Oxygen Masks and The Classroom

We’ve all heard the analogy from the airplane safety spiel… “Put your mask on first, before helping others.” The idea is that if we don’t have oxygen, we’re not any good to anyone else. And of course, when we hear the analogy, we all nod and think, “Oh, good point… I really need to take care of myself. Maybe I’ll make quinoa and tofu for dinner…” Let’s be real…. It doesn’t always happen that way. But, it really, really should.

Last weekend I attended a FABULOUS Nia and MELT (more on that later) retreat hosted by Kristie Bryant and Helen Terry at Soma Ranch in Montgomery, TX. I highly recommend visiting the Ranch. Great food, relaxing activities, serene environment, fabulous hosts, and great new friends! Taking this time for myself reminds me that, HELLO! I need “me” time. We. All. Do.

I really feel like a better person, when I’ve done things for myself that make me happy. I feel more enriched and I am able to share more of "me" with my family, work colleagues, and in my classroom. I feel like my students really do appreciate me more if I’m more relaxed and interesting. Kids like hearing that you’re a real human being, not just a teaching robot.

I totally get that the biggest obstacle is time. Even I can’t go away to a retreat every weekend… I can’t even do it every couple of months! But we all need something!

So, without further ado, here are some ideas to help you relax (and don’t take up a lot of time, but can, if you want them too!):

1. COLOR! I believe an underlying reason why we all teach is that we have a connection to our childhood, and one of my favorite things about being a kid was coloring. It was a combination of my sister-in-law and my book club that got me hooked into this “adult” coloring book craze. I’ve really been enjoying the books designed by Johanna Basford, but coloring books are a dime-a-dozen now, plus you can just print coloring sheets off the internet for free. There are even some coloring apps, like Colorfy for apple and android! This is a great activity you can do on your own, or with your kids. I really like to color and listen to podcasts, so I’m calm and learning something new at the same time. 

2. MEDITATE! Believe it or not, there are actually guided meditations just for teachers on YouTube. Just search “Guided Meditation for Teachers.” No kidding! And they’re SHORT! I really like one created by Bambi Thompson that she designed for a school district’s wellness day. (Can you imagine if at your next staff development, you got to meditate??) I realize that for some, meditation can feel hokey, (me included) but in my experience it takes a few tries. It's OK if you laugh at it the first 7 times or so! After that, you really do start to feel the benefits. 

3. DANCE! And, seriously, do it like no one is watching. Be Elaine! It’s more fun! Dance at home with the kids, your significant other, yourself. A Friday night family dance party sounds like a fabulous evening to me! I dance with my mom, my sister, the Swiffer, and sometimes my husband. And, one of the reasons I love my husband so much is that he supports me fully in my reckless dance sessions. I’ll tell him, “I’m going to go dance like a crazy fool upstairs,” and he responds, “Have fun. Don’t hurt yourself.” I love that he gets me....AND… Dancing is exercise! My all-time favorite workout is Nia (this is what I did on my retreat) Nia is this really cool aerobic workout. It mixes modern dance, with martial arts and healing arts (like yoga) into one cool package with really fun and funky music. I’ve been hooked since I was introduced in 2001! My favorite place to do Nia is Nia Moves in Houston Heights (guiltless plug, I know, but I love this place!)

4. TAKE A GOOD BATH! And, use the good bubbles, guys! I’m definitely a discount diva, but when it comes to soaking in a tub you’ve got to splurge on the nice stuff, especially if you’re like me with insanely sensitive skin. There’s nothing worse than coming out of the tub feeling like a dehydrated lizard. In a perfect world, we would be able to soak in one of those giant tubs with bubbles overflowing for hours while some muscular man refills our champagne glass… But guess what, 5-7 minutes in the tub feels just as marvelous!

5. VISIT WITH FRIENDS THAT AREN’T TEACHERS! Don’t get me wrong… I LOVE a good HH with my teacher besties, but have you ever left one of those gatherings and felt even more anxious and irritated than when you got there? You vent about the weird things the kids are doing, and that demoralizing phone call from a parent, and the demands of the test-driven world we live in… YIKES! So make sure you visit with your friends who do something different every once in a while, and ask them lots of questions about their day-to-day grind. They’ll feel like you really care, and you can secretly live vicariously through them…. 2 hour, expensed lunch! I want to go to there!

6. READ! We’re not talking children’s books here! I once met a teacher at a training that said she only reads the books her students are reading during the school year and during the summer she reads books for grown-ups. THAT. IS. INSANE. Sure you need to be aware of what your students are reading, but I think one thing about being a reading teacher is understanding myself as a reader. What do I do as a reader when topics are new and challenging? How do I tackle challenging words? What types of books make me want to quit my job and read all day? This is important! We could all use an escape through a good book, and that just isn’t going to happen for me if I’m reading Diary of a Wimpy Kid or Amulet. And to refer back to number 5, join a book club. I love mine! It’s sponsored by a fabulous independent book store, called Murder by the Book, and the members are from all walks of life. I get to talk about books, and I don’t have to think about school stuff for 2 hours once a month!

7. WRITE! Get a journal, jot your thoughts down before you go to bed. I have a fun 5 year journal that asks a different question for each day of the year. I’m on year three and it’s fascinating to see how my answers have changed, and stayed the same. Or… start a blog! There’s nothing quite like writing for 30 minutes about things you can do to relax and then realizing… I’ve got to go y’all! There’s a bubble bath and a good book waiting for me!