Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Balance Doesn't Exist

Work/life balance is a silly question, just as work/food balance or work/breathing balance is - Seth Godin

Motherhood is an amazing and beautiful thing, but it's also really hard and humbling. As I write this at 4:30am, one of my kids just cried and my train of thought was interrupted. That’s kind of just how life is these days - Always on the precipice of a great idea or breakthrough and then my brilliant thoughts coming to an abrupt halt and I’m reminded that I need to make a bottle, fold laundry, read a chapter of a book, change someone's diaper, make a meal. Some of this - okay, probably a lot of it - is self imposed pressure, but it’s hard not to feel like I constantly need to make To Do lists and be doing something productive with every free moment in my day. For me, a lot of it is pressure to stay relevant in today’s culture and climate.

This past summer I pushed past the immense guilt of leaving my 2 year old and two month old for a weekend and, with the encouragement of my husband, went to ISTE in Philadelphia. One of the first conversations I had there was with a dear friend, Heidi Bernasconi, who is a dedicated, brilliant, and creative Science teacher in my district. She is also a mother and an inspirational pioneer in the AR/VR space. Throughout our conversation, we talked about how it feels impossibly hard to strike a balance between having a positive and influential presence on social media while also being a great mom, teacher, wife, etc. Personally, I don’t believe balance exists. Once I wrapped my head around not forcing myself to strike this unachievable balance in all of the various hats I wear, I felt less pressured to exist in each and every one of those spaces in the perfect capacity. Some days I need to be 100% mom. Other days, I have the space to be 30% teacher, 30% gym rat, 30% mom, 10% lazy and unproductive. These identities are fluid, as is the effort and energy I can put towards them. I’ve stopped trying to equally disperse my time among each role and started embracing the things that feed my soul and align with my values.

Another thing that Heidi and I discussed is how difficult it feels to stay relevant as a woman and working mother in an ever-evolving space such as ed-tech and Twitter, where there is an almost constant pressure to create content to have skin in the game. Time is now more scarce than ever before. For the foreseeable future, I imagine there will continue to be more on my plate as my kids near school age and become involved in various activities. Some mornings I’m fine with a 4:30am start but other mornings are going to be filled with toddler pillow fights and early morning ‘reading picnics.’ And I’m learning to be okay with the fact that not every moment of every day has to be a hustle. I will contribute to this space whatever I can whenever I can without worrying about an unrealistic balance. Even as I’m writing this, I know I am the type of person to put undue pressure and stress on myself to strive for perfection in every role that I occupy, but I’m still learning to be okay with being good enough instead of perfect.

You will soon understand that work is a rubber ball. If you drop it, it will bounce back. But the other four balls — family, health, friends, and spirit — are made of glass. If you drop one of these, they will be irrevocably scuffed, marked, nicked, damaged, or even shattered. They will never be the same.” ―Brian Dyson

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Love Them Even When They Fall Apart

“Remember, everyone in the classroom has a story that leads to misbehavior or defiance. Nine times out of 10, the story behind the misbehavior won't make you angry; it will break your heart.” 
- Annette Breaux: 

This quote is posted on the back of the staff lounge door at the Special Education summer school where I work. It reminds me that every single student I interact with has a story so much deeper than what I can possibly see or understand based on my 45 minutes per day with them. It is the phrase that forces me to breathe and think before reacting to a misbehavior. It is the very necessary pause that I need when faced with a challenging student.

I had parent teacher conferences yesterday. I usually don’t get too many parents, but the conversations I had were powerful and insightful. They added another layer to how I view my students. Hearing their stories, struggles and successes reminds me that kids enter our classrooms with so much weight on their shoulders. I so badly want to be and provide a safe space for them to let down their guards and exhale. The truth is that it can be incredibly taxing to keep it together all day. I see it with my two year old son. His teachers tell us that he is well behaved and how well he listens to directions. They say he is always patient and calm. Meanwhile at home, I see tantrums and whining and typical two year old behavior that, after a long day of ‘performing’ and keeping it together myself, gets under my skin. But then I realized that it’s simply human nature to keep it together until we are safe to fall apart. As humans, we have a tendency to show our undesirable traits to the people we trust the most. It’s part of unconditional love - You accept your children, students, spouses, friends on their beautiful days but also (and especially) their ugly ones.

Every misbehavior has a story. It is our responsibility as educators and parents to love them fiercely even when they fall apart. Show them how to safely identify and navigate the emotions so that we are equipping them with strategies they can employ in the future.