Tuesday, December 2, 2014

SWCBlogger Challenge #1: Maintaining Focus

TeachThought's  blog challenges have inspired me and a colleague, the blogger behind Eat the Yolk, to start blog challenge for teachers on our campus. Our site occupies over 150 acres of land, serving over 20,000 students, so we face particular structural barriers when it comes to building and sustaining community. So we decided to  replicate the project for our campus.

A handful of faculty, including counselors, from a variety of disciplines decided to join us on our weekly blogging challenge. You'll see links to the other folks in the column titled Connect@SWC bloggers on your right. 

So here goes.

The inaugural prompt for the Connect@SWC blog challenge asks,"What are your strategies for maintaining focus and motivation at the end of the semester?"

This question comes right when my own focus and motivation wanes. It's the day after Thanksgiving weekend, my mind foggy from lack of sleep, my body lethargic from too many calories and carbs. And that doesn't account for the emotional ups and down of family gatherings, traffic, or the fast approaching specter of finals and all that entails. The Turkey day break, grateful as I am for the time off, actually caused  more stress than it alleviated.The same is true for the Spring break.

For me, staying focused means doing my best to exercise, eat well, get enough sleep. and stay connected with loved ones. Whether I actually practice these self-care habits is another question  entirely. 

And the better I exercise these habits, the better equipped I am to figure out strategies to help students with their focus and motivation. It's like what flight attendants say during their pre-flight spiel: "If you are traveling with children, or are seated next to someone who needs assistance, place the mask on yourself first, then offer assistance." The quality of care I give others is directly related to how I care for myself. Moreover, how can I urge students to stay the course when I've given up?
Maintaining physical and emotional health challenges me year round, but even more so now. And that's precisely why I need to be even more mindful this time of year. There's a Zen saying that applies: "Meditate for 20 hours a day, unless you are too busy. Then you should sit for an hour". This is certainly the case.

This notion of self-care isn't some great revelation. I knew this. But knowing isn't doing. Conceptual knowledge doesn't necessarily produce procedural knowledge. If only!

Today's post, this note-to-self to care for myself, can  kick-start my self-care routine. Here's to giving myself the gift of self-care, no matter how small, so I can maintain focus and motivation. 

I get out of class today at three. Plenty of time to get to the gym. There's no reason I can't get to bed at a reasonable hour tonight, after spending quality time with my husband. I fear that I won't have enough time for even one these gifts. So, if the Zen aphorism applies, I probably need to do all three. 

The act of writing - moving the conceptual knowledge out of my brain and onto the screen - can help translate knowledge into action. The accountability of making this commitment public, even if only to the two or three who eyeball my blog, may leverage just enough of the guilt/shame factor to propel me out of this seasonal malaise. Whatever it takes.

My next step? Publishing this post.