight of expectations and have difficulty knowing when or how to shut off the working mind to save a little mental capacity for family, friends, hobbies, fun, exercise or even just alone time. So as you mentally prepare yourself to re-enter the lives of students, and you spend some time polishing your syllabi this weekend, delineating your expectations for excellence for your students, remember to shut it off and dedicate yourself to the moments you have for yourself. And when those students come through the doors next week, let them know that your high expectations include expecting them to forget about you as their teacher and your subject after a certain time each day. Let them know that you encourage them to dedicate time each week to the art of keeping it all in balance. They will appreciate you and and your class even more if you live by your own example.