A New Year: A New Beginning with an opportunity to self-soothe and feature self-care as your new approach to wellbeing. Practice this now before the days turn to weeks and the weeks to months. Start this loving kindness meditation slowly, introducing new components each day. You do not think you have time? Why not use 10-15 minutes of your planning time? Start this year with loving kindness in your heart, showing tremendous compassion for yourself. This link leads you to some wonderful audio work based around Loving Kindness Meditation. Take in a bit at a time but use this as your go-to tool for avoiding stress.
Loving Kindness Meditation – The Healing Power of Love. Introduced by Jack Kornfield, the healing power of love meditation redirects our energy to those parts of the mind and body that are most affected by stress. Accept this gift as an olive branch, reaching out to you with the tools you need to practice self-care. Once you feel comfortable, teach it to your students. They, too, feel the ramifications of a worldwide pandemic that does not allow them to hug their BFFs.
To get you into the mood, read the excerpt below from an article by teacher John Spencer, who expresses his feelings that most of you will identify with… Finding Renewal!
Teaching is exhausting. There is the sense of presence you need, the constant energy you bring, the give and take between students, the conflicts you must navigate, the sense of pressure about the tests or workload and the tension between what you believe about learning and what the system requires of you.
This is especially true during this quarantine. Teachers have faced the challenges of a constantly changing context. Some have shifted from virtual to hybrid and back to virtual again. Others have taught virtual lessons and spent eight hours a day in front of a video screen talking to what often feels like a void of blank black screens. Educators have been experimenting and reinventing their teaching practice. Their moving through so many new iterations and trying to discover what works. It can feel like being a new teacher all over again. Many teachers I talk to describe the challenges of teaching from home while having kids at home or the difficulties in trying to keep work and life separate when the spaces are the same.
Meanwhile, we have all experienced some level of trauma. Some teachers have lost loved ones to Covid-19 or faced huge financial hardships. Others have delayed weddings, missed out on graduations, or delayed visiting friends and family. Many of us are missing live music or fun dates or dancing or sporting events. During the holidays, many of us were not able to see our families. Even if you love teaching, it can feel draining right now. And here we are back at it again.
People say that teaching is a marathon and I think they are right. Even when you finish a marathon and you cross the finish line and you receive that medal and you are crazy proud of your accomplishments, you still find yourself collapsing on the ground in exhaustion.
That is what winter break was for many of us.
I mention this because I sometimes see a narrative that the “good teachers” are the ones who spend their winter breaks in professional development or in committees planning out lessons. It is easy, as teachers, to get sucked into the martyr syndrome, believing that you should selflessly give everything you have because you are doing it for the children. I call this the “superhero myth.”
Martyrs are not any good to kids. Students need teachers who are energetic and patient. However, this requires rest and restoration. Moreover, students need teachers who are passionate about the content they are teaching, which is why it is a positive thing when teachers spend part of the winter ‘geeking out’ on history or art or math or science. If we want kids to fall in love with reading, it helps to have teachers who spent a part of their winter lost in a fictional world or playing around with ideas in a non-fiction book.
Teaching is an exhausting gig. It is okay to take a break for a week or two (depending on your school calendar). Read a book. Watch movies. Go hiking. Swim. Binge watch Netflix. Kick the soccer ball around with your kids. Go hiking. You have poured your heart and soul into this gig. You should never feel guilty for resting. It is what your students need.
In fact, there’s a ton of interesting research in the book Rest, that suggests we are more productive and more creative when we spend time resting.
This idea is echoed in an article, where author Thomas Oppong wrote:
According to research, the brain gradually stops registering a sight, sound or feeling if that stimulus remains constant over time. You lose your focus and your performance on the task declines.
When faced with a long creative problem, it is best to impose brief breaks on yourself. Brief mental breaks will actually help you stay focused on your task and improve your idea generation approach. A structured downtime can help you do your best work.
We tend to generate redundant ideas when we do not take regular breaks. If you are hesitant to break away because you feel that you are on a roll, be mindful that it might be a false impression. Your brain needs downtime to remain industrious and generate better ideas.
I love that idea. We need to rest. We need restoration and renewal. Let’s try to apply these ideas to this term, in school. Come back and re-read the articles listed here about REST and practice mindfulness through loving kindness meditations. Welcome to 2021. May this be the year this curse is lifted from all our collective shoulders. May this be the year we all learn to practice Loving Kindness Meditation while we learn to rest and take well-earned breaks!
Poem by Kitty O’Meara – Relevant to Today’s Times
And people stayed home
and read books and listened
and rested and exercised
and made art and played
and learned new ways of being
and listened deeper
someone met their shadow
and people began to think differently
and people healed
and in the absence of people who lived in ignorant ways,
dangerous, meaningless, and heartless,
even the earth began to heal
and when the danger ended
and people found each other
grieved for the dead people
and they made new choices
and dreamed of new visions
and created new ways of life
and healed the earth completely
just as they were, healed, themselves.
If you have not already talked about this simple, yet beautiful poem, with your students, what a nice opening activity to welcome them back to a new year. Sadly, you cannot welcome them back to a COVID-free 2021. But it is a great time to have them stop and think about what they have learned since living through 2020 – a year that changed the whole world.
Responses could be written spoken, sung, or acted out. Collaborative Teams of 3-4 work best! Kids need chances to talk about their feelings and ways to cope for 2021!
An intense month of fun, engaging activities that can spark all kinds of creativity, critical thinking, collaboration and strengthen listening and communication skills. And the People Stayed Home screams of reasons to develop a sense of self and society. This unit can be integrated into Music, Dance, Drama and Visual Arts, as well as Religion/Character Education, Health and Wellbeing and Social Studies/History. It would take, very, little to include Science too.
January is a great month to be reminded of the simple beauty and appreciation, people worldwide commented on, when making this poem, viral. This is a great month for reflecting and looking ahead to adapt healthier habits. Be sure to look at the January page at the ArtsAround site to honour some, or all, the events occurring in the month of January. Let kids work on a hobby they love at school. Or let them invent and experiment (there is your Science theme). Prepare kids for Compliment Day on January 24th. Get the whole school featuring ways to give heart felt compliments, all month long.
Why not prepare materials or links or ideas, for parents, for Family Literacy Day on January 27th? Some ideas might be reading Winnie the Pooh stories together, like Winnie the Pooh and the Royal Birthday (17:23 minutes) or reading and discovering books About Penguins. Or try one of the books on this Penguin Books for Kids list or watch BBC’s Best of Penguins (17:02 minutes). Kick this month out of the ballpark and you are well on your way to a healthier, productive year, making sure you find renewal by practicing kindness meditations, too!