Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Finding Balance in the Midst of Chaos

I teach high school students.  They can be a rough crowd by nature.  Their everyday gruff exteriors can pack a punch on the mental stability of your average high school teacher.  They have just about the worst diets imaginable, are burdned with baggage that would make you cringe or cry, and have all the hormonal angst you and I remember from the days of our own potentially crippling teenager-ness. Yet, for some reason, I trusted the independent study Autos students to work on my brakes today. 

One of the brightest stars of my career is toiling away, as I type, trying desperately to get the job done perfectly.  He will be mortified if something isn't just perfect.  While I wait, wheeless, I opted for a run around the lake on the property next door.  I would usually be on my way home, but motorless as I am it seemed like the perfect thing to do with my time.  A mid day workout? Unheard of. 

The air is clean, the sun is bright, and the lake is glistening as the tiny waves ripple like sparkling diamonds.  It was the perfect chance to clear my mind before picking up the kids.  It is the perfect way to recharge from a stressful morning.  It was a serene moment to myself, the kind that happens all too rarely.  It was the kind of moment that made me start to think.  Uh oh. 

I got to thinking about the fact that moments like I just had are rare, but why? All teachers have planning periods.  We usually use one for lunch, and the other to plan, grade, or organize.  We tell ourselves it is our time to get our things together so we can face the rest of the day.  But in reality, there is no break, there is no least not for many.  I remember how my first few years of teaching came with the unwritten rule that eating at your desk was the way to self-fulfilment; that by pouring yourself into your job you would become the best teacher you could be.  In recent years I have come to feel differently. 

After I finished my run today, just a quick 20 minute workout, I felt rejuvinated.  I felt that if I had to work a longer day I could.  The time I spent oxygenating my muscles and centering my mind was the time I might have once used to 'get something done'.  By choosing more desk time, I was always choosing more stress, more anxiety, and more baggage. 

The husband often uses his lunch break as a time to go to the driving range, something that seems quite foreign to me. The idea of LEAVING the premises during the workday? It seems almost like breaking the rules.  I mean, how could I regularly excercise during the workday, even with the time desginated as my own?  I would finish the day sweaty and unkept.  How unprofessional would that be?

My answer to myself?  Very professional.  It would be the ideal way to show our students, many consumed by countless hours of video gaming and some who believe high fructose corn syrup is naturally occuring in all fruit (yes I really did have MANY students tell me that this year), that  healthy and successful adults do more than just work every second of the day. That part of what makes us successful is our ability to manage our time and the constant strive to maintain our own mental balance; neither of which is truly possible without dedicating time to living a healthy life (diet and excercise included). 

When my wheels were returned to me, my student asked why I had changed clothes.  "I went for a run", I told him.  "A run? Here?" he replied.  Yes, a  And I felt like a new and better person for it.