Giving Myself Permission

Twelve years ago as I wrapped up student teaching, my cooperating teacher warned me of the dangers of working too much.

This struck me as odd, because as the publications adviser, she was at school all. the. time. I’ve thought of her advice often these past twelve years, because I’ve struggled to follow it. As a teacher, I always have something to do. If I allowed myself, I could work 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

And I often feel guilty when I take time for myself. Taking an hour to watch a TV show, taking a nap, working out–none of these activities happen without the nagging thought in the back of my head: you should be working.

That cooperating teacher told me, “You need to give yourself permission to relax, to take time for yourself. Because if you don’t, you will burn out.”

My lessons are planned for the week, and even into next week. But I have many stacks of papers to grade right now, and I should be working on those.

Should, should, should…I love my job, love my students, love what I do, but I also love my family, love reading, love playing the piano, and when I’m on a roll, I even love working out. I need balance, but it’s often out of reach.

This story made the rounds recently–we actually become less effective when we work more than 40 hours a week. Sometimes, that’s just not an option for me. Like this week, deadline week, when I’ll be at school until 8 PM every night. But other weeks, I need to find ways to scale back.

So tonight, I’m giving myself permission to go to a concert, spend time with a friend, and not feel guilty about doing it. (I’m at least going to try to not feel guilty about it.) And then I’m going to try, for the last month of school, to only work 40 hours a week.

Or maybe just 50.

But definitely not 60.

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