The beginning of the new year found me so optimistic, so hopeful, and so ready to embrace the remainder of my time in China. Fast forward a few weeks and it's a different story. I'm coming undone. Cue the song:
I can't pinpoint exactly where I came off the rails or what it all means, but the feelings are all-consuming. I broke down at work a couple of times in the weeks we came back from the Christmas break, crying uncontrollably at how unfair it all is- once on my second wedding anniversary and another after some critical feedback from a pretty negative and difficult colleague. The latter gave me a great excuse for using up one of the 3 wellness days we've been allotted this year. I went to lunch and journaled, walked in a park, and listened to a new podcast. It helped, but I could still feel the lingering sting of it all in the days that followed. Fortunately, another break was fast-approaching.
Somehow I survived until the break and forced myself to take a step back, pause and think of what to do next to get back on track. We're now one week into the 2-week Chinese New Year break (Lunar New Year for those who are outside of China) and it has provided me the much-needed time and space to do just that. So, here's a look at what I've been doing to get my 'groove' back.
A new Coach Approach
At the beginning of the school year, some of our teachers joined a new initiative that focused on positivity and wellness through peer coaching. One of the teachers in this initial cohort (through Solros Development) is an art teacher and a good friend of mine, so I've heard a lot about her experience and have even been on the receiving end of some positive peer coaching from her. Notice from admin came out a couple of weeks ago that another cohort of teachers would be enrolling soon and if we were interested to sign up. One thing you need to know about me is that I'm a PD addict, especially if someone else is paying for it. So, naturally, I put my name forward, but I wasn't expecting to be approved given that I'm officially resigning at the end of the year. Understandably, the school tends to cut off professional development funds for those not returning the following year. I guess something about my situation or the frequent emotional breakdowns told them that I might be in need of some wellness and positivity training. 😬
Well, it just so happens that the beginning of this course lined up with this current break. It starts with taking a couple of online surveys to determine your character strengths. Even if I weren't doing this course, the self-assessments and their corresponding opportunity for reflection are worthwhile. Here are the two I took in case you're interested in doing this for yourself:
This was followed up by a Zoom workshop with a handful of other international school educators, some of whom will be in my new cohort, to learn more about using the data from these reports. This meetup was engaging and insightful, and it left me feeling excited for the positive peer coach training I'll be undertaking over the next few months. The kickoff meeting with the new cohort is happening this coming Saturday, so I'll keep an ongoing update about my takeaways as the weeks unfold. For now, I can say this has helped recalibrate my emotional state and put me on a path forward that feels like it's going to help.
I know that the positive coaching course is technically a mental exercise, but I've chosen to keep it in the 'emotional 'bucket' for now because I have a lot of other things I've been doing that feel more brain-heavy. The first is rediscovering my love of reading; in e-book, print, and audiobook forms. While I do a lot of reading for work, it never feels like I'm reading in the same way as being engrossed in a book. The break, cold weather, and the fact that most everywhere in town has been closed for the holiday have been the perfect excuses to stay in pajamas and read. I finished When by Daniel Pink, Becoming by Michelle Obama, The Gifts of Imperfection by Brené Brown, Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens, and am now finishing up Inquiry Mindset Assessment Edition by Trevor MacKenzie. I have a lot to say about almost all of these books, but I have too much more to share here, so I'll save that for another post.
Besides reading, I've been working on a couple of other professional projects that have kept my mind busy and helped re-ignite my passion for education. Not that I ever really lost my passion, but I've been in somewhat of a lull lately. Anyway, here's a snapshot of things I have in the works.
It only comes around every couple of years and for some reason, I've never made it a priority. Well, that's changing this year. My Twitter newsfeed filled up recently with updates about the new Apple Distinguished Educator applications and cohort opening up soon. Naturally, I started curating and planning my application video, a hefty task given that you only get 2 minutes! Once I get the video done, I'll be sending it off to a few of the people in my amazingly supportive PLN who've offered to give me feedback. And then, I'll wait patiently until the application window opens and I can submit it for my chance to join the ranks of so many professionals I admire within the Apple Edu community. If you've been through this program and have any tips, I'd love to hear from you!
Another professional endeavor I've been working on over the last several weeks is getting ready to kick off soon, and I'm pretty jazzed. The Inquiry Educators Summit is an annual conference dedicated to, well, inquiry. I've attended the conference virtually for the last couple of years and have presented in different events put on by Toddle over the course of COVID.
The platform is a powerful center for teaching and learning resources that support IB PYP/MYP/DP and Understanding by Design frameworks. The conference always draws in some big-name presenters and always leaves me feeling inspired. Needless to say, I was thrilled to be asked to present a strategy session for their primary strand. I'll be sharing about how I use Split Screen Thinking to build learning capacity across our school. This strategy was originally developed by Guy Claxton but has been widely championed by other inquiry experts, and I've been using it quite a lot this year. The live session will be on March 6th, but the conference will run through July, so if you're interested in attending, sign up here!
The last little tidbit today is about a sewing project that put me through the wringer but reminded me to never give up- an always-valuable lesson. The story starts with a trip to the fabric market during the Christmas holiday when I came across some super cute panda print and immediately thought of Izzy, my cutie of a 4-year-old neighbor and someone I've come to adore. She's obsessed with pandas, or 'ya-yas' as she calls them. Anyway, I bought a meter of the fabric and last week borrowed a shirt from her mom so I could trace it for a makeshift pattern. Try #1- the neck of the shirt slid right off her shoulder and reminded me of an 80's Flashdance costume. Try #2- I downloaded an actual pattern, taped it together and followed the directions just like I do when I make my own clothes. This time, the neck is about 2 inches too small and we can't get it over her noggin. Try #3- I'm hoping for a Goldilocks moment where it's juuuuust right... And it was! I took two lessons from this experience:
1) Don't give up- even when it's hard.
2) Stick to making adult clothes.
So there it is, a summary of the ways I'm putting myself back together after falling apart. What are the ways you heal and put yourself back together when you start to fall apart? Asking for a friend next time.