Educators. Students. Community members. Much more unites us than divides us, particularly knowing we all wear multiple hats. Building relationships. Thinking BIG.
Challenging and supporting one another. Developing engaged, empathetic citizens. Please join me in pondering how best to nurture these common ground connections.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

A New Year's Letter...To My Department

Happy Belated New Year! :)

I was so happy to hear you all enjoyed your breaks. I did too; I just could've used a bit more time. That's always the case, though. I will share that it was actually quite jarring for me to see the calendar turn to 2015. I’m not one who gets wrapped up in New Year’s Resolutions or gets upset by time passing. I am a very reflective person, and I’ve naturally somehow always done a pretty good job of deciding when to make life changes for myself. Or at least to recognize when I haven’t made necessary changes and then try to do something about it. ;) But I will admit, this year caught me off guard. The reason? Because I remember so vividly being in grade school when the teacher asked us to write a story based on the following prompt: “What do you think the world will be like in the year 2015? What will it look like, sound like, smell like in the year 2015? What will your life be like?” "What?" I thought. "2015?! Whoa!" That year seemed so far away to me. I remember my first thought being, “It’ll be so cool! Like Star Trek!” Needless to say, the world isn’t exactly what I imagined it would be. Both in good ways and in not so good ways...

One area I’ve been concentrating on this year—stemming from personal reflection—is providing equitable opportunities for our students. I’m becoming aware of how I’ve contributed to the inequities that exist in our society, whether knowingly or unknowingly, and I'm trying to do something about it. We’re certainly not where we ought to be when it comes to racial and gender equity. Nowhere close. So I’m thrilled that we have part of our department goals focusing on trying to remedy that tragic situation for our students.

With that said, one of the quotes that caught my attention over this past weekend was from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. “Life's most persistent and urgent question is, 'What are you doing for others?'” I love this quote. It’s so true, in my opinion. It is an incredibly urgent question, one that everyone should be asking themselves. And it made me think of all of you.

On an hourly basis, I see you scraping the barrels of your physical, emotional and intellectual energy to figure out how to motivate, energize, connect with, support, heal, educate, awaken, reach, challenge, affirm, and inspire your students. I hear the overcaffeinated dialogue and see the accompanying sleep-deprived walks to your desks and to your classrooms. And I think to myself, “The very last thing I ever need to ask these people is “What are you doing for others?” The very last thing ANYONE should ever ask my science people is “What are you doing for others?”

Instead, as your Director, it’s become crystal clear that the urgent question I need to ask you is, “What are you doing for you? What moment each week do you give to yourself? An hour? 30 minutes, even? When each week do you play at something that has NOTHING to do with others? Nothing to do with children, students, significant others, family, friends, responsibilities, school, etc. Just YOU! (Oh boy. I can see the eyes rolling now...)

Don’t laugh! I hear the humor in me saying this to you. The irony cuts deep. I’m a high functioning procrastinator who’s really competitive with herself, wanting to understand everything and do a good job the first time around. I hate simply checking things off a list and/or letting others down. This year, the work load for me has not even allowed for the possibility of procrastination, so I’m in a strange place. You haven’t seen me in a normal, dysfunctional way yet. So you have that to look forward to. ;) But since winter break, I really have made a concerted effort to put aside the time I need, the time I love, to work out. It’s the thing I do for me. And it feels great. I will be keeping this up.

Setting aside time for yourself...this, I believe, is the most important goal we can have as a department. It is the foundation upon which our physical, emotional and intellectual energies must rest in order to sustain ourselves for the long hall in the profession we chose, the career we love, whether we have three years left or thirty-three years left. So I challenge you all to check in with one another on a weekly basis. What did you do for you this week? And have an honest, deliberate response at the ready, even if it’s, “Damn. Nothing. I’ll do better next week.” Because we can only effectively and lovingly help the students who look to us for guidance if we first recharge ourselves physically, nourish ourselves emotionally, and challenge ourselves in a selfish—read “nerdish"—intellectual way. So please, put your oxygen mask on first. Always. Your loved ones need you. And our students need you. And I wouldn't mind seeing you around for a long while myself. ;)

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