I had an epiphany today. Why do we not teach more about balance in schools? Actually I believe that it is a question I already know the answer to, but it really hit me how much of a disservice this is to our students and to those who are part of the teaching of our students.
Now when I am talking about balance, I am not talking about the balance needed to run or walk without falling over. I am talking about how to live life in a way where we are sure that we are taking care of ourselves and ultimately able to do what we need to do to be successful without burning out.
As an adult, I suffer from anxiety, depression, and currently a bit of burn out. I started this mindfulness journey to help myself conquer these ailments. Throughout this journey, I have found so many ways to help myself through the struggles and I always come back to…why didn’t anyone ever teach me about this when I was younger? Now, I don’t want to seem as though I am blaming my parents for this (they are great parents) but it seems as though my entire life really taught me the exact opposite. It seems like the message was always “do more”, “multi-task to be successful” and so on. As a woman, I think that these messages were louder and more pronounced as well. I am from the “you can have it all” generation where we were taught that working full time, being a mom, and being perfect in every way was just the way that it needed to be. However, as I sit here now as a mother of three, a middle school teacher, wife, daughter, sister, and so many other things depending on the time of day that it is, I am here to say that we have got to do it differently. We have got to send a different to message to our children!
So why is this not something that we teach in school? Let’s face it…it is where our students need to hear it. If I can be honest for a second and put my teacher hat on, I typically see two kinds of parents each year…the parents who push too hard and the parents who do not push hard enough. After 22 years of teaching, it seems as though there rarely are parents that fall in the middle any more. I have had parents who will say in a meeting that they just don’t know what to do to get their child off of the video games and their phone (really?). I also have parents who will ask for extra credit for their child who clearly is suffering from anxiety and pulling a 98% quarter after quarter.
Then, don’t get me started on our curriculum and what we are being asked to do as teachers. I know…rigor, rigor, rigor. However, with this uptick in rigor and all the new testing and less focus on the students and people, we are seeing an epidemic of things like anxiety, depression, and suicide in our students. We are also seeing more and more of our teachers quit the profession and face terrible burn out. Just last month, while sitting and getting my nails done (self care people!), I was next to a woman who was a teacher. The woman doing her nails asked her about her job and if she enjoyed it. The answer was… a pause… and then a very honest “I used to”. She went on to explain that she felt terrible for saying this, but she has recently discouraged her daughter from the profession. I told her that I understood everything that she was saying. What ensued was a conversation about how school and society has changed so much making a very difficult job to do.
So my push is for more of us to start taking a look at finding balance in our own lives and then taking what we have learned and teaching younger generations. Can you imagine if these students that are facing so many more and different challenges than we did learned balance? Don’t we have the responsibility to teach them how to use all of the technology we keep feeding them in a balanced way all the while learning how to be social with people face to face? Don’t we want our children to once again learn empathy from reading novels (please read my next blog on this topic!) and also learn a healthy balance of work and relaxation. While our society is talking more than ever about things like mindfulness, balance, and a need for self care, are we teaching our children what this actually means or are we just trying to sell them another thing? Let’s make it our mission to create a more balanced life for ourselves so that we can teach our future generations how to live there best lives.