August 29, 2014
Helping teachers survive in- and out of- the classroom
Although Mr. Anderson doesn't focus on mindfulness, per se, he uses much of the same language, urging teachers to, "Take care of your spirit"... "Engage in personal reflection and spiritual growth"...."Connect with nature".... "Take time to observe", and, "Give students your full attention."... But the greatest contribution in the book may be in the area of perspective. Anderson's clear and sober assessment of the stresses teachers are under is heartening. He's not afraid to be honest, tell the truth, and point out the elephant in the classroom.
He starts with some of his own calculations about the tasks he has to cover and the time allotted for them, and realizes that he simply couldn't do it. There was not enough time to do the things he was being asked to do. From there, he plunges into a variety of topics, everything from diet, to fun, to collecting "artifacts", those notes and pieces of evidence that reflect our successes and connections that we've had along the way. (Like a lot of teachers, I have some notes from students that are truly prized possessions).
Although I find inspiration all over the book, one thing that I continually reflect on is this: since we can't possibly do all we are being asked to do, how do we proceed from here? And the message I hear from Mr. Anderson, and his anecdotes from teachers is: don't try. Focus on what you can do, what you do well.. and have fun with that. Don't forget your playful, happy perspective, because that is what will get kids excited about coming to school. And don't forget too, that your health and happiness are important parts of your overall classroom success.
The heart of this book is a compassionate realism, an admission that teachers are human beings who are being asked to do the impossible. So thank you Mike, for your compassion, and for helping all of us to be more relaxed in the classroom, and in our overall lives. And when I'm on that deserted island, I'll be sure to have a copy of your book on my little bamboo shelf.