Sunday, August 14, 2011

Dolce far Niente

Over the last several months I've been mentally planning for a blog entitled something like: Why I Left Public Education. I had intended it to be a very credible and well-stated SLAM of the public education system. I would systematically expose how education has evolved for the worse over the last fifteen years - how much is expected of teachers and how the amount of documentation required leaves teachers no time to teach. I would wow you with my sugestions on how we might begin to improve "the system" so that it no longer sucked the soul out of teachers.

Until I realized last week that I was wrong. WRONG.

I know in my heart that of all the initiatives that filter down to the classroom are intended to be good for children. Really, even though teachers are being worked to death to support the diverse needs of an increasingly diverse population of children, working hard is necessary and the right thing to do. BUT! There is still ONE THING that the public school system is doing wrong consistently. The majority of public school leaders are not honoring nor are they supporting a DAY OF REST.

So many teachers find themselves working all weekend to complete what's been asked of them. Many, many teachers work for hours upon hours over the weekend. I found myself at a point last year that I would work for about eight hours on Saturday or Sunday. (This was in addition to the two or three hours I worked each weeknight after coming home and spending time with my family.) My anxiety on Sunday was so severe! What if I didn't get it all done? Sometimes I didn't. I would be such a wreck on Monday mornings!

Awhile back I started to notice a pattern on my facebook news feed. Sunday is the facebook day for "I don't want to go back to work" posts. What career has the most of those posts in general? You guessed it...teaching! Who wants to go back to work on Monday when you've been working all weekend? How can you be refreshed and inspired when you've been using up all of your creative energy with eight hours of planning on your time off? The human soul was never intended to work nonstop. We need time for our souls to catch up to our bodies! (Pastor Benji Kelley 2011)

One of my teacher friends stated it best a few years ago when she said, "Yes, I do understand all of my teaching responsibilities clearly. However, I also understand that completing everything that I have been asked to do in a timely fashion is impossible." She was so right! What I'm realizing is that I personally did not say no often enough. I was asked to lead this committee and mentor this younger teacher and spend time with this family who needs someone to model how to work with their children at home. It's all for the greater good!

But what about my greater good? What about my family? I matter! We matter!

You should be able to go to your supervisor and say, "I have taken on too much. I am concerned that if I do not take at least one day (maybe even two!) per week to rest, that I will not be able to do this job effectively anymore." That supervisor should listen. If you're not getting this type of support from your current employer, find another one who will. They are out there. I promise. I know because I found one.

Most of us are familiar with the concept that Europeans are far more laid back than we Americans are in this aspect. In fact, the Italians have a phrase "dolce far niente" which translates to "the sweetness of doing nothing." They believe that running yourself ragged as many of us tend to do is just plain ridiculous. And they are just plain right. While doing nothing is perhaps not always literal, it may mean lounging at the pool or playing checkers with your kids, it does mean taking a break from the working world. Folks, it's crucial. It's vital. It will save your life. I know because it's saving mine.

This week Seth Godin published a blog on wasting time. You should totally check it out because he is awesome: Wasting Time is Not a Waste. You may even want to subscribe to his blog or like him on facebook.

And if you wanna hang with God while you're wasting time, I highly recommend that you check out this sermon by my seriously awesome pastor, Dr. Benji Kelley. It will show you step by step how to actually accomplish this: Soul Sabbath.

Although I can tell you, if you choose to hang with God during your free time, it will be anything but a waste!

My love and prayers go out to all of my public school teacher friends reading this blog as you go back to school this week. You are making a difference! Just please, please, be sure to take care of your soul! YOU MATTER!

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