Teaching is like juggling while standing on a tightrope. Of course, some days it also feels like someone is throwing rocks at you while you're up there. You can't expect to help students earn good grades so they can win scholarships to college if you're frazzled. I found a simple way to destress my work day. It doesn’t cost money. It does, however, take stubborn will power to peel off a few minutes to do what works.
I decided to arrive at school one hour before the beginning of my first class. I brought my breakfast with me, so I could make this happen. The hardest parts were setting the alarm back and going to bed earlier. But, I’m glad I did. Upon arrival at school, I picked up my mail and unlocked my classroom door. I put everything away, locked up my purse and went back outside. I walked the campus for fifteen minutes. I planned a route away from where students and parents arrive each morning. After my walk, I had breakfast, went through my email and did anything else that needed to be done.
I always set up my classroom for the start of class the afternoon before. By doing so I missed the crowd in the parking lot. It also gave me enough time to do my walking the next morning. When students started to arrive, I was ready for them.
During the six minutes of passing period just before my conference period each day, I chatted with students and filed anything that needed filing. Once the campus was clear, I walked for another fifteen minutes. I used the same route as in the morning. It became a ritual and felt like meditation. At times a clerk from the office or another teacher joined me in my walk. This added a little social time to my otherwise jam packed work day. After my walk, I did all the things you do during your conference period. I was just in a better mood when I did them. I had more energy too.
I repeated the same procedure during my lunch break. After my walk instead of returning to my room to do paperwork or work on my computer, I went to the lunch room and joined my fellow teachers. I brought my own food, so I didn’t waste time standing in line. If I ever skipped one of these walks, my students noticed. I remember one of them saying, “You didn’t walk today, did you? You’re in a better mood when you do.” Exactly.
Walking is good for our health, of course, but it also reduces stress and adjusts our mood in a positive way. It may seem like a waste of time, but I found it helped me use time more effectively. My students appreciated my dedication to walking. It was a great example to them of putting first things first (Covey). Remember what you hear in the plane just before take-off, “When the oxygen mask drops, please put on your own before helping others.” Walking is a teacher’s oxygen mask.
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