It’s TESTING TIME for Teachers and Students

If you are a teacher, you are probably already feeling the pressure of testing time, and it isn’t even April! I have started getting messages from teachers who are too busy to think about what they might want to do next year career-wise. They are in simple survival mode.

And I get it.

During my last 20 years of serving as a library media specialist at the elementary school level, I served two schools. The first school struggled for the first year or two after testing mania took hold in Virginia, but once we figured out what we needed to do and we actually had a curriculum to follow, we got accredited and it was fairly smooth sailing each year. Teachers were concerned, of course, and the spring drill began there just like it does most other places, but nobody was losing sleep worrying about whether the school would meet accreditation standards.

That changed when I changed schools in 2001. I moved from a fairly affluent suburban community to a Title I school with a majority minority population. The year I arrived was the year after the school had finally reached accreditation status after years of being on the state department’s list of “failing schools.”

The photo below sums up how most of my colleagues felt for half of the school year.Business man in office with burnout syndrome at desk

In fact, I recall the tension beginning to build as early as February…months before the tests were to be administered. The climate on our campus changed dramatically. You could feel the tension as though it were a palpable substance. Teachers worried…would they be able to get their kids through this year or would we go back to being blacklisted by the state?

I was there for eight years, and that anxiety from February through June never stopped. Each year, teachers and administrators brainstormed new ways of trying to drill the standards into the children so they would pass the standardized tests.

I wasn’t a classroom teacher, so during each spring testing season, I was called upon to proctor. It always made me sad. I watched the teachers fret and the children struggle. The students all knew on some level that the stakes were high. They tried very hard. And each year, from 2001 until I left in 2008, they managed to pass, but that never alleviated the concern that they might not.

This is the time when stress really ramps up for teachers. They begin to lose sleep, staying up late making lesson plans or grading papers, or brainstorming ways to get their kids to understand better what they need to know for the tests.

They begin to eat more because they are stressed out. They begin to forget about exercise. Who has time? They start to gain weight but are too busy to do anything about it.

They leave off getting together with friends for the same reason. They are just too busy and preoccupied to be very sociable.

I get it. I’ve lived it. But here is what I know for sure. Taking on the weight of the world during this season will maybe mean the difference of a point or two on a student’s test, but it could ultimately make you sick.

Stress gone unchecked can raise your blood pressure, cause early onset diabetes, bring on heart attacks, and gastrointestinal issues.

This is the time of year when you need to take better care of yourself. It is more important now than ever!

Download my FREE eBook, Stressed, Stretched, and Just Plain Overwhelmed:  a Guide to Managing Your Stress and Creating a Greater Sense of Work-Life Balance. 

I can’t guarantee that you will feel as stress-free as this woman:  

stressfreewoman

But I can guarantee that you will learn some strategies that may help you cope more effectively during these last few months of school.

I also invite you to attend a live, FREE workshop entitled, “Stress Management Tools for Teachers.” 

To register, click here.

During this 60-minute class, you will learn more about the seven specific strategies that I recommend for you in the book. These are strategies for you to practice not just during the spring testing season, but all year long. You need to take care of your health! If you wind up sick, what happens to how your students prep for their big tests that are coming up?

Don’t let the testing season bring you down! “Do your best and forget the rest” as Tony Horton says. You need to be present for your spouse and your own children, after all. Heck, your students will be negatively affected if you are stressed out and cranky because you feel overwhelmed with work responsibilities.

So what do you say? First download the free eBook here.  Report cover Final (1)

Then sign up for the workshop, “Stress Management Tools for Teachers” here or click the button below.

Big red sign up now button

Photos by Shutterstock.

Until next time.

