Finding Joy Amidst the Struggles
It’s no secret that I am struggling… that most teachers are struggling right now. I shared in my last post, Will We, Though? that I’m not so certain that we will come out of this stronger, as most people say when talking about the hardships that this pandemic has thrown our way.
Once I published that real, vulnerable, and honest post, an outpour of support came in. In a weird way, I felt better knowing that I wasn’t alone. At the same time, I felt sad that so many people are struggling and could relate to my words. But speaking our truth is important.
Then, I got some food for thought from a friend. He said that “although people will praise your post and agree with you, you need to offer solutions. You need to follow up this post with things you are doing that are good right now. That would be helpful to so many. You are a person that many look up to.”
The thing is, when he and I had this conversation, I was in a dark place. I couldn’t offer solutions. I couldn’t see the light. I just needed to sit in those hard feelings for a while. I didn’t want to feel as though I was offering false hope. But as the weeks went on, I began to understand that talking about things that are working, or helping, or that are going well, isn’t offering false hope. It’s not dismissing the hard stuff. It’s simply finding the joy that is hiding amidst the struggles. There is joy.
When I was listening to George Couros’ podcast, Creating Hope and Joy for Learners, Dean Shareski made me realize that joy doesn’t necessarily mean happiness. I can acknowledge that things are hard while also finding light. It’s not an either or. It’s okay that I don’t feel happy these days, but I can still find joy. There is joy.
There is joy in my colleagues. I have the most incredible team who checks in on me when they see that I’m struggling, who listens to me when I’m crumbling, and who helps me pick up the pieces so I can rebuild myself once again. This team is always there to help physically, mentally, and emotionally. They make me feel seen and valued. I’ve said it countless times before and I will continue to say it, I couldn’t do this year without them. My hope is that you, too, have incredible colleagues to lean on during this time. And if you don’t, find some. They don’t have to be in your building. I’ve seen many Facebook groups of educators who support one another. I’ve seen incredibly deep and powerful connections and friendships form over Twitter. When you find educators who get you, who are living and breathing what you are, hold onto them. They are like a secret medicine that will help you through those hard times (and they’ll also be your number one cheerleaders during the best times, too). Feeling alone and have no one to turn to? Please reach out to me! No one should be going through this alone!
There is joy in my classroom. Yes, our tables are all 2 meters apart. Yes, I feel like I am constantly nagging the kids to wash their hands, to put their masks over their mouths and noses, to stay 2 meters apart… But guess what? They don’t care. They are happy. They love coming to school. They are so resilient. And so when I am planning or delivering a lesson and thoughts haunt me because I know how much better this moment could be if it wasn’t for Covid regulations, I let it go. I let it go because the kids are happy. My best in these circumstances is enough. The kids are getting up and dancing. They are laughing at my overdramatic responses to their answers. They are excited about activities that, in the past, I would have deemed as boring, all because I am presenting them in a way that makes it seem like the best thing in the world. The students aren’t sensing that these new regulations are taking anything away from their schooling experiences because I don’t let it. My hope for you, is that you are able to make the best of this situation for and with your students. It doesn’t mean that challenges don’t exist, it just means that you are not focusing on them while you are with your students. Give yourself grace, lots of it. And cling onto those small joy moments with your students throughout the day.
There is joy in disconnecting from work and taking care of my mental health. For me, that’s been running lately. Sometimes, it’s blogging, but even that lately has felt more like a chore than self-care, so I’ve given myself permission to only write when I feel compelled to. No expectations. No pressure. Sometimes, self-care looks like taking a long bubble bath. Sometimes it looks like vegging out on the couch and watching Netflix with my husband. Sometimes it means taking a walk while chatting with a friend on the phone. Sometimes, it’s baking with my boys or watching them skate on the backyard rink. Sometimes, it’s choosing not go engage on social media, or taking a break altogether from it. Self-care looks different for everyone, and I almost hesitated writing any examples at all, because it is so personal. My hope for you is that you make (not find) time to take care of yourself. No guilt. It is important. You are worthy! And although it’s in teachers’ nature to always put others first, I am begging you to put yourself first.
Lean on others, let them help you. Make the best of what school looks like this year, while giving yourself grace. Be intentional about your mental health, and don’t be afraid to kick certain activities to the curb if they’re no longer serving you.
Those are three big picture things that are positive in my life right now. If you feel overwhelmed reading any of that, or catch yourself saying “Yeah, that’s easy for her to say because…”, know that I slip up All. The. Time. Those three things that are going well, don’t always go well. I struggle to take care of myself, I go days at school just going through the motions without actively searching and finding that joy, and I feel unworthy of being part of such an incredible team of colleagues. I have bad days, and so will you. Just remember, finding joy doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re happy. Find joy, anyways.
I’d love to know what is working for you. Big or small. What brings you joy amidst the struggles?