Sunday, August 16, 2009

TSS - Balance

Today is my last "official" day of summer. This week teachers report to school to set up new classrooms in a new building with a new principal (yes, lots of changes have taken place since the middle of May). Parents and students come to "check us out" at Back-to-School night on Thursday and next Monday morning classes begin. I have always considered the start of a new school year my New Year rather than the traditional January 1st. There is something about the purchase of new school supplies, new school outfits, transitioning to a new season of the year, and the anticipation of new classes (new teachers - new students - new knowledge) that causes me to pause and consider goals and aspirations for the upcoming 10 months. While I traditionally make the New Year's Resolutions in January, I really begin those resolutions in August.

This year I would like to focus all efforts on the theme of "balance." The last two years have been a blur with working two separate teaching jobs (both years prepping no less than 8 classes), dealing with an ill parent (and the journey through hospice and back again), and experiencing my husband's two job losses during a declining economy. Combine these energy-sucking activities with the fact that I turn 50 this year and I have decided that now is the time for life-style change.

My first step towards this end is to decline the second teaching job. I will only teach at one school this year on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. I will prep for 5 different classes (teaching 6 class periods) and will have Tuesdays and Thursdays "free." Now I know myself well enough to know that I will use these days off to grade endless papers and perfect lesson plans, BUT I also want to leave several hours for doing something fun for me. One way I plan to use the free time is to READ books of my own choosing. This activity alone has several components that requires a balance:
  • I will need to find a balance between reading contemporary fiction, classical literature, and review books.
  • I hope to begin a "face-to-face" book club with like-minded friends who enjoy reading and crave the social interaction as well.
  • I will need to make the time to read others' blogs and comment.
  • I will need to make the time to write reviews for my blog and respond to those who comment.
For those of you who have maintained a blog for quite some time, do you have any words of wisdom for finding this reading balance in life?

Other areas of my life that need attention include:
  • healthy eating habits (I have never been one to drink much water and I think I need to start)
  • begin an exercise routine (I have never been one to exercise and I really don't want to go overboard --- but it seems that walking on the treadmill 5 days a week should not be a big deal)
  • develop weekly meal plans to help save money (it is amazing how much of our budget can go towards the purchase of convenience food)
  • cultivate a writing lifestyle (I so enjoyed the writing class this summer and I truly wish to continue the discipline of daily journal writing - perhaps developing some of those ideas into larger literary works)
  • round out my reading/writing life with other activities that I have enjoyed in the past but have put on the back burner for several years (such as photography, scrapbooking, stamping cards, and learning more about art appreciation).

In the past I have used a writing exercise with my students: describe your "perfect" day. While students tend to pick an a-typical day, such as summer vacation or birthday, I think I would like to challenge myself to write a draft of my "perfectly ordinary" day. How might I include all these balanced activities into my ordinary life?

While this may seem like a mountainous task, I think it is doable if I remember to 'balance' I cannot do all of these things at once --- I must ease into the process. I must be patient with myself and not "quit" with the first day of a missed exercise routine or the first second helping of dessert. I know there are those of you out there who succeed at finding this elusive balance better than I have done and I welcome any words of wisdom or encouragement that you may have. I am in this for the long haul: the next 50 years of life.


  1. I do hope you manage to find that elusive balance because I think you are so right in your assessment of its importance to a life well lived. It is very hard when you're a teacher because it is a job that is never done; there is always something more you could do to 'perfect' what you give to the students. September has always been the beginning of my year and even though I've now retired it hasn't changed. I shall follow your blog with interest to see how you get on. Good Luck.

  2. Balance? Table Talk is right...for me it seems oh-so-elusive. I hope you get some tips, because I will be back to check them. I want balance in my life too--ore more time in a day. Whichever is easiest! ;)
    I am so happy for you to be able to decline the one teaching job as that many classes to prep for sounds crazy and I bet you will find it easier to squeeze some quality time in for yourself this way.
    My boys are supposed to start school on the 31st, but we have a very real teacher strike looming on the horizon, so we shall see.
    Wish I could join your *real people* book club--but I think I am a little too far to commute. ;)
    Have a happy Sunday and great week getting ready for your new year.

  3. The beginning of the school year was always a favorite time for me. You used the word "new" a lot and for me that's what it was all about--the new beginnings and experiences. Good luck with this year, Molly!

    Balance is tough because it usually means cutting back somewhere. This year I've really tried to focus on balance and because of it my reading and blogging had to be cut a bit. This makes me sad in many ways, but I've also had some great experiences outside of reading and blogging that I'm grateful for. I signed up for a cake decorating class and this usually took three nights of work (including the actual class), but I got to meet some great people and learn something fun.

    Really, when it boils down to it, I think people have such trouble with balance because they want to do more without giving up something. Unless we suddently get extra hours in our day due to some cosmic phenonemon (or less work or etc etc...), balance means reorganizing. This is something I've just come to realize and come to accept. I can do most everything I want to, maybe just not as much. Wow--hope that didn't sound like a downer!!

    Good luck my dear! and I hope you can find a face-to-face book club. We started one a year ago and I love it. Although, it means giving up one "me" book a month...balance. Yuck! :)

  4. I think it's hard for everyone, particularly women, to find balance in today's world. It seems like we try to do too much and we try to please too many people. I wish I had a magical answer to give you, but unfortunately, I don't.