 

 

 

Another Resource for Teachers Headed for Burnout (But Not There Yet)

I mentioned in my last post that I am always on the lookout for a new reimgressource for teachers who are feeling the pain and confusion of burnout. I found another one that you might find of interest. It is The Happy Teacher Habits:  11 Habits of the Happiest, Most Effective Teachers on Earthby Michael Linsin. I hadn’t heard for Mr. Linsin before, but I learned that he operates a web resource for teachers. He also offers personal coaching. His website is Smart Classroom Management, and if you check him out, you will find other books that he has written and other resources that he provides.

Here is what I said about this book in the review I just wrote for Amazon:

“As a Career Transition and Job Search Coach who specializes in helping teachers who are suffering from burnout, I am always on the lookout for resources that might help them. I might suggest this one to a more experienced teacher who hasn’t hit the wall of total burnout. I don’t think the suggestions are as practically useful to a new teacher, however. You can’t figure out how to narrow the focus of your lesson before you know what you are doing. And you don’t have the luxury of saying no to your new administrator when you are the new kid on the block. These are more useful suggestions to the veteran teacher who knows their subject matter well and for the teacher who has already earned the confidence to be able to set healthy boundaries and say “no” when asked to do something they don’t have time to take on. Having said that, as a veteran teacher who has now been out of the classroom for a while, I enjoyed the stories and anecdotes very much, and I get where the author is coming from and the value of some of his other suggestions. This book could be offered to anyone (not just teachers) who have gotten caught up in the vicious cycle of too little balance between work, home, and personal hobbies. Unfortunately, some of the first to five-year teachers have already hit the wall before they can get to the place that the author suggests…having the freedom to run their classroom more or less independently of anyone else’s interference. As a veteran teacher and one perceived to be a master teacher, no doubt, he has earned the flexibility that he seems to think any teacher can claim for themselves any time. I wish it were so easy. Perhaps if it were, the shortage that is looming in the nation’s classrooms would arrive later rather than sooner.”

While, as I said above, I hadn’t heard of Mr. Linsin before reading this book, and this is the only one of his books that I have read, I appreciated his clear understanding of the problems teachers are facing. I understood many of his recommendations, but as mentioned in the review, I just don’t know how practical they are for the new, inexperienced teacher who is still trying to find his or her sea legs.

What I really liked about this book was its easy readability and the fact that he uses many anecdotes and little-known stories to illustrate the main point in each chapter. One of his main points is that teachers might learn a long-held principle that is referred to as the 80/20 rule. In its simplest form, the 80/20 rule states that 20 percent of results come from 80 percent of the causes. Linsin uses this rule to illustrate that it is possible to streamline curriculum and to narrow the focus of any particular lesson to one or two key points. This would eliminate extra, unnecessary planning. He also offers that teachers might cut down on some of their work at home if they streamline the assignments they give.

While these may be fine strategies for that experienced teacher that I mention in my Amazon review, I don’t think it is useful to the new teacher who hasn’t gained enough experience yet to discern what is okay to keep and what is okay to leave out. That kind of judgment only comes with experience.

I am also not certain that the suggestion that a teacher declines a lot of extra-curricular activity is practical for the newer teacher. Most administrators frown upon members of their faculties ignoring direct requests for help or assistance with after-school programs or evening meetings that members of the faculty are expected to attend. Again, this may be a fine strategy for the teacher who has reached a level of job security that stretches beyond the first few years, but a teacher on probation chooses to use this type of discretion at their own risk.

With all of that said, I enjoyed the book and the anecdotes, so I was entertained while I was also being offered some food for thought.

If you are already at the point of burnout, this book won’t help a lot, but then, there are not many books that can help once you have hit the point of no return. I am talking to more and more teachers who are just not having any fun and are grappling with what to do next professionally.

Perhaps the most gut-wrenching message I have received lately is the one left on my website as a comment:

“Hi Kitty,

I’m literally sitting in my school parking lot dreading the day…waiting for the last possible second to go in. I’ve been teaching for 17 years, and I’m trying to make it to 20. I asked one of my now retired principals as what to do. She said go to the doc and get some anxiety meds to get you through. I don’t want to take meds to get me through work. I feel stuck. I make decent pay and love the summers off, but there has to be something out there where I don’t have to deal with all this that is comparable…Help!”

