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Going to graduate school full time, working various part-time jobs, and student teaching every day, it can be hard to find the space on the calendar to get anything else done, let alone have time for yourself. Finding a balance is truly important in ensuring mental, emotional and physical health.
A day in the life of a student teacher (at least in my experience) goes something like this: wake up as early as possible; drink coffee; find a way to get ready, take care of the pets, organize your life, and get out the door before 7:00am. Get to school, make copies, organize materials for lessons, and drink more coffee. Teach; lesson plan for the next day or next week; teach more; plan more; drink more coffee and find time to eat somewhere in there. After all of that comes a train ride downtown, answering emails and reading on the way, and grad classes all evening. After heading back from class there is homework, reading, grading papers and assessments and dinner. Then it is off to bed by 10:00pm or 11:00pm at the latest because teacher-time is a real thing. On days when there is no grad class to attend, there are lesson plans to write, units to design, learning activities to create, and or course housework, grocery shopping, and errands to run. In there somewhere, I try to get some kind of a workout, dance class, or small moments of meditation in at least a few days out of the week. Not to mention, making sure to spend time with my significant other, call my family and catch up with friends, take care of my animals, and anything else that helps the human need for communication.
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Life as a student teacher is busy to say the least. But, it is a balancing act. There needs to be a healthy balance between school and work or work and play, and everything in between. There are many ways to organize and prioritize so that you do not feel overwhelmed, and there are ways to ensure you get the breaks, breathers, and moments you need to keep the sanity. I’ve found that not only keeping a calendar but a journal is very helpful. This not only keeps me organized, but makes my reflective practices as an educator, a student, a life-long learner, and a human experiencing all that life has to throw at me a priority. It forces me to not just set a date a keep it, or put something on the agenda and then do it, but really think about how important it is. It forces me pause and truly think about what I am doing and why, and forces me to think about how things are going and how I might change them in the future.
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With that in mind, I also set goals. I set goals for everything: teaching, money, health and fitness, accomplishing my “to-do” lists, and schoolwork. Setting these attainable, yet challenging goals offers intrinsic motivation that only further encourages me to work harder and do more. I strategize and find creative use for my time. If I know I need a mental break that day, my train ride or my workout is that time to listen to music and zone out. If I know I need to get extra stuff done that day with little time on my hands, I read or grade papers on the commute instead. Lastly, I always find time for myself. Whether it be a few moments before class when I enjoy a coffee by myself, sitting on the classroom rug centering my thoughts before my students enter school for the day, taking a long route on my walk home after class, or hanging out on my couch getting lost in some good (or sometimes mindless) television, making time for myself to relax and regroup is extremely important to my success as a graduate student and pre-service teacher.
Stay tuned for my next blog when I go into more depth about the school-work and lesson/unit planning that requires such a balancing act.