The greatest weapon against stress is our ability to choose one thought over another.
Whatever we put our attention on will grow stronger in our life.
It’s Friday afternoon after the first full week of a new semester. I’ve spent the week trying to get to know my students, trying to pay attention to what their needs are. Trying to pay attention to what I’m expecting of them during a worldwide pandemic when many of them haven’t actually had an English class for over a year and a half.
Then I’m paying attention to how I’m interacting. What I’m cleaning. How close I’m standing. Who’s mask can’t ever stay up while being conscious of some students frustrations with how their masks fog up their glasses when they wear them over their noses.
I’m paying attention to walking the tightrope of balancing normal school stuff with the attention that must be paid to air purifier placement, seating charts that will determine if a student is quarantined or not when another is exposed, and incessant emails and phone calls of kids being called down to the nurse with all of their things. Each time the phone rings and I need to send a student down, I always wonder when I’m going to see them in person again. Most of the time it’s at least 14 days.
Attention must be placed on all of these things yet the distraction arises because how can it all be important? My brain doesn’t have space for it all. And then I wonder, which is the attention and which is the distraction when none of it feels like it can be let go?
James and Maharishi offer perspective and perhaps an answer to the riddle of what needs my attention and what can I let go as distraction.
They both offer a solution in the form of empowerment: we have the ability to choose what we pay attention to and that will be what grows in our lives-for good or for bad…
So then I question, what do I want to pay attention to versus what do I have to pay attention to? Can I commit to paying attention to my students’ needs while creating routines with the other stuff that is trying to distract me? The other stuff like seating charts, air purifiers, quarantining? Can I try to go with the flow with those things and legitimately be there now with the students who are with me at that moment during this particular class?
So the thought I’m choosing to avoid the stress is the one that leads me back to what’s actually happening in my classroom at that moment. Some moments will be for interacting. Some moments will be for cleaning. Some moments will be for conferencing with quarantined kids virtually. Some moments will be for figuring out the best placement for an air purifier I’m not even sure is going to work.
And as I choose to pay attention to the moments, my ability to pay attention to simple moments increases. I’m not as distracted by the nagging voice, the consistent emails, the phone ringing.
It’s not a perfect remedy, but it helps. And that’s what is needed right now. Every little bit helps. To calm the distractions and input and pay attention to what is really important.
If you’re feeling distracted by all of the competing “priorities” and not sure where to start with building attention please check out what Teacher Wellness Coaching has to offer with a free clarity call.
I’ve spent years trying to find ways to create a balanced teacher life that can be fulfilling for the whole teacher. If distractions are running the show, please consider taking a few moments for a clarity call to see if we’re a good fit to work together.
To another week of teaching well,