The troubling thing is that I know many teachers who are on anxiety medication to make it through their day. What does that say about the state of our profession?

If you are feeling that kind of pain and anxiety, your health is at risk. That is the bottom line. Stress can and will make you sick, so at the very least, if you are struggling with the symptoms of burnout, you should learn what you need to do to take better care of yourself. Teachers are expected to give, and give, and give to the point of exhaustion or the sacrifice of their own well-being and family life. This is not a fair or viable expectation.

If you aren’t sure if your stress level is dangerously high yet, take advantage of a free stress assessment that I offer in my stress management workshops.

Answer each question honestly without analyzing. Just go with your first reaction to the question. If you wind up with 10 or more “yes” answers, you need to get help somewhere.

Life is simply too short to spend it wasted in any endeavor that doesn’t make you happy. Don’t wait until you are like the person who wrote me yesterday. By then, it is getting too late.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Developing Healthy Habits for 2016

 

healthy habits

My mom used to say that if you had your health, you had everything you needed. She was a nurse, and she had seen people lose their health and subsequently lose jobs, families, and even their lives. She was a great proponent of preventative health care. She urged me to keep regular check ups with my doctors and my dentist. She also urged me to get vaccinations when recommended. To this day, with few exceptions, I follow her advice because I recognize the soundness of it.

Health is result of good genes to some degree, and as we get older, this is a factor, for sure. Another factor in health, however, is dependent upon whether or not you practice good health habits. Good health habits include eating for good nutrition, drinking recommended amounts of water, getting adequate and appropriate exercise, and so on.

During this time of year, with the Christmas holidays just behind us and the New Year just ahead of us, it is the time when we start to think in terms of fresh starts and New Year’s resolutions. Many of the most common resolutions are centered around health and fitness. I am certain that every fitness club on the planet is braced for an onslaught of new memberships that people will likely abandon almost as quickly as they sign up for them. That is a not a disaparagement…just a fact. Take a look at the graphic below to see why I make such a statement.

habits

Note that “85% of New Year’s resolutions fail by the first week.”

We don’t need to be resigned to bad health, however, just because creating new healthy habits is challenging. We just need to heed the two tips above, “Start slowly; Be consistent.”

I am starting a new program next week which I am calling “7 Months to 7 Healthier Habits for 2016.”  Click on the link for more information.

Are you as healthy as you would like to be? Consider:

  • Are you at your ideal weight?
  • Is your BMI (Body Mass Index) what you would like it to be?
  • Do you practice healthy eating habits regularly?
  • Do you drink the recommended amount of water most days?
  • Are you getting the exercise you need in order to be fit for your age and your current physical condition?

These are extremely important questions at any time of the year, but especially at this time. While everyone is thinking about making a “new start” in the New Year, why not think about how you might make 2016 a healthier year than last year?

If you have questions about the “7 Months to 7 Healthier Habits for 2016,” please let me know. I will be happy to work with you if you are interested in making this a healthier year ahead. In this program we will be working slowly and incrementally as we incorporate one new health habit a month for 7 months. In that way, the habits we create will last longer and by the end of July, 2016, we will be healthier, and if the adage is true, happier as well.

I invite you to join me.

Until next time.

 

 

Do You Have Someone You Need to Forgive?

Photo by Shutterstock

Photo by Shutterstock

I write a newsletter for my clients, and today’s message seemed pertinent to share here. I don’t know if you have someone in your life whom you need to forgive…or perhaps the person you need to forgive is yourself. What I do know is that forgiveness is a topic that many of us talk about but just as many of us fail to practice for a variety of reasons. It sometimes just feels too hard to forgive someone who had breached your trust or betrayed you in some way.

Someone wisely said, “Not forgiving someone is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.” And when you think about, that is the absolute truth. You may be filled with anger, resentment, and even hatred, while the other person is merrily going about their business with no idea that you are so angry and upset with them.

