Last year my word was fuel. I had been inspired by a late November evening conversation (via Twitter) with Colleen Rose (@colleenkr) and Amy Burvall (@amyburvall) about people whose work kept us going, who provided light in the darkness. I realized I wanted to think consciously in 2017 about who and what fuels me, how I could best fuel my students, and how I could also fuel my relationships with other people. I felt like there were a lot of activities and people that required my time, and I wanted to work on making sure I was fuelling me enough to provide fuel for others. I also knew that I would be heading into a self-funded leave year, beginning in September 2017, and I wanted to make sure that a big part of that time was spent fuelling me for the last 5 years of my teaching career.
And it was in that process, of figuring out how to fuel myself, that I ran smack into this year’s word: expectations – both my own and others – and began to realize that I need to do some exploring of these before I can totally benefit (and pass on the benefits) from the choices I make to fuel me.
I’m a first-born child, as well as first grandchild on my mom’s side. I am a second generation teacher on dad’s side, and 3rd on my mom’s. Couple that with being a first-generation Canadian on my dad’s side, and you know, if you share any of those identifiers, that I have some experience with expectations. If you are also a parent, you know that it can be challenging to not lay some of those (sometimes difficult) expectations on your own kids. Continuing that journey of balance with my spouse is one of the reasons expectations is my word for this year, as my older son is in Grade 11 and thinking about what comes next. I want him to be able to feel free to explore what fuels him without my expectations creating a barrier.
I also want to explore how I deal with other peoples’ expectations of me. Every time I explain that no, I’m not going on a long trip on this year off, and no, I’m not pulling my teenaged children out of school, and no, I’m not going anywhere warm, and no, I’m not doing a Master’s degree, and yes, I’m doing the math PD my board is offering, and yes, I’m occasionally helping out and visiting friend’s classrooms, and yes, I can sometimes be found working on planning in a quiet corner of the board office, I shrink a little. A little bit of me feels like I’m doing my year off wrong, because I’m trying to use it to live my everyday life at a slightly deeper level. I’m trying to use it to put structures and planning in place to help my family and I weather my return to work next September. I need to do some work on why it’s hard for me to advocate for that. Why it’s hard for me to deal with the expectations many people have of what a year off work should look Iike (and trust me that I will never ask another person on leave if they’re travelling).(Check out my #selffundedleave hashtag on Instagram if you’d like to leave your expectations at the door). This is a symptom of a larger issue for me, where I sometimes feel like I’m not living up to some phantom list of other people’s expectations.
Which leads into the expectations I place on myself. I tend to do a fair amount of beating myself up for not being/doing enough. Not a good enough parent, spouse, teacher, planner, exerciser, blogger, presenter, musician, housekeeper (that’s a big one for me, and largely self-inflicted). There’s a lot of shame going on in my head about the expectations I don’t measure up to, despite the many loving people in my world who assure me that I do, and I’d really like to work on letting go of some of that. I know I’m not the only one in the profession who lives with this, and I’d love to hear from others about their struggles and successes.
All of these things of course, tie into how I work in the classroom. How do my expectations of myself affect my expectations of my students. What expectations am I putting on my students, consciously and unconsciously? And how do they feel about that? How do my expectations of my colleagues affect our ability to learn together? One of my husband’s excellent questions on this journey has been about what expectations I’m willing to let go of in the classroom next year, so that I can have a bit more of a life. I have way more questions than answers right now, so that’s probably a good place to stop.
So, onward, bravely, into 2018, hoping to let go of some unhealthy expectations, and find some reasonable ones to help fuel my journey forward.