Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Recess for Teachers: Are You Wearing Too Many Hats?

How many hats do you wear? It used to be you could tell simply by how many hat boxes were stacked in your closet. You knew you had too many when you couldn't retrieve one without the rest toppling onto your head and leaving a heap on the floor. But since wearing hats is no longer the fashion, you now adorn yourself with the invisible kind. They may be invisible, but they are no less a necessary part of the wardrobe we call life.

Teachers wear many hats, often at the same time. Think about the character in the classic children's book Caps for Sale by Esphyr Slobodkina. This cap salesman balances a dozen caps on his head while he tries to sell them to the townspeople. He gets very tired and has no money to buy food. So he sits by a tree and takes a nap. When he awakes, his caps are gone! Up in a tree where he slept sits monkeys, each wearing one of his caps. No matter how he tries, they won't give them back. Finally, out of exasperation, he throws his own cap to the ground. The monkeys, great mimickers, follow suit and throw their caps to the ground. The cap salesman collects his caps and goes back to town to sell them.

As a teacher, you work hard to balance all your hats - the responsibilities of your profession. But often, at the end of the day, you're weary and don't have anything to show for all the hard work. Sometimes in desperation, teachers walk away, seeking rest. But the escapes you seek aren't always healthy, and your belief that no one can balance the hats the way you do keeps you from finding real rest.

Upon returning you tend to take back all the hats you walked away from, reclaiming your territory. But as you do, you also take back all the things that overwhelmed you in the first place. Is there really a way to balance all your hats, or should you consider paring down your wardrobe?

This post is first in a series to help educators find the rest they seek. These excerpts, taken from my book Recess for Teachers: Taking Time Out for Your Body, Mind, and Soul, will help you get through the remainder of the school year.