In my thinking about the need to practice forgiveness, I ran across this article about the health benefits of practicing forgiveness. It has been written by the Mayo Clinic Staff, and since there is little that I could add to what they have offered, I decided to share the article. I hope you will find it of use to you. If you aren’t having trouble with forgiveness in your own life, chances are you know someone who is struggling because of some unresolved hurt or issue. Feel free to share this with anyone who you believe might benefit. It is a good reminder that letting go of grudges and bitterness is not about letting another person who has hurt you off the hook…it is about letting YOU off the hook once and for all.

Enjoy.

Forgiveness: Letting go of grudges and bitterness

When someone you care about hurts you, you can hold on to anger, resentment and thoughts of revenge — or embrace forgiveness and move forward.

By Mayo Clinic Staff

Nearly everyone has been hurt by the actions or words of another. Perhaps your mother criticized your parenting skills, your colleague sabotaged a project or your partner had an affair. These wounds can leave you with lasting feelings of anger, bitterness or even vengeance — but if you don’t practice forgiveness, you might be the one who pays most dearly. By embracing forgiveness, you can also embrace peace, hope, gratitude and joy. Consider how forgiveness can lead you down the path of physical, emotional and spiritual well-being.

What is forgiveness?

Generally, forgiveness is a decision to let go of resentment and thoughts of revenge. The act that hurt or offended you might always remain a part of your life, but forgiveness can lessen its grip on you and help you focus on other, positive parts of your life. Forgiveness can even lead to feelings of understanding, empathy and compassion for the one who hurt you.

Forgiveness doesn’t mean that you deny the other person’s responsibility for hurting you, and it doesn’t minimize or justify the wrong. You can forgive the person without excusing the act. Forgiveness brings a kind of peace that helps you go on with life.

What are the benefits of forgiving someone?

Letting go of grudges and bitterness can make way for compassion, kindness and peace. Forgiveness can lead to:

  • Healthier relationships
  • Greater spiritual and psychological well-being
  • Less anxiety, stress and hostility
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Fewer symptoms of depression
  • Lower risk of alcohol and substance abuse

Why is it so easy to hold a grudge?

When you’re hurt by someone you love and trust, you might become angry, sad or confused. If you dwell on hurtful events or situations, grudges filled with resentment, vengeance and hostility can take root. If you allow negative feelings to crowd out positive feelings, you might find yourself swallowed up by your own bitterness or sense of injustice.

What are the effects of holding a grudge?

If you’re unforgiving, you might pay the price repeatedly by bringing anger and bitterness into every relationship and new experience. Your life might become so wrapped up in the wrong that you can’t enjoy the present. You might become depressed or anxious. You might feel that your life lacks meaning or purpose, or that you’re at odds with your spiritual beliefs. You might lose valuable and enriching connectedness with others.

How do I reach a state of forgiveness?

Forgiveness is a commitment to a process of change. To begin, you might:

  • Consider the value of forgiveness and its importance in your life at a given time
  • Reflect on the facts of the situation, how you’ve reacted, and how this combination has affected your life, health and well-being
  • When you’re ready, actively choose to forgive the person who’s offended you
  • Move away from your role as victim and release the control and power the offending person and situation have had in your life

As you let go of grudges, you’ll no longer define your life by how you’ve been hurt. You might even find compassion and understanding.

Please like me on Facebook or follow me onTwitter and find me on LinkedIn.

If you or a friend or family member is looking for a job because they are out of work, between jobs, or underemployed, contact me for information about the “disruptive job search” methodology that is taught atCareerHMO, the “cure for chronic career pain.” I am now working as a career coach with CareerHMO and am looking for people who could benefit from the program and the fantastic resources that are available through CareerHMO and its sister site, Careerealism.

