A third-year teacher had great, innovative ideas about how to help her English Language Learner students, but she was never given an opportunity to try them out. Finally, she decided to partner up with the teacher across the hall and just get started. As they gained ground with the ELL students, the administration took notice, offering them the opportunity to share with the rest of the team.
A churchgoer wished her church had a choir. She had been in show choir in high school and missed singing in public. She mentioned it to her pastor but was told her there wasn’t enough interest. She finally decided to get a few friends together and meet at the church on Saturday afternoons to sing and play instruments together. Over time others at the church started coming until the pastor had to admit that he had been wrong, and the group was invited to sing and play at the weekly service.
A woman told her husband for years that she would love to learn to speak French. For two years, she dropped hints around the holidays and her birthday about a French class at the local travel bookstore, and the French Cultivation Society that does movie nights, but nothing ever came of it. Finally, she confronted him. “I know you don’t want me to, but I am going to learn French! I’d like to sign up for this class.” Her husband looked at her, dumbfounded. “What makes you think I don’t want you to learn French? That class sounds like fun, you should do it.”
About a year ago, I was up to my ears in full-scale burn out. I hadn’t had a real break in months and the pace of work seemed to be ever-increasing. What I remember disliking the most about that time was how generalized my unhappiness was. Everywhere I looked was more work; I just couldn’t see the joy.
One Saturday, my son (who was 3 at the time) was standing on our coffee table wearing star shaped glasses, holding a crayon like a microphone, singing “Let it Grow” from the Lorax. I, on the other hand, was obsessively conveying some story to my husband about how something had happened and then someone said something and then something else happened (you know that story, I’m sure. It’s NEVER interesting.). He looked at me and said “Ok, I hear you, but right now- look at this.” and he physically turned me around to face my son.
Those of us in the helping professions (therapy, coaching, education, nursing, social work, etc) are really, really good at taking care of others…. and really, really bad at taking care of ourselves. We give everything we have to our clients and if we aren’t careful, we can end up wrung out and miserable.
This has to stop. And the first step is the hardest.
This was originally published on Quartz under the title “Contemporary society is tired and stressed because we’ve abandoned two ancient traditions”
It’s exhausting trying to make it in the middle class. Like a lot of people, I work outside my full-time job in the gig economy. This means that in addition to being a college professor, I do small, one-off jobs like writing articles and providing professional development to teachers.
The appeal of the gig economy is its flexibility: you can work anytime, anywhere. But for me, this often means that I fall into the trap of working all the time, everywhere. And that makes me really, really tired.
Last year I published an article in Quartz arguing that teacher burnout is one of the biggest social justice issues of our time. I really meant it. If our passionate teachers continue to burn out and leave education, our most vulnerable kids will suffer, the opportunity and achievement gaps will widen, and the health of our economy will continue to erode.
But do you know who else is suffering from burnout? Therapists. And that’s at least as important; burnout is so painful when you are passionate about your work. It feels like a major betrayal to the part of you that loves your role as the caretaker.
For three years I worked with hundreds of educators to create classrooms where students are better able to persist when their school work gets hard. As the standards are raised more students are struggling and many of our students are shutting down in response. We worked to shift mindsets so that students would believe that they could overcome these challenges, and would be willing to keep going when things got hard.
As is true with all work done in schools, some educators took it on, grappled with it, made shifts to their day-to-day life and had transformative effects. I’ve heard stories of students who had never worked independently before suddenly asking questions, finishing their work and doing revisions! Those stories are amazing and they make the work worth doing… but let’s not forget that there are also schools where nothing really changes. Though the schools have new data, classroom cultures aren’t shifting and students aren’t transforming. Why?
You know the old saying about how something can be “a blessing and a curse?” Well, I believe that this is always true. I often remind myself:
As an example, I am an introvert. Score! I have a rich inner life, I don’t need gadgets to keep me entertained, I don’t get hurt when people ignore me (because I don’t notice), and I’ve saved hundreds (if not thousands) of dollars on social outings. Blessing.
A friend of mine recently got an article accepted in the journal Science. That’s a BIG deal. When you get something into Science you are pretty much guaranteed a job at a research institution, or at least a really, really good post-doctoral fellowship. It opens big-time doors, for real.
This is one my very good friends and she does really interesting research. She DESERVES this break… and yet, when she was telling me her good news, it went like this:
Her: “You’ll never guess what happened! Remember that study I was doing about …?” <– that ellipse is for your sake. We researchers really go into detail.
Me: ‘Yes, of course!”
Her: “Well, my advisor suggested that we submit it to Science, but of course I NEVER thought it would get in.”
Me: “Right.” No, really. Like, 1% of things are accepted to Science.
Her: “BUT IT DID! I can’t believe it! It’s crazy… I really didn’t expect it to, but it got accepted. They don’t even want very many revisions!” That’s pretty rare.
Me: “That’s so, so great!”
Her: “I know!” then she seemed to lose a little steam. “It is, right? I’m sorry… I should have asked you about your work.” She looked down and then at me, nervously. She didn’t want me to feel bad about where I was, in light of her good news.
Me: “You’re SORRY!? Oh, no you are not! Awesome? Yes. Proud? Yes. Amazing? Yes! But SORRY? Oh, hell, no.”
This post was originally published on Quartz, on August 5, 2016.
I’ve never been an athletic or active person. My entire history of sports involved one season of track in high school and a brief flirtation with what I thought was a yoga studio but turned out to be more of a cult. But then, in my mid-30s, I had two children and gained 30 pounds. I was suffering from chronic back pain, and I knew something needed to change.
There was just one problem: When it came down to it, I didn’t really want to exercise. When my husband suggested I take up running, I said I’d do it if—and only if—a bear was chasing me. And yet, last fall, I did both a half marathon and a triathlon for the first time. How did I evolve from a self-proclaimed couch potato to endurance athletics enthusiast? I learned how to change my attitude.