#ForwardBloggers

This Blog Isn’t About Teaching

11025712_10102531285889658_8337106593222034264_nrachel.klein@jefferson.kyschools.us
@RAKlein6

This has been one of my busier summers as a teacher- I’ve taken on taken on blogging, attended and helped with parts of JCPS’s Deeper Learning Symposium, participated in Twitter chats, and worked almost daily on a professional project that will continue to consume my time for a long while. However, I recently spent several days with my brother and parents in the remote woods of Vermont and a few small towns in New Hampshire and Maine. It wasn’t too hard to fall into full-on Summer Teacher Mode, and it was amazing to me how easy it was to not really think about…anything.

It felt really good.

On one of our days together, we embarked on a short hike in Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Park. We made sure to select a trail that wasn’t too strenuous, but would provide scenic views and time to talk about anything and everything. A short hike became a long hike when we realized that we wanted to take a leisurely stroll around a pond off one of the trails. And then check out the stunning view of Woodstock, Vermont from atop the trail. And then take the advice of a woman who said it would “only be a short trip down the other side of the mountain and back into the town.” (20 switchbacks and another 3 miles later, it was far from short).

Along the way, we saw several felled trees that were carved with unique phrases or sayings. To me, most were too vague or generic to feel moved by them, but I felt like I should think harder about the one that said “these trees shall be my books”. My first thought was “yeah, duh, books are made of paper, which comes from trees. Surely there’s more to this.” So I searched for deeper meaning in the simplistic phrase. To be away from the lights and sounds and conversations of life in larger cities and really enjoy the sights and sounds of nature is to retrain the mind to slow down, to observe, and to be more in touch with our survivalist ancestors. They had no choice but to learn from the trees (or flowers, or herbs, or footprints left by animals), to take time to find the lesson in every moment.

Ever the hasty one who thinks she knows herself and her feelings unwaveringly, I am now sitting here realizing that I didn’t just think about “nothing” during this time in New England. Even while I initially thought that this time away from my regularly scheduled life allowed me to wallow in nothingness and simple thoughts, this is far from the truth.

I re-learned that I should always be aware of signs, and that we humans should trust our guts more than we do. In this case, I should have paid more attention to posted trail lengths. I should also pay more attention to signs from the universe. I should pay attention to warning signs when my students aren’t themselves. I should listen to my mind and body when they give me a sign that something’s not right. Awareness of these messages makes me a more vigilant citizen, mom, wife, and teacher.

I relearned that I should give myself a break sometimes, and that to “think about nothing” is to reset, refresh, and rejuvenate. This is so crucial in the classroom, and it’s a great reminder to give growing, stressed, and eager minds a brain break every once in awhile. If teacher/momma/papa/assistant principal lets their hair down with a glass of wine because it was “just that kind of day”, why do we think kids are any different? (FYI, I am not advocating for giving kids wine. Maybe a juice box or a new coloring book.) I am not the perfect mother, teacher, wife, daughter, or friend, but I know I’m better at any one of those roles if I take the time to give myself a break to get my head back in the game.

I re-learned that I should celebrate the power of simplicity. Simplicity doesn’t mean that something complex isn’t hiding behind it. To slow down and look at a simple flower is to take time to appreciate the intricate whorls and the dusting of pollen grains waiting for a bee. To observe the simplicity of a student inviting a shy person to eat lunch with them is to celebrate the profundity of a growing and aware young mind that knows that someone else might really need a friend. To share a simple meal with my family is to take the opportunity to look at my child and delight in her tinkling laugh, and to look over at my husband and see him grinning right back at me.

I relearned that I should give myself a break sometimes, and that to “think about nothing” is to reset, refresh, and rejuvenate. This is so crucial in the classroom, and it’s a great reminder to give growing, stressed, and eager minds a brain break every once in awhile. If teacher/momma/papa/assistant principal lets their hair down with a glass of wine because it was “just that kind of day”, why do we think kids are any different? (FYI, I am not advocating for giving kids wine. Maybe a juice box or a new coloring book.) I am not the perfect mother, teacher, wife, daughter, or friend, but I know I’m better at any one of those roles if I take the time to give myself a break to get my head back in the game.

As teachers, we must remind ourselves that innovation doesn’t always come from that which is new or novel, but from re-learning and re-tooling a method that simply needs to be dusted off and given a new coat of paint. Being the life-long learner sometimes means allowing ourselves to learn from observing someone else, reflecting on a lesson gone bad, or walking away from a familiar (but flat) approach until we’ve reached renewed clarity. So, fellow educators who are in Summer Mode, Already-Back-To-Work mode, or anywhere in between, remember that it can be incredibly rewarding and beneficial to retreat from reality every now and then. You’ll come back to earth soon enough, but with a totally restored perspective on it all.

Listen to the trees, that glass of wine, or whatever it is that takes you away from it all. They’re definitely trying to tell you something that you need to hear.