My Inner Buttercup.

 

She's the toughest fighter...
She’s the toughest fighter…

All over social media my colleagues post ‘hang in there!’ Or, ‘is it a full moon?’ kinds of posts. Spring break for our district (and my son’s) occurred the first week of April, and we have quite a ways to go. In the Love shack, we have our own things going on: three years ago we managed to get our older son through his senior year, and now it’s time for our younger son, and it’s a{…………….} time and experience.

Daniel and his friend Nate at my school, job shadowing teachers. My son would be an amazing teacher, and I hope he considers this path.
Daniel and his friend Nate at my school, job shadowing teachers. My son would be an amazing teacher, and I hope he considers this path. (Daniel is the one in the Seahawks sweatshirt.)

In addition to our personal lives, which always seem to go off the crazy train rails this time of year, we’re so focused on student learning, testing, classroom management, data collection, etc. we may be overlooking a key element to unnecessary stress, and that is stress from other colleagues. So this morning, I poured myself a large cup of magical coffee (see Exhibit A) and decided to collect my thoughts on stress, colleagues, and collegial relationships. My first order of business: don’t be a jerk.

Exhibit A: magical beans
Exhibit A: magical beans

So how do we cause each other stress? Well, it all depends. We may have long-standing philosophical differences that start to rub raw this time of year, or projects and collaborations that fall apart (group work doesn’t always work for adults, either). There may be personal grudges, or simply someone flat-out doesn’t like us. (And young padawan, that’s completely cool.) Dealing with one’s own or others’ overt or hidden mental illnesses shadow and taint our own reflective and critical thinking capacities: if we’re worried how something we say or do may be misconstrued, work and flow become mired down and muddy. These ideas are intended to keep me on track, try to be the best teacher and colleague I can until the year’s over. (And then I can be a jerk again?)

start a blog

Disclaimer: I write for myself. If anything I say resonates with others, so be it. Writing is my therapy and helps my process and reflection. Think of it as advice columns for oneself.

How to Get to Summer In One Piece:

  1. Embrace the monster: if you see your inner demons taking up residence, acknowledge them, and ask them to hold tight until the end of June. Monsters and inner demons are notoriously impatient and guaranteed they will disappear by then.//giphy.com/embed/11GmblfBjrA3gAvia GIPHY

2. Use your defense mechanisms wisely, or let them go entirely. You don’t need to shoot blood out of your eye or slime someone, as Sir Texas Horned Toad, or Lady Hagfish, you just need to make sure you’re not being a doormat or conceding or capitulating too quickly. Process and breathe. (Although that blood-eye thing would come in handy. What a cool writing prompt: what animal defensive mechanism super-power would you choose?)

Disarm with Cuteness! http://www.fws.gov
Disarm with Cuteness!
http://www.fws.gov

3. Watch something. Here are a few TED talks about stress, patience, and mindfulness. 

One of my dear friends told me years ago my life lesson would be ‘patience.’ Thinking back and realizing I most likely had ADD then, (and learned coping strategies on my own), this may have been well-intended advice but not exactly doable for me. Patience sometimes feels like unnecessary waiting, but there’s a difference between considering points of view waiting and waiting passively to be trampled on. If instincts create a flight/fight response, something might be up, spidey senses tingling and all that:t tap into that patience thing now.

bizarrocode

4. Or…Don’t be mindful: escape. Last night after a weird week with Bizarro-World events, I and my husband watched a movie or two, and I played with our puppy. Lovely.

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This was taken a few weeks ago, and I love the joy–

4. Play your way. Clearly if others are doing their best to drag you into their mind games, change the rules. Take your ball and go home. If this happens, you’re not being petulant or punitive, it’s really okay to go. Ever watch kids play a board game, and there’s that one kid who bosses everyone, changes the rules to suit the game-play, and flips the board if things aren’t going their way? It happens with adults, too, only much more subtly.

sore-loser-child-in-game

5. Be around people who love you, no matter what.

My boys and my mom from a past trip: trying to plan for a summer road trip as I type...
My boys and my mom from a past trip: trying to plan for a summer road trip as I type…

6. Look at something beautiful, create something beautiful.

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Seriously: this exists!? I love our planet.

7. Take time to appreciate your moment in the universe.

https://embed-ssl.ted.com/talks/lang/en/kenneth_lacovara_hunting_for_dinosaurs_showed_me_our_place_in_the_universe.html

If stress from colleagues is like a pebble in your shoe, stop and take out the pebble. If you’re working in a toxic environment, you may need other allies or support. It might not be your destiny to clean it but get out of the way so others can. And be honest: are you the one causing the stress? Or you contributing to the drama? Dang: are you the pebble?! Well, if you can honestly say you’re operating with integrity and attempting with every best effort to act with empathy and maintain dignity for yourself and others, then no. You’re the rock. (Get it?)

From Lifehacker:

She also advocates that you take the high road and never sacrifice your personal integrity in an attempt to get revenge or “fight fire with fire,” which we wholeheartedly agree with. She suggests you stay engaged at work too—noting that as long as you draw a paycheck you have an obligation to bring your best to your job every day. We’d temper that point a bit—if your work environment is toxic to the point where you feel awful every day, you’re already not bringing your A-game. Do what’s required, but don’t dump energy into a job that doesn’t appreciate your effort. Disengage a bit and spend that extra time and energy looking for something better, whether it’s a transfer to a new department or a new job entirely.

Personally, I love my job. I’m having a fantastic year: my students are doing amazing work, it’s a blast teaching Humanities, and we’re all thriving. My own confidence is bolstered from last year, where I, and others, were on the precipice of jumping from panic and not from pride. Reminding myself I am good at many things, still have a lot to learn, and some colleagues find my friendship and professional collaborations useful is valuable. It’s okay to own the good things about ourselves, even if others are actively trying to tear us down. We are on our own adventures, and everyone’s got stuff on their minds and weighing on their hearts.

Paulo Coehlho quote

 

I need to remind myself to be kind, be patient, and do good work, and see it through. My younger son is my focus now, and my students. Honoring their hard work and growth are my core beliefs, not a game.

And June is just around the corner.

summer

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