I’m a workaholic. I love being busy, and I am ambitious, which is a recipe for long hours and a scenario that goes something like this: It’s 10 p.m. I haven’t eaten dinner. I have cupcakes to make. I contemplate running to an all night grocer. I get in the car. I forgot my wallet. I come home. I answer email. I end up chatting with my husband or one of my kiddos, and I look at the pile of dishes, the sticky notes of things I need to do for tomorrow, and the note on my hand to “Talk to B.” When I realize that I’ve forgotten what “Talk to B” stands for, I ask myself, “How did it get to this?” The fact is, there are many teachers just like me, and we all need to recharge.
I’d like you to think of recharging as plugging in to what makes us tick, and I’d like you to imagine that you are tethered, just as you are when your battery is low on your phone, and you are stuck waiting for the “low battery” warning to go away while your phone is plugged in. How can you recharge in a short time, as we do our phones? What can you do that will give you the charge you need to be able to return to school enthusiastic, energized, and ready to roll come September? I’ll be the first to tell you that I suck at this. I’m writing my blog, on the day it is due, after arriving at my summer job as director of summer school at 6:15 a.m. I’m squeezing it in before a doctor’s appointment and watching my son’s swim practice. I am too busy, and I bet you are too. So what can we do? Here are three things I’m going to try:
Forgo Social Media on Sundays
Social media is a curse and blessing, which we all know. As an author, speaker and union president, it is important for me to stay relevant and connected. My goal is to grow my Twitter (@MsAmberChandler) following to 5,000—a goal I set for myself four years ago when someone told me that was the “magic number.” Magic number for what? I don’t know. I’m hoping for trumpets and unicorns. However, social media is exhausting. I’m endlessly self-promoting my books and writing, and I’m OK with that because I think I have important things to say as a teacher leader. I am human though, and scrolling past so-and-so’s all-inclusive resort vacation while I envy my neighbor’s baby pool can make me feel like I'm on the wrong path. Reading about politics, scrolling through tragedies and following the ridiculous shenanigans of our government can lead to information fatigue. I’m going to try giving up social media on Sundays. Nothing exciting—just stay off of it. I think this little brain break will put me in a better place for the upcoming week.
As only a chronically busy person would know, I try to be productive during times I should really just be mindless. Back before I’d evolved (or devolved, depending on whom you ask), I used to blast music in my car every time I turned it on. Over the last several years, I’ve gotten into the habit of listening to audiobooks, catching up on calls (hands-free, of course), and basically working while I should be taking a breather. We recently took a road trip to North Carolina to visit my parents, and somewhere on our 14-hour journey my family and I decided to take turns picking songs and blasting them. This was mainly because we were sick of each other, but it was cool to hear the eclectic combination of songs. “Mountain Song” (me), “Paradise by the Dashboard Light” (my husband), “Baby” (my daughter) and “7 Years” (my son). We’ve been doing this ever since we returned, and it has turned into a fascinating family tradition that relaxes all of us. Find your jam, and roll the windows down. You’ll have time for your educational podcast later!
If you haven’t guessed, I’m also a perfectionist—a trait I also find among my teacher friends. This summer, give yourself permission to slack. We all have an A-game to bring in the fall, so I’m reminding myself to lower my standards and expectations for the summer. I was musing about this recently when my daughter said, “Sometimes the B-game is plenty.” Light bulb moment! I can bring a B-game potato salad to a party, and it will still be eaten and enjoyed. I can wear a B-game outfit if the laundry is overflowing. I can even bring my C-game to explaining “infinity” for the fifth time to my kiddo. We don’t have to sparkle every moment, and if we want to, we can even sit out a game—be a no-show if you want to, quit the club you aren’t committed to, and cancel that class you don't really feel up to. We just need to forgive ourselves and know that we absolutely kill it for 10 months, so taking a few weeks to just lower our expectations in general will make for a great summer and a saner September.