I don’t always open up the Education Update from ASCD (Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development) the very minute it comes in the mail. The hard copy still arrives monthly, six months into my practical departure from the official business of education. So, fresh from a resolve to process the mail just once, when the October issue arrived, I took a look. 10 Ways to Get Your Mojo Back, the front page article promised (ASCD Education Update, Volume 59, No. 10, October, 2017), if you’re "battling the October blues." Although I’m not in the classroom anymore, and it’s no longer October, I thought I might benefit from these tips any old day of the year. Now that a new year has dawned, and given the layers of treacherous ice caking the streets and sidewalks at the moment, as well as the obscene cold, today might still be a good time to reflect on one’s mojo.
In that context, then, here are some tips that Sarah McKibbon has collected from 2017 American State and National Teachers of the Year. I wondered how they might relate to my retired life. (Teacher colleagues, click here for the professional article.) For me, they’re a useful guide, a sort of secular examination of conscience.
1. Find Strength in Your *****
Fill in the blanks for yourself. For teachers, the recommendation is to find strength in students. I find my strength wherever I can, mostly in my children, whose courage, resilience, and knowledge amaze me daily. I think of people I know who have faced cancer and terminal illness with a smile. Others have emigrated to Canada to start a new life, or started over from zero after losing all their possessions in a cataclysmic natural disaster. Sources of strength and inspiration are everywhere.
2. Learn Something New
My harp and I continue to spend lots of quality time together in concentrated practice and fun. In baby steps, I work on the exercises and new music I acquired at the Northern Lights Harp Festival in Cornwall, Ontario, in October. To push myself even more, I memorize. Here, I’m way out of my comfort zone. The good news: my comfort zone is broader than it used to be.
3. Pull Out All the (Instructional) Stops
I have to accept that, right now, there’s no more room in the day for more pulled-out stops, if I want to do right by those already in play.
4. Battle Your Boredom
I don’t bore easily, so I’m skipping over this one. In fact, my daughter confided in me a few years ago that, as a child, she thought « boring » was a swear word. It might as well have been!
5. Find Your Tribe
Quality, not quantity, is my mantra around friends. To those who light up my life, intentionally and unaware, thank you. I’ve realized that the tribe has a converse, and that focusing on the needs of others gets me out of any funk of mine.
6. Hit Pause and Reflect
Look back on your accomplishments, the author says. Save any thank you notes, and reread them when you feel down. Check.
7. Never Let Your Flame Go Out
That one needs determined effort, every single day. You have to fight for your joy. Many times, I’ve had to paste on the smile, get on with the day, and simply refuse to feel smothered.
8. Take a Hike
It’s true—exercise is a must, like brushing your teeth.
9. Have Coffee with a Mentor
See #5, above. True confession—I’ve never been much of a coffee-er. So, there’s some room for expansion here.
10. Resist the Isolation
It’s fitting that this one should be last in the list, the tip that most applies to me. As I age, I’m comfortable in my own space, with my people, my projects and my routine. My passions require a lot of solitary investment—reading, music, writing. Isolation can be insidious, though. The trick would be, I suppose, to find the social dimension of those passions and cultivate them. Stay tuned for an update on how I do on this one.
Out of ten, maybe eight have some momentum? There’s consolation in that, and some balance. The take-away from the exercise: Reflect on the accomplishments, and keep what still could be further developed in perspective.