#28daysofwriting Day 17: Work Life Balance

Why is it that great ideas come to me in my dreams but then elude my memory on wakening.  I had a perfect topic for my blog, I even remember writing it in my dream, but now there are just snatches of swirling half ideas, fragments of concepts floating just out of my grasp.

It is that point in the term, 4 weeks in, when my head is crammed with all the tasks that I need to do, all the conversations, emails, lesson plans, photocopying, presentations, that I start to dream about work.  So vividly that I am almost convinced that I have actually done some of the jobs on my endless list when I get to school the next day!   How many times do you say, “I’m sure I did that!”.  Maybe you did, in your dreams.

What is a dream? A dream is either:  a series of thoughts, images, and sensations occurring in a person’s mind during sleep   OR   a cherished aspiration, ambition, or ideal.

It is thought that the content of a dream is closely related to recent real life events which your brain seeks to make sense of or filter whilst it is resting as a way of clearing and relaxing and coping with life. Given that we live our lives in a whirl and we probably have little time to process during our busy days, sleep is the only time that our brains do have time to do that processing.

Recently, one of the questions on the FaceBook group NZ Teachers (Primary)  was how did teachers maintain some sort of work-life balance?  How did they fit in school, planning, family, exercise, eating healthily etc.  As you can imagine there were lots of responses.  All of them felt that school dominated, long hours, at school after school, before school, at the weekends.  But most talked also about making the effort to create “me” time, “family” time, “brain” time. We can’t keep on going and be effective teachers without providing our brains and our spirits without a space to regenerate.

One person added this warning,  “Remember Celia Lashlie’s last gift to the world… “I’d waited too long to look after myself and my body broke.”It is tragic, but I have seen too many friends and colleagues “break” because they don’t give themselves a break or they don’t feel that they can take a break given the pressures and the competition in the workplace.  I sometimes feel that it is just that – a competiton.  Who can work the hardest , the longest hours, start the earliest in the morning, leave the latest in the evening, give the most tutorials at lunchtime .  It becomes a vicious circle and it is dangerous.

When we don’t give our bodies and our brains time to recover, we get sick, we perform less well, we fail.  You owe it to yourself to make the time to relax in whatever way is right for you.  Training for the Oxfam 100km has actually helped me regain some balance.  Yes, it creates some time constraints but my head feels lighter, I think when I am walking, I talk, I relax,  I give my body a break from sitting over a computer, I get fresh air in my lungs and oxygen to my brain.  I guess I need to keep that balance once the big day is over!
What is your work life balance like?

#28daysofwriting Day 6: Rest Day

Hot on the heels of post 5 which was late, I am playing catch up with post 6!  The last one ended up taking me far more than 28 minutes because of distractions so I am determined to keep this one short!  It is an unashamed plug  and demand for money too!

Today is a rest day.  Not just a rest from work since it is Waitangi Day, but also a rest from walking.  This week (starting from last Saturday)  I have walked 85km.  I have a blister under my little toe which is sore.  Any advice on healing blisters fast gratefully received.  Tomorrow I will walk 20km and on Sunday we are walking 30km along the Waikato River Trails.

Why? I think I mentioned in my first post that I have committed myself to completing the Oxfam Trailwalk on 28th March.  I might also have mentioned it again in Post 3.  And in Post 4.  No apologies – training is taking up quite a lot of my time, energy and thoughts at the moment.

I am building up plenty of resilience (Post 5) and I think I am going to need it.  Big style!

poster from Human Rioghts Commision showing a child jumping in a river and with the words "Everyone is born free and equal in dignity and rightsBut the people we are raising money for have to show far more resilience than we in western developed countries can even imagine.  For us, it might be grappling with new approaches in teaching and learning, it might be managing that awkward class last lesson on a Friday afternoon.  It might be getting our own kids off to school, tidying the house, hanging the washing out, getting the car to the garage before we can get to work.  It might be grumpy colleagues, or it might be that idiot pulling out in front of us at a roundabout.  Of course, I am being a little frivolous and there are plenty of people in western countries who have to deal with serious issues at any time in their lives.  I am not saying that we don’t have to deal with family members or close friends with debilitating and life-threatening illnesses, or that people in western countries all have roofs over their heads and enough food in their bellies.  I know that there is poverty and need in all countries.  But I have travelled to some developing countries and I have seen poverty on a completely different scale.  All the things we take for granted; clean water, shelter, health care, education, safety from persecution – things that are enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, are not necessarily there for people in other parts of the world.  Oxfam works to provide aid but also sustainability, training young people, giving them lost skills which are culturally appropriate and consistent with the environment in which they live so that future generations can thrive.

So, and here is the plug – please consider supporting us as we walk 100km in good shoes and warm clothes, supported by friends and family to help those who often have to walk long distances in extreme weather conditions to collect water, food, go to school or escape persecution.

