(Photo Credit: Camdiluv)
Sometimes, life can get so busy that we function on automatic pilot just to get through our day. But wouldn’t it be great if we had a reset or a “clear” button, like the kind you find on calculators, just to wipe the slate clean and view our world with fresh eyes? After all, if you don’t reset your calculator prior to running calculations, the results will be off.
Here’s a quick exercise called the 3-Minute Breathing Space, adapted from psychologists Segal, Williams & Teasdale, to help you quickly reset:
Step 1: Find a comfortable seating position. Sit up straight, but not overly rigid, in a chair or on the floor. Close your eyes. Now, ask yourself:
- What is my experience at this moment?
- What are my thoughts?
- My feelings?
- My physical sensations?
Just acknowledge and notice your experience, without attempting to change it in any way, even if it is unpleasant or unwanted.
Step 2: Gently direct your attention to your breath, perhaps noticing the sensation of the air as it moves across your nostrils for each inhale and exhale. Use your breath as an anchor. You will likely find your mind wandering, and this is normal, just continue returning your attention to the experience of your breath in this moment.
Step 3: After doing this for a minute or two, expand your awareness beyond your breathing: examine your sense of your body as a whole, your posture, your facial expression. Perhaps visualize yourself seated in the chair in the room. When you are ready, you can open your eyes and carry on about your day.
The task is not to see how long you can stay focused on your breath, but rather to repeatedly return your attention to the breath if the mind wanders. And trust me, it will wander.
Doing this exercise once daily, or even just now and then when you really need it, will help you to have more clarity and approach your day with greater awareness.
Remember, you can’t find the right answer if you haven’t first reset your calculators!
Source: Segal, Z. V, Williams, J. M.G, & Teasdale, J. D. (2002). Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy for depression: A new approach to preventing relapse. The Guilford Press.
It’s Native Heritage Month! Celebrate by turning an ear to the voices of our native students across the country.
We’ve compiled thirteen autobiographical poems by some of TFA’s Native Hawaiian, Navajo, and Lakota students involved in our student voices initiative, the Poet Warriors Project. Enjoy the teaser excerpts, click to read the full poems on the Poet Warriors site, print and share these stories with your students, and if you’re interested in publishing your classes with the Poet Warriors Project, find out more here!
1. “I don’t act like a Navajo
But on the inside of me, there is a true blood of Dine girl” -Odessa Begay
2. “He is struggling to get loose
The starry black night being splashed
With the color orange yellow
Painted like a painted canvas.” -Alec Lewis
3. “A little girl waking
up with her family on a ranch.
A pink house full with a stove
and wood. Cooking blue corn mush
with my light in their eyes” -Talia Garmendez
4. “Seen evolution
Through an old man’s eyes
Sometimes I feel that it’s disguise
No one notices
The tide rolling in” -Cloe Parks
5. “I remember my brother well” -Sheridan James
6. “The mesas are golden,
And the landscape is orange.
The sun sees our Navajo Nation reservation.” -Lain Johnson
7. “As I look at the bright beautiful sunset in the reservation,
I see the bright sun go down
I hear the chirping and the laughter of
Moms, dads, aunts, uncles, and cousins.” -Michael Toldeo
8. “When she walks
And a Gary Stewart song is on,
It matches here.
When she was young,
She use to go to the Rez dances,
And used to dance with all
The cowboys” -Selvina Pletero
9. “When they came
They took our land.
They took aloha.
They took the queen.” -Shayla
10. “I remember
When I used to watch her weave
small rectangular Navajo rugs
When she laughed so hard that she cried” -Nathania Tom
11. “My dad believes I could do anything in my life
And get out of the reservation.” -Dallason Davis
12. “I don’t know any other place that I would like to be
I am not ashamed about where I come from” -Alec Lewis
13. “The Navajo Reservation, it has brown flat land
And in the distance, red mesas.
While I sit in the old tower I see a stampede of brown, white, and black
Horses.” -Taneika Ashley
Photos by Poet Warriors creator, Emily Southerton. Photography taken while collecting poems from Teach For America students in Kailua Kona, HI, the Navajo Nation in Crownpoint, NM, and on the Pine Ridge Reservation in Kyle, SD.
(Photo Credit: lisaclarke)
I recently received the following in an email from an alumnus who stayed to teach for a third year:
“I am very interested in finding a way to create a sustainable, healthy lifestyle as a teacher. I want to both be an excellent teacher and to have a healthy, balanced personal life – I figure that is the only way I can succeed as a teacher in the long term.”
This is a great goal. Teaching is an incredibly difficult profession. As a first and second year teacher, I remember feeling like there was always work I could be doing. If I let myself, I could literally work around the clock and I still wouldn’t be able to accomplish everything that I felt needed to be done.
In order to make teaching a sustainable pursuit it’s important to approach teaching as a marathon, not a sprint. Coping with non-sustainable strategies is self-defeating, they simply cannot be maintained. For example, when I was teaching, one strategy I adopted was to stay up late working on lesson plans. As a result, I would get very little sleep. I quickly realized that I was actually performing worse in the classroom because I was not getting adequate sleep. I had to force myself to adopt the habit of making sure I got at least seven hours of sleep each night. Taking time to set up good habits now can help you handle the stress and pace of the school year.
Consider the analogy of preparing your classroom for the school year: you take pain-staking care to set up your classroom just the way you want it before the first day of class, building a tone in your classroom to create organization and structure that will help you to be successful.
Similarly, you need to take care to set up a structure that will allow you to manage the stress of this school year. If you set in place healthy habits and a workable routine now—such as eating right, exercising, finding time for yourself—you’ll be better able to maintain that routine when it’s “go time” during the semester.
I make few guarantees because I know better, but I will guarantee you this: taking some time out of every day for your own self-care will make you a more successful teacher.
How you set up your life for success is really for you to decide. Whether it’s hanging out with other corps members, going for a run, finding a spiritual/religious community, meeting someone not in an education profession, napping, checking out your Facebook newsfeed, taking a moment to just stop and breathe, or watching reruns of Modern Family, the important thing is that you make time for self-care. This is a marathon, not a sprint, so plan to take care of yourself in the best way you know how.
To answer the question posed by the alumnus who emailed me—in order to create a sustainable lifestyle as teachers, we must make time for activities and routines that rejuvenate us.
How do you make time for self-care during the school year?