Monday, 12 September 2011

The Value of Down Time

The new school year is a week old, and what a week it was. The excitement of staff and students returning to schools is always tempered by related anxieties and stresses like organizing into classes, meeting various requirements relating to class size and composition and generally just getting the year off to a good start. There have been some long days, and given the current realities, there are likely more of them to come.

Fortunately the weekend brought beautiful weather - just the ticket for folks to get outside and enjoy some restorative recreation. I spent the weekend at a golf course - not playing mind you, but running a mower and caddying in the club championship. I enjoy the solitude that working on the course affords and the caddying gave me a chance to watch better golf than I can play.

The decision to caddy rather than play was easy. Caddying is interesting but not particularly stressful. Playing is a whole other story. I get more than enough stress all week at my regular job. Hitting a little white ball might sound cathartic, but searching for it in the woods or standing over a three foot putt is not. For educators weekends need to include some relaxing downtime - activities that allow us to recharge and re-energize in order to come back to the new week ready to roll.

There's always the temptation at the beginning of a school year to immerse oneself into the job. There's an upside to such efforts. They allow a person to be incredibly organized and informed. The downside is a single minded focus that can lead to the exclusion of everything else. The old slogan "All work and no play......." still applies! Finding a healthy balance is essential.

If the school year is like a long distance run, then September is its sprint start. Like any race however, a fast start is important but finding a sustainable pace is critical. So be prepared, but also take some time for yourself. September is an exciting high energy month, but value time away from the job too! That downtime might be just the thing that keeps you going strong long after the initial rush of September has faded.

Sunday, 4 September 2011

First Day Jitters

Tuesday will be the first day for students of the 2011/12 school year. For some students it will be an exciting adventure, a chance to be see old friend or meet new ones; some thing to be looked forward to. For many others school represents a huge source of anxiety.

For years I related well to the first group. I loved the first day back. School was fun and easy. I cruised through decades of first days, first as a student, then as a teacher and now as an administrator. If I had trouble sleeping the night before opening day it was the sort of sleeplessness one has before exciting occasions like Christmas. I never understood folks who lamented the end of summer like they were losing their best friend.

Until this year. This year is a little different. This year we are all starting the year under the cloud of job action, and for the first time, I have a better sense of how folks who are anxious about going to school truly feel. Let me be clear. I'm not expressing an opinion about the current state of teacher bargaining. Labor relations are what they are, and the current situation is all part of how the system works. All I'm suggesting is that this year, due to new and different circumstances, I'm more alert to the anxieties that many people feel with the annual approach of a new school year, and its unsettling, to say the least.

That the current labour situation will one day be resolved is certain. It's also a certainty that every year lots of students  enter school, not with eager anticipation, but with nervous energy or even a sense of dread. As this year starts we can do a lot to ease the anxiety of others. Our education system, with all its quirks and circumstances, is one of the best in the world.  As this year unfolds it's important that we support one another,  both those who are looking forward to coming back and those who are more than a little anxious. Taking care to connect with others we can all accomplish great things, maybe even quiet those first day jitters and make school a better experience for everyone!