When a friend, making light conversation, asked me yesterday if I was ready to go back to school; for the first time in a long time I was able to reply with a wholehearted "yes!" Yes- I'm ok with the flood of emails listing art and back to school sales. I'm ok with thinking about lesson plans, getting up in the dark, long commutes, balancing my family's hectic sports and social schedules, and yes, accepting that its ok to, well, not be perfect... Here are a few very simple things that I did to ensure that I would embrace returning to the art room refreshed and ready for the school year:
First, I said "no." You can't always do it, but whenever possible, I recommend it. So when asked to work our extended school year program this summer, I did it. I said "no." Saying "no" wasn't easy for me. This was my first year with my new school, and while I wanted my school director to know that I was thrilled to be our school's new art teacher, I knew that I needed my summer. I simply explained just that, and you know what? Everyone was perfectly alright with it. By saying "no," I was able to attend professional development workshops, work intensely in the studio, read, research, build my professional media sites, and do the really important stuff like camp, swim, cookout, play hockey, reconnect with old friends and family, catch pokemon, and laugh with my husband and the children I live with.
Second, I stayed aware of how I made choices. Having finished Dr. William Glassner's book Choice Theory in the Classroom at summer's start, I was determined to choose to make the most of my summer and embrace all the experiences that it would bring. So when my month old car was hit by a bus, I decided that I was not going to let this event and any other non-preferred occurrences (like our other functioning cars breaking down and my daughter injuring her foot just before an expensive hockey tournament showcase) sway me to 'depress' through the summer. Because you know what? Everything worked out just fine.
Third, I reflected. It's possible to relax and recharge while also reflecting on one's practice. So, while I lazed by the pool I read and I wrote, setting positive, attainable goals for the upcoming school year, taking into consideration, also, ways to better balance the needs and schedules of my family.
Fourth, and maybe most importantly, I was realistic. Sure, I would have liked to have had my kitchen renovated, the roof fixed, resurrected a thriving organic garden, and completed a massive third floor purge- however none of that happened, and that's alright. This summer, I made plans, that while small, were achievable and brought me joy, and that's why I'm ok with back to school.