In October of this past school year, I started a new position as a Reading Specialist. While I knew that I brought with me a set of skills that would be beneficial in this role, I also thought about one bigger area of need that I would have to make a priority … and strangely enough, it connects with Self-Reg.
While most people would probably think of me as fairly social, I have to work hard to be this way. I find it difficult to enter conversations and even to begin discussions with people that I do not know as well. I almost find myself talking through in my head what to say to others, when to make a comment, and when I should just sit back and listen. Since the Reading Specialist role includes working with educators as well as students, I knew that I would have to overcome some of this social stress as part of this position. I realized that for every classroom I entered each day, I would have to balance both my connections with adults as well as with students. These informal conversations and professional development opportunities with colleagues brought me a lot of joy …
… but also led to a big question for me to contemplate —
How do I restore energy?
I keep returning to this great post on The MEHRIT Centre Website about The Five Practices of Self-Reg. One step is “restoring energy.” I often thought about my time as a classroom educator. While I didn’t leave the room a lot each day, you could usually find me either sitting in the hallway or over by the classroom door during nutrition breaks to take some quiet time for myself.
- I would listen back to video recordings from the day and write some mini-learning stories.
- I would eat my lunch.
- I would scroll through Twitter and Instagram, and often look for inspiration to share with my teaching partner, Paula, after school.
- I would look for possible provocations to use to align with student interests.
- I would just sit and think.
This quiet alone time was what I needed to restore my energy for the rest of the day. But in my current position, I’m faced with a conundrum.
How can I take this time for me, when I need to be there for others?
If I take the nutrition breaks as times to just sit quietly on my own, I miss the opportunity to connect, co-problem solve, co-plan, and reflect with colleagues. This time is important in my role, and it’s a key component of some of the informal PD, which is so valuable. I also know though that if we take care of ourselves, we can often share a much better version of ourselves with others.
What if there was a way to be both alone and together?
This had me thinking about how I might be able to find that quiet time that I need, without necessarily removing myself from everyone else. I started to do a couple of different things.
- I often worked and ate over at some of the counter spaces in the teacher workroom/photocopy room. This was a very busy space at nutrition breaks. As I got some of my own work done, I was also able to chat with educators as they came in to photocopy, collect supplies, and use the paper cutter.
- I sat at the empty table over in the staffroom. During COVID, many educators found different places around the school to eat. This seemed to continue this past year, and the staffroom was often one of the quietest places in the school. That said, many K-2 educators that I worked with, came into the staffroom at some point over the nutrition breaks. Often one table was more of a talking table, and the other table was empty. I found myself at the empty table. I could then do some work of my own and find a little quiet time, while also chiming in with conversations at the other table. Sometimes educators also came over to join me, and we could have discussions and do some planning together.
Starting in September, I will be at a different school. It will be time to form new relationships and connect with different educators and students. I know that I’ll still be seeking out a little time to recharge throughout the day, but I hope that I can continue to find ways to do so while still being there to quietly connect, plan, and reflect with colleagues. What are some ways that you might do this? I would love to hear new ideas to add to my personal toolbox as another school year approaches.