Practicing the “Art” of Self-Care

 

Self Care

Self Care

I have been talking about self-care a lot as I conduct my workshops on stress management. As far as I can see, stress management relies most heavily on our ability to practice self-care, so I ask you to consider:  How good are you at practicing self-care?

Women, I believe, are especially vulnerable to the notion that taking care of self first is “selfish,” but I don’t believe that women are the only ones who suffer from not taking care of themselves. We are taught as small children that we must always share and we must bite back the things we would like to say in an effort to be “polite” and to “get along” with one another. Men and women receive messages that seem to indicate that others always come first, and where does leave them?

As a result, I believe we have a lot of adults who have lost touch with themselves while they go about their days putting the needs and feelings of everyone around them first.

Now, I am not talking about moms of small children. In the early years, it is necessary, of course, for young mothers to be mindful of and responsive to the needs of their babies and toddlers. But as our children grow older, to continue to put their every need head and shoulders above your own is not only not healthy for you, it teaches your children wrong lessons about how they should conduct their own lives.

We have gotten too used to putting everyone else first, and I believe we are paying the price for it by being sick more than we should, feeling tired so much of the time, and suffering from a serious bout of “is this all there is-itis.”

The solution, of course, isn’t to declare that from this point forward, you are only taking care of your own needs and no one else’s. That won’t solve anything. But there does need to be a better balance, it seems to me, between taking care of others’ needs and taking care of your own.

Stress is caused by a sense of overwhelm that can be created by feeling that there isn’t enough time, there isn’t enough money, and you don’t have the energy to deal with all of the demands on you. You can take some active steps toward better managing and reducing your stress right away if you start to learn some important self-care strategies.

Arianna Huffington has recently written an entire book on the premise that we as a society have become exhausted and that we need to recognize that taking care of ourselves is not selfish, it is self-preserving.

One of the strategies that she is promoting is meditation. I did a workshop recently on stress management, and one of the participants asked me before I began if I was going to talk about meditation. I told her that given the amount of time we had, I wouldn’t be talking about it at length, but I would be mentioning it as one of the seven strategies that I recommend to those who are interested in reducing their stress levels. Meditation every day or a daily practice of prayer—or both—can go a long way toward helping you feel better about yourself and about life in general.

Meditation is recognized as an important practice on a wider and wider basis these days. It isn’t just some New Age “woo-woo” stuff. Indeed, meditation is becoming more and more mainstream, and Oprah Winfrey has teamed up with Deepak Chopra in an effort to take it to an even wider audience worldwide. Researchers are discovering that brain waves can be altered with meditation, and an individual’s sense of well being can be impacted by a daily meditation practice.

I am going to suggest that for this week, you try to incorporate meditation into your daily routine, even if it is only for five minutes a day. And if the idea of being still and doing nothing for five minutes makes you feel anxious, consider that you could take a walking meditation, or still your mind while you are doing the dishes or working in your garden. The point of meditation is to still your mind, to get rid of the chatter that is constantly telling you that you don’t have enough time, you don’t have enough money, and whatever else your mind frequently goes on about. Still your mind while you knit or crochet…but still your mind if only for a few moments in order to make space for the inner voice of wisdom that resides in each of you but is so often drowned out.

Self-care is not about being selfish—it is about nurturing yourself and your own soul so that you can be the person you were born to be. Consider for just a moment what you might do differently if you were acting in your own best interests for a change. What if self-care became a way of life for you starting today? It could change your life, couldn’t it? And, if it can change your life—and for the better—why not give it a try? What do you have to lose?

For more information, please feel free to contact me directly at kittyboitnott@boitnottcoaching.com.

Like my Facebook page by clicking here. Find me on LinkedIn here.

For information about the career coaching program offered by CareerHMO, click here.

 

What are the Serendipities in Your Life?

