Dave, or as I commonly refer to him, my hero and soulmate, read an article to me in a recent magazine about advice for women going through breast cancer. The timing was so appropriate, as I go in to the hospital in three days for the last (I pray) surgery of reconstruction. We have been living the “breast cancer life” since my diagnosis in early May (just after my mammogram, which I will again remind everyone that the squishing is worth saving your life).
The advice was something like this, with a bit of my own suggestions built in:
I was boarding a flight a little while ago, called Dave at work, and told him I was absolutely so grateful for all he has done, is doing, and will do for me. I pray for him a bunch, as it is true what people say about the spouse likely having just as tough a time, if not a tougher time, as the patient. We’re living proof---I was dopey and sick after the last surgery, but at least I didn’t get thrown up on. J
As I travel up to one of my favorite training spots in the country to work with some of my favorite educators ever, tomorrow, I began to see the analogies the above advice has to teaching. Trust me, I am not making light of breast cancer. As a survivor, I take it enormously seriously. I also take educating our students pretty darn seriously and hope you can stick with my analogy. I love analogies. They’re like a bridge to understanding something better by comparing it to something else. (See how much I love analogies?)
Here is my revised version of the above list for beginning teachers, seasoned teachers, educational leaders, or anyone thinking of going into the education field.
1. Don’t negotiate with the must-dos. In other words, keep your eye on the prize. What is that prize to you? I hope and pray it has something to do with being the best educator you can be. I can’t get enough of Robin Williams in “Dead Poets’ Society” when he talks seriously to his students about finding their verse. He is initially speaking to them of poetry, but what a life lesson for us all. At the end of your educational career, or at the end of your life, WHAT WILL BE YOUR VERSE? Watch the clip---it’s worth the minute and a half it will take you.
2. Lean on your partner for support. I remember when I was single and starting out teaching, my dear, sweet mother would sit on the bed with me at night, helping me cut out laminating, sort books, count out cards for an activity I would do the next day. Now, Dave is the one who hears my frustrations when I want to do better and to be better. He also hears me say, after a day of training, “It was the best day ever!!” to which he frequently replies, “They can’t all be the best day ever.” But if we are both being honest, I said that a good bit the first few years I was a principal. Yes, budget woes and mandates can get us down, but leaning on the best soulmate you have can cure what ails you!
3. Count on your teammates for support----I cannot stress this enough in teaching. We need to be completely finished with empty hallways with closed doors where no one collaborates and shares good ideas. Telling funny stories together as a faculty, sharing a good professional book in a book study together, and simply visiting each other’s rooms can make the difference between feeling isolated and feeling validated.
4. Acknowledge it’s hard but try to focus on the positive as much as possible. I used to talk with teachers, (and now do the same with teachers, principals, and superintendents) about the futility in complaining. Sticking with the winners is good advice in every aspect of your life, but hanging out with people who constantly complain is like drinking poison. It will only make you sick and it won’t solve any of your problems that collaboration and being there for one another can!
5. Pray, if you pray. Meditate if you meditate. Put good stuff in and you will likely get good stuff coming out. In educator terms, we like to say teachers need to feed their souls. What does that mean? Listen to uplifting music, hang out with people who uplift you, put verses or sayings in each other’s mailboxes. I got a chance to teach in a Christian school a couple of weeks ago. The principal had us all say a prayer before I began teaching (and I need all I can get), saying things like, “We pray to hear the ideas that will help us become better at educating the students in whom God has entrusted us.” YES!!!
I covet your prayers for my upcoming surgery and promise my own for the incredibly complex and challenging work you do every day in schools across the country and beyond.