Zen & Year End

This is it. It’s a very busy and stressful time of year as I prepare to say goodbye to my 17 students, with whom I’ve spent an incredible year. It’s extra difficult as I’m also saying goodbye to my current school, École Marie-Anne-Gaboury, where I’ve spent the last 8 years, in order to move to École Sage Creek School, a new school opening up in September. Although I seem to thrive on, and embrace change, I also find the unknown scary and stress-provoking, so you can understand how this situation is very bitter sweet for me. Thankfully, last Friday, I started reading The Zen Teacher by Dan Tricarico and I couldn’t put his book down; it was exactly what I needed in my life at this exact moment in time. I’m a firm believer that everything happens for a reason, and this is no exception. This morning, after having spent a lot of time packing this week, I decided to take some time for myself during my prep period, and finish the book. Here are only a few of my favourite takeaways from the book:

  • “When our mind is focused on what we’re grateful for, it’s nearly impossible to be unhappy”. It is so important to always remember the positive and I loved the idea of making a list of things I’m grateful for. I’ve always been one to show my appreciation in order to spread the love, but I still have a hard time overcoming negativity when it does come my way. A gratitude list would be a perfect reference when those bad moments creep up on me in order to shift my focus so that I can be happy!

  • In my post, Balance vs. Meaning, I explain that I often feel misunderstood when it comes to what I do in order to take care of myself, and that I’m more of a believer in finding meaning than striving for balance (sorry Dan!). I was so glad to see, in writing, that Zen Practices can look very different for everyone and that “your Zen Practice could be gardening, fishing, cooking, or anything else that lets you focus on your passions, explore your obsessions, be in the moment, and experiences flow.” Blogging is definitely it for me!

  • Through reflection this year, I’ve come to realize that I tend to manage my stress a lot better when I have “light at the end of the tunnel”. This could be as simply as looking forward to a little family vacation, or a PD day that I’m super excited about, to planning to take a mental health day when I feel the need or my favourite: when I can carve out enough time to go to the spa. I loved that in the last section of the book, Dan talked about Radical self-care and that we should value it, schedule it, wallow in it and remember it. To me, this is something that I already do, and although it might not be as often as I’d like, it is something that really helps to keep going during even the most stressful times.
  • Although this book is packed with so much amazing stuff, I could see how it could be overwhelming for someone. If in each chapter, we’re told to take anywhere from a few minutes all the way to much more time to practice mindfulness and meditation, it could seem like it would take over our days if we tried to do it all. I think the important thing to remember is that these are just strategies and suggestions for us to do what we see fit, for ourselves and for our students. We must also understand that some things might work well for us while others not so much.

This year, I’ve put a lot of focus on social emotional learning and empathy in my classroom (check out these posts to learn more: Social Emotional Learning & Empathy, Calm Down Strategies) and I was happy to dive into The Zen Teacher in order to read something that helped me practice what I’ve been preaching. This book gave me a chance to look inward and practice some of the things that I explored with my students in class while also showing me that I already have a lot of great tools in my self-care toolbox. It also gave me countless new strategies to try in order to take care of myself, which will transfer seamlessly into my classroom. This book was a light and easy read that I will constantly be going back to when I need reminders on why it is so important that I take care of myself in order to be the best version of myself that I can be. I will also be using it as a guide with my students, because mindfulness should be a part of their lives just as much as it should be a part of mine! If you are a teacher, you should read this book! I loved it, and I’m sure you will, too!

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