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PPA

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Three weeks ago during our three-day Teach For America orientation for first-year teachers, all program directors gave presentations on Personal-Professional Alignment (PPA). The purpose of the session was to acknowledge that teaching is time-consuming and will lead to stress at certain times (a lot of times). Our responsibilities as adults is to recognize signs of stress, realize what we need to do to maintain balance in our own lives, and what to do when common stress relievers don't work. Throughout the session on PPA, we gave suggestions like planning ahead and not leaving things to the last minute, making sure you maintain a healthy diet, taking time to exercise, get enough sleep, and sometimes, just knowing when to stop working.

I thought these were very obvious, but very useful ideas. Teachers need those reminders.I felt like I was imparting pearls of wisdom to these eager first-year teachers. Surely after two years of teaching, I was expert enough in avoiding and dealing with stress. After all, I was in charge of delivering a session on it.

So of course, it only makes sense that I haven't worked out in six weeks, had a meal at home (other than cereal and take-out) for five weeks, and calculated 95 hours of work last week. After week four of that lifestyle (a few days after the PPA session), I had an inkling that I was stressed out. But I kept going, because my work was my responsibility and I accepted and believed in it. I didn't bother heeding the advice I imparted on the teachers of eating properly, working out or stopping after a certain hour. I kept going, because I figured I could.

Until I was forced to stop and remember what PPA means. It means work-life balance. It means taking care of yourself. It means taking care of those around you.

On Wednesday, I booked a ticket to fly back that afternoon to Maryland to take care of my mother who is ill. Despite facing another round of projects to complete, documents to prepare, and helping teachers who start teaching on Monday, my mother being sick jolted me into remembering that my dedication to the work I love only goes as far as it allows me to dedicate myself to the people I adore.

The alignment of our personal and professional lives is a conversation I think we should continue to address monthly. What are some aspects of PPA readers would be interested in exploring?

5 Comments

When my principal gave out the Professional Goals sheet all teachers are required to complete, she pointed out that the bottom of the sheet included a reminder to set personal goals, too. But we didn't have to write down or share the personal goals.

Maybe we should have. Because although we all know what we should be doing to maintain healthy balance, we don't do it. Maybe if we wrote personal goals down, and shared them with each other, we'd take them as seriously as we take professional goals.

Thank you for sharing. Hope your mother is recovering.

I had to explain to a very ignorant individual this week that teaching is not a "cushy" job with a 3 month vacation during the summer.

I explained that I leave home at 630 or earlier every day to go to my classroom, and have yet to be home before 5. I eat dinner, and then get started on preparing for tomorrow. I spend my evenings and weekends researching to find exciting activities to keep my students interested and engaged. I do this out of love for my students. I'm not paid extra, and I don't make a lot of money to start with.

In addition, I have several trainings coming up that are required (and essentially unpaid), and that will begin at 4pm (after being at school since 645am) and last until 8 in the evening. I will not get home until close to 9 and will still need to prepare for the next day. I have six Saturdays that I will give up for additional training so that I can be a better teacher for my students.

I'm working on my master's degree starting this year, so that I can learn how to help my students learn better. I'll be taking classes all summer, as well as throughout the school year, at night, on weekends, and online.

My personal goals? Those are my personal goals. I want to try to lose some weight too and get back into working out so that I can run a 5k in the spring, but I'm still struggling to find time to fit in an hour or so at the gym.

It's my first year teaching, and I get so angry when people say that teachers have a "cushy" job, thinking we get in at 8 and leave at 3, and have 3 months off (in reality it is about six weeks in the summer). I don't regret any time I spend working for my kids, and I don't regret my choice to leave the business world of 8-5 to teach either. I love every second of my day, and most of all, I love the glimmer of excitement in my student's eyes when they are really interested in something we're learning. That alone makes every late night, early morning, and lost weekend worth it.

This weekend I forced myself to vegetate and watched Dirty Jobs and Mythbusters all day...didn't crack a book or grade a paper...and it felt good. I might do the same tomorrow.

I'm a superintendent still trying hard after 27 years in teaching and leading to stay balanced. Our jobs are so creative and compelling that it's hard to put limits on the energy we pour into them.

This year I reminded all principals (and myself) that personal health and balance goals are actually professional goals. The tool we bring to the job that is the MOST important of all is our selves. If we are not in good mental, physical, and emotional health, we cannot do good work whatever good intentions we may have. (Similarly, a carpenter would not have a chance of doing good work without a sharp saw, and surgeons and musicians always take care of their hands.)

For some of us, living in our heads is much easier than toning our bodies. Education jobs (and many other professions) can provide an excuse for intellectual people to skip exercising, but I'm trying not to fool myself on that score anymore. Besides, a brisk three-mile hike in the wee hours of the morning while listening to wonderful podcasts lets me live in my head AND tone my body.

If we're in it for the long haul, we have to keep health and balance the #1 goal.

I have been a teacher for over 17 years and have worked at least 12 hour days 6 days a week every week for those 17+ years... and loved [almost] every minute of it! I know I should take time out "for myself", but frankly, researching projects, reading articles and blogs about education, and constantly incorporating what I learn through travel and meeting people into my classroom lessons... is taking time out for me, as well as my students. It makes me sane and really good at what I do!
Now, if working out is a must for balance... well, then, if I were a principal, I would make an hour in the school gym a requirement for all the teachers and staff, every day, after school. I know I (and many others) would hate it at first, but once in the habit, I think I could learn to like it. Plus, we'd model great life behavior for our students... and even end up training with them, I'm sure.
I think that sounds like a great idea-- Why don't schools do this already, I wonder???

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