Freire wrote about being integrated rather than adapted to the reality in which we find ourselves. Marx wrote about being self-actualized rather than alienated from ourselves. Thoreau wrote about sucking the marrow out of life in contrast to living lives of quiet desperation.
Schools, whether intentional or not, reinforce all of the "latters." This is because our systems of education were designed to meet the needs of power structures (economic, political, social) rather than individual humans. The accountability movement simply exacerbated the problem.
As a result, teachers, the humans tasked with helping other humans develop, find their students and themselves increasing toxified by this system. They see the harm being caused to children in the name of racing kids to the top, and they are leaving the profession in record numbers to rid themselves of the poison.
Educational initiatives have often been framed by those in power in ways that not only mask this dehumanizing paradigm, but convince the public that they are finally putting students first, as opposed to the adults in the building who have been "leaving children behind."
Consider the documentary "Waiting for Superman." The title alone casts teachers as the villain in this story when they are just as much victims of this dehumanizing system as their students.
We have largely reduced life to a quest for material gain. Success is measured by the numbers on our bank statements, the value of our homes and cars, and our ability to purchase everything capitalists convince us we NEED to be happier.
This material pursuit is translated to our educational systems by deifying test scores. If the success of an adult is the number on a paycheck, the value of a student is his/her score on a high stakes test.
This system forces students to adapt rather than integrate. It alienates us from ourselves and prevents self-actualization. And, sadly, it often leads to lives of quiet desperation.
Until we awaken to this, the system, and the people within it, will be caught in an increasingly soulless game. We will grasp at technology, methods, and interventions with the sole purpose of playing the game better rather than deconstructing it. We will be led to believe that kids just need more time in school, more access to technology, and more rigor. And they will be swept up in the game, driven to achieve the arbitrary goals forced upon them by adults, never knowing that their lives could have been embedded with much greater intention, joy, and peace.
BY BRAD KRAUSE
Self-care has become a buzz word for modern times, but the fact remains that putting yourself first has plenty of benefits. For both your mental and physical health, adopting these self-care strategies can make a huge difference. Plus, you don’t have to take up meditation or move to a deserted island to start de-stressing. Since self-care is a very personal choice, you can adapt any number of ideas that make sense for your daily needs. Here are a few ideas.
Remember to Exercise
Evidence suggests that exercise might be an often-neglected component of mental health. That’s because exercise can reduce anxiety, bust negative moods, and enhance your self-esteem. The best part about adding exercise is that you can stay fit and reduce stress at the same time, and tech like fitness trackers can provide motivation and help you reach those goals. The Apple Smartwatch, for example, offers features like step counts, workout monitoring, and even heart rate statistics; if you’re an Android user, you might check out the Galaxy Watch Active 2, which is lightweight and can do everything from track your walking route to keep up with your caffeine consumption.
For seniors looking to boost their physical activity, some Medicare Advantage plans—like the ones Humana offers—also include the Silver Sneakers fitness program. Silver Sneakers helps older adults access memberships for fitness classes like yoga, team sports, and outdoor activities, plus it’s usually included in your healthcare coverage.
Snooze a Bit More
Research suggests that getting more sleep can promote your physical and mental health. Harvard Medical School notes that inadequate sleep alone can cause stress, irritability, and even mood disorders.
Therefore, getting a few more hours of sleep can do wonders for your overall well-being. Per Healthline, older adults—ages 65 and up—require seven to eight hours of sleep per night. Adults ages 18 to 64 should aim for seven to nine hours for optimal health.
Spend Time on Your Own
Studies show that people who enjoy more “me time” can concentrate better, enjoy higher productivity, and think more creatively, Psychology Today explains. Shutting out the world occasionally helps you remain independent and clear your head, which are crucial steps to supporting your emotions and mental health.
Enjoying hobbies is another facet of me-time that’s beneficial for everyone. Whether you enjoy creating art, reading, watching TV, or playing a sport, these outlets can help you to ignore outside pressures and focus inward.
Say No When It Serves You
When it comes to taking care of yourself, learning to say no increases your self-confidence and keeps you from committing to things that don’t serve you. After all, wasting your time can be more stressful than environmental or other influences.
Plus, doing things that make you uncomfortable is harmful to your mental state. Sticking up for yourself is crucial. Saying no helps you do that. Whether it’s internal, like urging yourself to complete a workout when you’re sick, or external, such as a colleague piling more work on you, acknowledging your limits and honoring them is essential.
Get Outside More
Of course, when you pair exercise with getting outdoors for fresh air, the benefits increase. Getting into nature helps restore energy, cut down on negative feelings, and reduce stress. Even without exercising, spending time in nature can help ground you and provide a calming effect.
Try Natural Remedies
While many adults require prescription help to overcome mental health challenges, there are non-traditional options to support conventional treatment. The National Alliance on Mental Illness recommends “complementary health approaches” to treating mental illness. Among their suggestions are the addition of omega-3 and folate supplements to your diet, as both nutrients have proven mental health benefits.
Yoga, tai chi—and yes, meditation—are also among the Alliance’s recommendations for natural techniques to reduce mental health stressors.
Whether you have significant mental health challenges or are simply overstressed, there are accessible solutions that can help. From getting nutrition boosts to incorporating downtime into your routine, getting healthier in both body and mind is possible no matter your health status or age.
Photo via Pixabay
BY TODD SCHOLL
Welcome to Teachers Aligned!
Over the past seven years, I have been working to promote mindfulness in public schools. Through this work, I have had the pleasure of meeting many other educators who share similar goals. Some are doing their own independent explorations. Others are connected to organization like Mindful Schools, CASEL, or the Omega Institute. Some are focused on mindfulness. Others focus on wellness, social-emotional learning, advocacy, yoga or another related area. In creating Teachers Aligned, my goal is to develop a network of these people to magnify their efforts and connect them with educators who want to learn more.
As this network continues to grow, my hope is that more public educators, and their students, will have access to the resources they need to be well inside and out. I envision a transformation of public education to a system that values our humanity more than data points. I seek a system where compassion, kindness, peace, and justice are deeply embedded into every classroom.
I am the grandson and son of public educators. I am the father of three children in public schools. I am entering my 25th year in public education. I believe that every child deserves an outstanding education, and that can only happen if we recruit and retain outstanding educators. To do this, we must value our teachers and ensure they have the tools to be healthy, happy, and successful.
Recently, I have seen some incredible public education advocates suggest that mindfulness, self care, etc. are simply ways to keep teachers from complaining or advocating for better working conditions. I have also seen criticisms by those who think the primary goal of these practices is to control and promote compliance in students. Let me be clear. Where these tools are being used for those purposes, our network stands in firm opposition. While self-regulation and resilience are positive outcomes for these practices, our hope is that the insights and skills cultivated through these practices strengthen critical thinking, advocacy, empathy, and political activism.
I hope you will join our network and help us advance our mission to empower educators with tools and information related to mindfulness, trauma-informed practices, restorative practices, social-emotional learning, yoga, self-care, neuroscience, psychology, and teacher wellness.