Here is the link to donate (you can even offset it against your tax!)

Our team for the Oxfam walk.  4 ladies.
Pat and The Posties

#28daysofwriting Day 3

teenage boy wearing a yellow and green football shirt sitting under a Trig point in New ZealandOkay. It is 11.30pm so I have just over 28 minutes to get this one done and dusted!  Here goes!

I know I said that I would write about our Oxfam walk preparations but we had a rest day yesterday and Sunday is too far away to remember!  I was tired, my legs were tired. That’s it.

Today my team mates all had an excuse not to walk.  All perfectly plausible, understandable and acceptable and as I have already said, they are already much better prepared than I am.  So I decided to go on my own.  Actually, I persuaded (with little resistance, I might add) younger son (aged 15) to come with me.  I was surprised because when I came home he was playing a computer game with his friends.  All in separate houses, on separate computers.  He does sometimes invite them to our house (or he goes to their’s) and they bring their computers and they all sit at their computers, stare at the screens playing the game and yet talk to each other.  They plan, they strategise, they negotiate and they fall out and then in again!   It is fascinating to listen.

But I am a mother and I am of a certain generation and even though I am relatively techy minded and I do understand the benefits of online gaming and all that sort of stuff, I still worry about how much time he spends on a screen.  How much time this summer break he has spent on a screen.  And I feel guilty.  I wasn’t here for four weeks.  And then I needed to work.  So he stayed on his screen.  And it was easy.  For me.

In the winter when he is playing hockey and football and training five times a week with matches on Wednesdays and Saturdays and homework, I can justify the times in between when he is on his computer games.  But in the summer, I struggle.

School starts tomorrow for him. Year 11.  NCEA Level 1.  NO MORE COMPUTER GAMES MIDWEEK!!!

So, he came out for a walk with me.  It was a pleasure having his company.  We talked.  We walked.  He ran!  We went further than he expected but he kept up and he didn’t complain.  And I actually think he quite enjoyed it!  10km.  One hour 40 minutes. Time with my boy.  Need to do that more often.

#28daysofwriting Day 1

So 28 minutes to write.  What about? I wasn’t sure how I was going to do this but yesterday when I was out walking the idea just came to me!  Amazing how being out in the fresh air, away from technology, the classroom, the housework and everything else that serves to distract me, helps me to formulate my thoughts.

Why was I out walking? Well, first of all because I love the outdoors and try to get out as often as I can (which is not as often as I would like) but secondly, and possibly more importantly, I have, mad thing that I am, committed myself to walking 100km to raise money for Oxfam with thee other equally mad women.  Actually, I say equally mad but I think two of them are madder because they have walked it before and know how gruelling it is!

So there I was, trotting behind my team mates who are much fitter and faster than me thinking, “Oh my goodness, what have  let myself in for?!”  They are seasoned long distance runners and multisport participants and little old me has never run further than 15km before.  I have done lots of mountain walking, and caving and kayaking and climbing.  I am an adventurous sort.  But I have never undertaken anything as long as this that requires training.  Training! What is that? Five days a week averaging 15km a day at the ridiculously fast (for me) pace of around 7km an hour!  That’s what training is.  And, of course, I have come in late to the programme.  The Oxfam website has a recommended training schedule (we’re aiming to do it fast = 18 -24 hrs) which runs for 16 weeks.  We have 7 weeks to go before the big day.  28th March – check it out! So the training programme starts for us at week 10. Yes, straight in to just about the peak time and starting right from scratch for me! That’s why all I see as we walk is three bottoms!women walking through a forest.

So, I hear you asking, “Why?”.  Good question, and one that I was pondering as I struggled to keep up yesterday.  Why?  It seemed like a good idea when my friend suggested it in the staffroom one day.  I felt I needed a challenge in my 6th decade of life. It is a strange thing, isn’t it, age?  I don’t feel old at 52 years and 11 months old.  But, what does prey on my mind is that my Mum died at the age of 53 years and 1 day.  And I am frighteningly close now to not knowing what life holds for me past that point.  I have no point of reference.  I see my Mum when I look in the mirror, but I don’t know what the future me will look like because Mum’s face stops at 53 years and 1 day.  So, before I get maudlin and start to cry, I guess I’m doing this for my Mum.  To prove that life goes on, as well as because it is a huge challenge and we all need challenges to test ourselves and I haven’t had a real physical challenge for a while.  It will keep me away from work and help to redress some of my work life balance which has swung heavily to the side of work over the last few years, it will help my fitness (as long as my body doesn’t break from the training!), and I am doing something to help others.

So my #28daysofwriting may well be a chronicle of the next 4 weeks of training as I build up to the big day.  What has that to do with learning?  Oh, everything!