Serendipity Stones Writer and poet, Simon Van Booy has said, “Coincidences mean you are on the right path.” Albert Einstein once said that coincidences are “God’s way of remaining anonymous.” I should offer the disclaimer here that I don’t really like the word, “coincidences.” I prefer to think of “coincidences” as “serendipities.” To me, serendipity is a coincidence with the added element of surprise or delight. I find serendipities in my life all the time. Some people recognize them later, after they have happened; but I usually spot them in the moment. I suspect I see them more readily because I have trained myself to be on the look out for them. My question to you today is, are you on the look out for coincidences/serendipities that indicate that you are on your right path? Is God trying to nudge you in a particular direction, but because She is doing it anonymously, you are ignoring the messages that you are receiving? If that is the case, I urge you to slow down and start paying more attention to the various coincidences that I am sure are occurring in your life right now, even as I write this message. No one is immune to having those odd, “coincidental” events in their lives to which I am referring. So, what are the coincidences in your life, and what are they trying to tell you? Are you on the right path, or do you need a course correction? You know deep down where you need to be and what you need to be doing. “Listen to your own wisdom,” as Oprah would say. It will not lead you astray. Now, just in case you need an example, I have one that just this minute happened for me. This morning, I presented to a group of teachers around the topic of National Board Certification. It made me think about the last person I mentored, and I wondered for a moment how she was doing. Then I proceeded on with my talk. Guess from whom I just this minute received an email? You guessed it. That person about whom I thought just this morning has contacted me, wanting to check in “out of the blue.” I haven’t heard from her for months. Why would she decide to check in with me today? Because I thought of her this morning and on some cosmic level, we must have connected. Those are the events about which I am writing. When you think of someone and they call you the next day. “I was just thinking about you,” you will say. Or you discover that you need some extra cash for something that has come up unexpectedly and suddenly, as you are balancing your checkbook you discover an error that reveals that you have the amount you need. Admittedly, it doesn’t happen all the time, but it does happen on occasion. Be on the look out. Listen to the messages you are being sent. God is speaking to you through those coincidences that I like to think of serendipities. Again, as Oprah is famous for saying, it is “what I know for sure.”

Finding Balance: Reclaim Your Time and Live a More Fulfilling Life

Do you ever feel like you have too many things to accomplish in a single day?

Are you driven by demands at work all day only to come home to find more demands being made on your time and energy?

Do you feel worn out all the time, waking up just as tired in the morning as you were when you went to bed?

Is your life feeling less joyful and more like drudgery?

If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, I have something special to offer you.

I am launching my first FREE Webinar in just a few weeks.

Mark your calendars for June 24th and plan to tune in from 7:00-8:30 pm to learn more about finding balance in your life once and for all!

 Here is what you will learn:

  • What is Balance? Consider perspectives that will help you think about your own life and how you might create more balance in your day-to-day activities.
  • What is Work-Life Balance? Learn to create a dynamic relationship between achievement, fulfillment, and the factors that influence your choices and decisions in both your work life and your personal life.
  • What Does Work-Life Balance Mean to YOU? This program will demonstrate for you that your life is yours alone, and you don’t have to compare it to anyone else; nor should you be comparing yourself with others in order to create the lifeYOU want to be living. Work-life balance means different things to different people. Explore what YOUR definition of work-life balance is.
  • How Do You Rate Your Work-Life Balance? The activities included in this webinar will help you assess where you are right now on the work-life balance spectrum. You will learn that work-life balance is an ever-changing relationship that is constant need of attention if the balance is to be achieved and maintained.
  • What are the Consequences of Work-Life Imbalance…and What are the Benefits of Improving Work-Life Balance? There is no easy fix and creating work-life balance is a challenge for most of us, but this webinar will show you what the real world consequences of not getting your work-life in balance will be for you.
  • What Can You Do to Improve Your Work-Life Balance? In this webinar, you will learn the specific things you can start doing right away that will help to improve your own work-life balance.

Stay tuned for more information on how to sign up for this special event. I am excited about the prospect of bringing this important information to you, and I hope you will plan right now to do this for yourself.