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Remember to Breathe

When I was a kid, our family had a cabin at Lake Whitney in central Texas. To call it a cabin is actually being generous. My granddad and a few of his friends bought the property together and spent their spare time constructing a one-room, cinder-block building with a picnic table in the middle and bunk beds made from two-by-fours around the outer walls. The shower had only cold water, so I could usually convince my mom I didn’t need a bath since I spent time each day at the pool. It was rustic but I loved staying there for vacations in the summer. Our whole family slowed down and enjoyed fishing, swimming, and playing cards with friends. We got plenty of sleep (unless we were getting up before dawn to go fishing), we ate good food (sometimes fish if it was a productive day), learned a few new skills like playing horseshoes, and spent quality time with people who shared our interests.
 
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The school year has barely gotten underway, but there’s a good chance your work calendar doesn’t have much white space. So there’s no better time than the present to think about pacing yourself for the upcoming school year. It’s easy for us to believe in September that we can keep the frenetic pace we adopt during staff development week, but that high will be long gone by the end of the month. If we aren’t careful, we’ll be dragging our feet and nursing a cold from Halloween to Memorial Day. So here are just a few suggestions for remembering to breathe.
 
Take care of yourself
It’s all too easy to cut back on sleep, skip doctor appointments, and respond with urgency in every situation. Craziness is contagious but so is calm. Living a balanced life is easy to talk about and hard to actually implement, but it’s one of the most valuable things we can model for our teachers. You may not be able to escape to the lake, but keep your health a priority.
 
Celebrate the good things
Take time to pause and appreciate your accomplishments throughout the school year rather than rushing toward the next project. Consider keeping a list or making notes on your calendar so you can have an even bigger celebration at the end of the year. It’s easy to forget all the little things that contribute to big growth from August until May.
 
Learn something new
Maybe it's the teacher in me, but I love to be a student. Take a course, read a book, watch a YouTube video, or use an app to pick up a new skill. It could be something related to your job, or it could be just for fun. Growing yourself outside of education can make you even more effective in education.
 
Spend time with other like-minded folks
There is no substitute for sharing ideas and brainstorming with others who are facing your same challenges. As a science coordinator, you may be the “lone ranger” in your district, but there are many options for collaboration nearby. At Region 4 we have a Science Leadership Network that meets several times a year to stay informed and support each other. You can join TSELA (the Texas Science Education Leadership Association) to connect with science supervisors across the state. You could even create your own group by connecting with science leaders in neighboring districts.   
 
Look at your calendar and make plans now to stop and breathe. Schedule dinner with friends, buy concert tickets, or go big and look at getting away for an extended period during the winter break. I recommend finding a place with a hot shower and a real bed, but you choose. I know you’ll return to work with renewed energy and a smile.
 
If you’re looking for a way to refresh, join us for two high-energy sessions from Marcia Tate on November 27–28:

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