On Giving

And Recharging

Sometimes I think we forget how much we give as teachers. It is a service profession, not unlike being a member of the clergy, a nurse, and a day care provider. So, being in service to others can be taxing and emptying of oneself. This makes it all the more important that we learn how to recharge. Recharging during the school year is different from recharging during our mythical summers “off.”

During the school year, recharging is difficult to fit in, but all the more important. Taking a day on the weekend, or two half-days, to disconnect from your classroom is essential. Sometimes we fill that time with errand running, and thus don’t get much rest. Monday comes and we wonder why we are depleted, and Friday seems like such a long way away.

During the summer, we can fill the time with activities, and if we have children, they will do that for us. Swim meets (why do they all start at 6:00 a.m.??), birthday parties with friends, “vacations” to be with distant family (which don’t end up being relaxing for other reasons)… the summer is gone, and the school year starts and May seems like such a long way away.

As step one, what we need to do is figure out two things. First, what sort of activity is, for us, rejuvenating that doesn’t take very much time. Second, what sort of activity is, for us, rejuvenating that does take some time. The first we go to on the weekends, and the second we go to in the summers.

Those of us who care deeply about our teaching and our students, we are particularly bad at stepping away. We run the internal engine at such a high RPM during the year, we don’t know how not to do that over the summers. During the school year, weekends disappear like an invisible spider’s thread when you walk through it. Poof.

So the second step is to find how to do this. How to rev the engine down, and even leave it at idle for a time. There will always be things to do. I write this as I look, stuck to my monitor (as if that would help) a ToDo list. And that’s just the short-term ToDo list. Behind me is the long term list.

As for those things that are rejuvenating for you, I can’t tell you what those are. They are individual to you. But some common ones I hear are walking, reading, gardening, and watching a ballgame.

Speaking of ballgames, I am referring, in the summer, to baseball. Lots of people say: “I hate watching baseball. It’s so slow.” Two things to note about that comment: 1) yes, it is, and 2) that is it’s main benefit. It is no accident that baseball (as opposed to soccer or hockey - two fast sports) is the summer “American pastime.” Because it celebrates slowing down. It runs at a pace where it is possible to notice and savor a beautiful summer day.

So as for how to slow down your internal RPM, let me recommend a baseball game. Watch what the players are doing. They are working hard. It is intense. But the pace is slow. There is time for them to think (particularly the pitchers).

I was reminded of what baseball does for us on Father’s Day. I took my family to the ballpark, and spent extra for good seats. We took PB&J sandwiches and pretzels into the game. Refilled water bottles. The girls brought their boyfriends (nice guys, both). It was an absolutely beautiful day. Our team lost, but it was an excellent game and they were in it to the end. I made an extra effort to remember and savor going to a game with my family.

And I tried not to feel guilty about forgetting my ToDo lists.

What do you do to rejuvenate over the summers? Please leave a comment.

Leave a comment

Letters of Recommendation

Steve Martin is a polymath. There I said it. But he really is, isn’t he? An acclaimed standup comedian, SNL early cast member (“King Tut”), an actor (Planes Trains & Automobiles, etc.), a recording artist (with the banjo), and an author (Shopgirl, An Object of Beauty, Born Standing Up). My recommendation this week is that last item, his autobiography, Born Standing Up. An easy but joyous, interesting, and funny read.

Q of the Week

The Q of the Week this week is a Quote from Steve Martin:

The banjo is such a happy instrument--you can't play a sad song on the banjo - it always comes out so cheerful.