What an intense start to the school year! It’s not anyone one thing, but an accumulation that leads me to already feel I’ve been back for months. That sounds ambiguous (and possible negative!) as I write it…What I mean is that I already feel in the groove after 8 days of student time, in the groove with our new schedule and knowing the kids. I know I’m not the only one to feel it; I’ve heard it from administrators and faculty in both the Lower School and other divisions. I’m curious that it feels stronger to me than it has other years.
I’d like to think that it’s partially related to my focus on individual children. I am grateful to work at a school and directly with a team that prioritizes knowing kids. My co-teachers and I are also flexible. We overplanned for our first week, which is not surprising given that we didn’t know what we could do with our new community of fourth graders. What was great is that we quickly reassessed the time we had and our priorities, and we made changes to reflect our students’ needs.
I know it is easy for me to lose sight of self-care, and I wonder if that contributes to my sense of already being back for a long time. It has been easy for me the past couple of weeks to overlook my own needs, stay late at school, and get things done. I found myself grateful for this three-day weekend, and I spent the first day reading. Blissful heaven! Now as I sit reflecting, I realize that this is a good opportunity for me to strengthen my planning skills and build in the time that I need for myself, to set appropriate boundaries, and to better recognize when something can wait or needs immediate attention.
I feel a difference in myself since I started a regular gratitude journal 14 months ago. Even when I am overwhelmed or distressed, I can find things in my life for which to be grateful. My journal includes a daily photo, which pushes me to look for visual reminders in my day. This focus on gratitudes helps me acknowledge that while I can improve in my self-care skills, I am significantly more aware of it than I used to be.
This photo shows the community that we are building, not only in the fourth grade, but also with our kindergarten buddies. It reminds me of how I need to provide a variety of experiences for students to learn multiple aspects of who they are. One student, who tends to be impulsive, sat carefully designing and coloring his hand while conversing with a classmate … for more than 30 minutes. What an incredible insight that gave me, and now I’m curious to see when else it occurs.
This photo reminds me of the uniqueness of my students and the responsibility I have to be respectful of their gentle souls. I am honored by the trust placed in me by students and their parents. I recognize their willingness to be vulnerable in the conversations that we have. I strive to be vulnerable with them and to be present in every moment. I am grateful for all of these opportunities to grow as a person and as a teacher, and I appreciate the written reflection time I’ve committed to this school year.