  5. Oh, Molly, I wish I too had the magic answer but since I retired in June after 37 years and wound up doing a stint the whole summer also with a relative in HOSPICE and then passing away, my retirement actually begins this week as my husband and most of my friends return to school(work). I only can give you one small hint of advice that is very hard to follow but I did it the last few years I taught and it helped. I always went as most teachers overboard giving 150% of myself and my time. What I did was: I found that letting some paper grading wait as NO they did not have to have it back the next day helped some; cut back on changing my bulletin boards so often,and no, they didn't notice; made myself a promise to try as hard as I could to "work to contract" by going in and leaving ON TIME---it didn't always work but it helped. I also put in my plan book a "date" with myself so that I put aside everything for at least one hour a week for my own reading, blogging, bubble bath or whatever I knew I deserved. I also let parents know that like any other professional, a teacher has a life and is not at their beck and call at all hours. If they couldn't come in when my planning or time allowed, then THEY adjusted their schedule. It sounds so cruel and hard for a teacher to say this, but you know what? My classes did just as well, the parents were still happy, and I got a teeny bit of my life back..not much as it is a never ending battle. I also will follow your blog and see how things go. I just want you to know I wish you the best and hope you can find at least some balance. Good luck!

  6. The beginning of the school year has always felt more like New Years to me, too, even though I'm not a teacher. I applaud your efforts toward balance (funny how that monumental birthday causes us to refocus!) and, from what I know of your determined, focused nature, have no doubt that you'll make great strides toward achieving it. Being able to decline the second job is already a huge step in that direction - congratulations!

    For me, the weekly meal planning was not only a money saver, but also a general stress-reliever. No food decisions to make at the end of a long day made all of us happier ;-)

  7. Oh, man! Sorry you have to go back. I guess real life does get in the way of reading sometimes ;)

    While reading your post I was thinking of Bill Cosby's bit on first and last day of school!! too funny.

  8. Balance...what a great idea. I am very impressed by your list and wish you luck with it.

    I still have two weeks before we go back to set up the classrooms and develop a schedule. I would really like to figure a way to switch to a four day work week.

    Anyway, I like your idea of balance. I will sit down sometime in the next week and write out a plan and a list similar to what you have done in you post. Thank you and have a good week.

  9. Your list sounds wonderful! It sounds like you have given it a lot of thought. Even if you accomplish only half of all that, it will make a really good change in your life!

  10. That sounds like a wonderful list!

    Just taking stock of what you'd like to include in your life is such a big step towards getting to where you want to be.

    Good luck in taking the next steps.

  11. Balance is something I struggle with daily. Here's a more balanced school year... clink. LOL.

  12. Molly, I applaud you for this honest assessment of your life and the gumption to do something about it. I like your list of things you are going to do to try to achieve balance. Good luck with that and the coming school year.

  13. Best of luck as you kick off a new year! You're already on the way to finding balance when you took out the extra teaching job--those work-related tasks you mentioned doing on Tuesdays and Thursdays were surely eating up your evenings and weekends previously. Now you've freed those up for the things you choose/need to do that might not have been getting done.

  14. good luck to you on the start of your new school year--i'm still on vacation until september 10th! i can really relate about your 'new year' starting at the new academic year instead of january 1st--i've always felt that way.

    good luck with your new school year resolutions!

  15. Table Talk: I appreciate your support of my efforts. While I try not to wish my life away, I must say that I am looking forward to retirement.

    Kim: What fun we would have in a face-to-face book club, eh? I hope the teachers resolve their issues before the 31st.

    Trish: I didn't realize my use of the word "new" --- hmmm...there is probably significance in that. You are absolutely right! Balance requires conscious decisions and decisions mean that one idea is voted in favor of another. We are a society of instant gratification, and learning to adopt a lifestyle of self-denial is something that will be needed as well in order to achieve balance.

    Kathy: I wasn't expecting magic answers, although it would sure be nice if we could have a magic wand and instantly provide extra hours in the day.

    Bingo: Your 37 years of experience has proved valuable for me! Thank you so much for sharing your practical tips. I do spend far too much time grading papers and have vowed to work on that this year. You mean there is an end to the work day? Hmmm....I must investigate this possibility as well :)

    JoAnn: I would LOVE to hear some tips or ideas of weekly meal planning. Do you have any websites that you use, or favorite meals that are always included? Perhaps this would be a good topic for a blog post someday.

    Bethany: I simply must check out that Bill Cosby routine -- I need a good laugh this week :)

    Gavin: enjoy your last two weeks of summer vacation. Although I know if you are like me, you are already mentally preparing for those first days of school.

    rhapsody: You are right. If I only accomplish half of those goals I will be doing well. I must keep that "balanced" point of view and not be too hard on myself. Great advice!

    I'm Booking It: I have no problem with the self-reflection piece, it is the actual execution that I struggle with :) You right, though. I am hoping that by writing it down and making it public, I will be more likely to follow through.

    Margot: thank you so much for those kind words of encouragement. I look forward to the day that I can be "joyfully retired" and begin travels around the country. Hope you enjoy the Kansas City area.

    Lit and Life: YES -- giving up that second job was a much-needed change in life. Now I just need to make sure that I keep those two days free and not get suckered in to another part-time job for the lure of more household money.

    Book Line and Sinker: WOW -- September 10?! That is GREAT. Enjoy your remaining weeks of vacation.

  16. I can see why you might have felt out of balance last year ... that was a lot going on. I think it is good for you to focus more on yourself and give yourself some time. Women tend not to do that enough. I always struggle with balance issues. I think you are taking the right first steps. And because you want to exercise more, drink more water and have meal planning, I think you should consider the "Game On Diet" -- I'm hoping to play again in September/October and it covers many of theses isses. you can also pick a good habit and bad habit to work on (seems to fit your plans) and it requires you to get enough sleep each night -- which will force you find more balance in things. Consider it! : )


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