This week marked the return to the routine. All the holiday decorations have been put away again for another 11 months, and the back-to-school regimen began in earnest. I have made good on a few resolutions, but I am trying not to overdo it. Slow and Steady wins the race is my new motto.
This semester will be a drastic change in schedule for me. Without going into too many details, I asked and was granted a one semester sabbatical from teaching my most challenging course: 9th Grade English. I think the stress and strain of last year (having 9 different course preps, taking care of my ill mother, and eventually dealing with her death) has taken its toll on me. I have little patience, and in this particular classroom, I had none. But I am indeed so blessed to work for a caring and compassionate administrator who saw my need and was willing to fulfill my request. It took a while to find a suitable substitute, but at 4:00PM on Thursday afternoon --- when classes were to begin at 8:30AM on Friday --- a final decision had been made. I spent Friday early morning gathering course materials to hand over - and for the first time in my life I benefited from my OCD organizational tendencies! In just one hour I had assembled 90% of all the handouts and lesson plans that I believe she will need.
In addition to that schedule change, my Tuesday/Thursday class dropped enrollment to just two students this semester. And as fate would have it --- all of us have first hour free on Monday - Wednesday - Friday. So what this means for me is that I will be done teaching at 1:30PM on these days and I will have Tuesdays and Thursdays totally free. And my schedule on Fridays is amazing: I teach Brit Lit 2nd hour and 8th Grade English 5th hour.
For the first time in the 8 years I have been teaching, I feel as though I can have a personal life during the school year - and I am so excited!
So what do I plan to do with all this free time?
- Well, for one thing, I hope to blog more regularly. I hope to start maintaining a list of possible blog post ideas and then cull from that list on a weekly basis.
- I hope to develop an exercise routine that helps keep me fit. I am not looking to run any marathons or bulk up muscle mass. I just want to firm up the flab and walk several times a week.
- I hope to not only write my daily morning pages, but I want to begin to hone my writing craft. I tend to use 750words.com as a journal, documenting life events and personal feelings - but I do not give much thought as to how I write. I want to work on my creative writing projects on a regular basis.
- I hope to focus on photography as a creative means of escape. So far this week I have taken a picture every day for the 365 Project and I am glad to have persevered. However, the pictures are definitely more journalistic in that they document how I spent the day rather than creative expression. BUT...slow and steady wins the race and I have promised myself that I will enjoy the journey and not add undo pressure.
In order to help me complete the above resolutions, I read Women's Retreat Book by Jennifer Louden. In that book she outlines some ways in which women can organize their own personal retreats that can last anywhere from a half-hour lunch break to a long weekend excursion. The greatest insight I learned from this book is that a retreat is purposeful. I have had plenty of days of alone time, but I tend to fritter the hours away. A retreat has structure - and intent.
So my plan is to reserve Tuesdays for school work: lesson planning, outside reading for certification (the topic of another post), and grading - but Thursdays will be a day off. A day for intentional retreat or fun creative play. I hope to scrapbook some more (I really enjoyed Christmas recipe album project) - perhaps try quilting once again - schedule my own mini read-a-thons - or conduct a nature photo shoot.
So while the end of the holidays is marked with a certain sadness that the celebration is over - for me, it is also the time for a fresh start. This week will be a full week of school - which is followed by a long weekend due to the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday. For me, that will be a five day break and one in which I not waste away.