Conversations in Education
From teacher book groups to conversations in the faculty lounge, Prep faculty and administrators think a lot about how we support students. Each month in 2017-18, we are featuring a piece by a Prep faculty member or administrator that gives a slice of life at Prep. If you would like to share your ideas, feel free to comment on an individual post or contact Dean of Studies Sarah Cooper.
From teacher book groups to conversations in the faculty lounge, Prep faculty read and talk a lot about education. Each month we highlight a few memorable pieces or videos. Our goal is to make the process of parenting, learning and living a little saner, to put things a little more in perspective. These articles will be chosen by Prep teachers and administrators. If you want to share your ideas, feel free to comment on an individual post or contact Dean of Studies Sarah Cooper.
November Newsletter: A Little Goes a Long Way: Helping Our Students (and Ourselves) Find Balance in the Busiest Times
By Tyke O’Brien, 12th Grade Level Dean
During the average work week, I find that quickly perusing several lifestyle blogs a day keeps me apprised of what’s happening in news, popular culture, and health and wellness. The latter category, however, can offer such crucial imperatives as “Make Your Own Hemp Milk” (pretentiously and medievally called “mylk”) or “Harvesting Sea Salt.” One post I came across today went so far as to dictate: “Don't think. It complicates things. Just feel.” To which I wanted to respond: I have to think. I like to think. I have a job.
Although I do enjoy the pretty pictures and life hacks such blogs offer, they do magnify how the world of wellness can grow vexingly insensitive to the schedules of those of us who simply do not have time for mylk. Advice about balance can be just so…well…extreme.
And yet as the senior Grade Level Dean, I am a part of a 12th grade faculty who bears witness to our students’ struggles for balance each and every day during these particularly hectic months. We all know what first semester holds for our students and their families: college deadlines, challenging schoolwork, important grades, competition, self-questioning, extracurricular activities, subconscious emotions and fears. It is during this time that students, faculty and parents can seem to need balance most, but it is also when it can be most elusive.
But how do we find any sense of balance when there literally seems to be no time for it? In attempts to be sensitive to the realities of any given day, I have found that the trick is not to overcommit to finding balance, but rather to dedicate time daily—at least until the dust settles—to small pieces of it.
At our summer college essay boot camp, I tell our rising seniors about my promise to find something that is peaceful, enjoyable or both every single day. (Those things tend to align with quietude—our lives are so loud otherwise—but this is not a requirement.) A brief moment, even five minutes, might be all it takes. But I do emphasize that there is something to be said for finding that break regularly.
Such a diversion gives us tripartite pleasure: something to look forward to, something to appreciate in the moment itself and something to remember. In my own life, I have to ensure that these moments are unambiguously not aspirational, not tied to achievement or measured success or improvement. Simply put, that’s cheating. It means a lot to temper ambition with acceptance, information overload with simplicity and rapid existence with slowing down – to find solace in the time where I stop flipping through one hundred channels and pause to really watch something.
For what it’s worth, when I encourage such regular pauses to stressed-out students during the first semester, I am careful to make them sound necessary at best, one hundred percent guilt-free at least. A graduate school department chair of mine even did her doctoral studies on the value of procrastination for problem solving and idea formation, the positive results of which have validated thousands of my daily detours over the years. (In fact, I mapped out this whole blog post in my mind while making root vegetable soup from scratch on a day when I had no business doing anything but ordering in.)
I love when I hear that students take a hike, bake, shoot arrows in their own backyard (a daily necessity for a former student!), go to meditation club, watch a classic film, check out a local museum or restaurant, write in a journal or even return to a hobby they started when they were younger, like playing video games. A little goes a long way, and sometimes even a few minutes of totally guiltless distraction, each and every day, even when it’s especially hard to carve out the time, is all it takes. Even if it’s spent reading about mylk.
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