This month I’m blogging about something that should be on everyone’s list: relaxation and reflection. For me, this past week was spring break. I had the opportunity to vacation in Mexico with my husband and our youngest son—along with 9 other families; forty of us in total. We had limited phone, internet and social media access. For seven glorious days I connected with my family and friends. We talked, we laughed, and we played. We looked into each other’s eyes, listened to each other’s stories and soaked in the wonderful essence of each other. Maybe it was the sun, or the wind, or the water but I felt energized and relaxed.
Each morning I took time to walk the beach. The slapping of the Caribbean waves and the swish of the wind through the trees relaxed me. It took a few days to settle in, but I made a conscious effort to slow down and take in the energy of my surroundings. Seven months into the school year and this was just what I needed. This was my opportunity to reflect, and it just so happened that I frequently reflected on two topics. First, I pondered about why so many people feel disconnected from other people? Recently I read an article about how more than ever, children are depressed and struggle to feel connected to friends. How can this be possible given that access to digital resources make it possible for many of us to be connected almost anytime anywhere?
Here is what I’ve learned. We (not just children and teens) spend far more time looking down at a screen than up at each other’s eyes. The ping of a device seems to draw our attention in so quickly and urgently that we either stop talking mid-sentence or stop listening to focus our complete attention on checking to see who wants to connect. Often we check the device, even without the ping, just in case we missed a social media posting OR maybe someone texted and we missed their attempt to contact us. Even if that text or email adds to our workload most of us lose the internal battle between checking and not checking.
This constant checking, wondering and redirecting our attention is actually leaving us to feel less connected. For a full week my phone was put away. I didn’t have a computer. And although I had pangs of withdrawal the fact is, my focus was on the people I was with.
The other topic my thoughts fell upon revolved around my career and why I entered the field of education. Unlike many who become teachers because school worked for them, I became a teacher because it did not work for me. Thirty years ago I made a commitment to myself and my future students that I would do everything in my power to change school. My mission was and continues to be focused on providing learning experiences and environments where more students get more of what they need more often. Ten years into my teaching career I began my passion for working with students whose intensities and learning trajectories were faster or more complex than most students. These are the students who need advocates.
The combination of relaxation and reflection during my vacation helped reground and rejuvenate me as I return for the last 10 weeks of school. Advocating for and finding the right learning paths for students is hard but rewarding work. If you are reading this blog it is because you have a vested interest in a student or many students whose needs may be different than a typical student. From time to time finding that path is hard. You hit a wall, or several and it feels like you can’t make progress.
But when the pieces of the puzzle fall into place the feeling is amazing. Please take time to reflect on how you got to where you are and where you need to go next. Know you are not alone on the journey to finding a fit for the special student(s) in your life. WATG is here to help you connect with ideas and people to make the magic happen. Enjoy the last weeks of the school year.