May Word to Live By- Transition
By Susan Jerrell, TOFT Founder
As school ends and teachers transition into summer, this seems like the perfect time to focus on the importance of transitions. We often think of life transitions as huge, monumental changes, however, in doing so we overlook the importance of the daily transitions that sustain us.
When we plan transitions with intent it enables us to slow down and be more fully present. Planning time to direct us from one activity to another allows us to pause and prepares us for what is next.
We know transitions are important to our students in school, and as teachers we probably plan transitions in the classroom wisely. However, how often do we plan transitions and incorporate breaks for ourselves?
Learn from my failures and take a break
Allowing for breaks during and between activities has the potential to help students focus, improve productivity and reduce stress. Now, imagine the benefits when you apply these same principles to your own family and yourself.
In all honesty, I did a terrible job of this when my kids were young. There were no transitions between home and school or school and home unless you counted the 5 minute ride to their daycare or later the 7 minute drive to their elementary when it was pick up time.
My day looked more like a marathon than a stroll. Too often, I forgot to slow down and just enjoy what was happening around me.
Each day, I got up, got myself and kids ready for the day, drove them to daycare or school, drove to my school and started the day. When the school day was finished, I ran to the car to get my kids, completed whatever errands had to be done, raced home to fix dinner, oversaw homework, cleaned up from dinner, directed bath time, got kids in bed, and then I had papers to grade and lessons to plan.
Looking back, I did not take time for myself, and sadly, my relationship with my spouse was often put on a back burner. I tried too hard to be all things to all people, and I was exhausted and grouchy.
This is what I wish I had known about using transitions
My kids needed a transition from their day too. Together, we should have de-stressed. The first half hour home should have been doing something we enjoyed, not rushing around to get through all the chores.
Had we done that, I am sure I would have been less stressed and so would they. That transition would have let us prepare for the rest of our evening.
I was a workaholic. I put my job before everything way too much. If I didn’t have papers graded, lessons planned at least a week or so ahead of time, and copies made I stressed and stayed up too late and spent way too many hours working at home.
When my kids were young, I always waited until they were in bed, but relaxing after that with my husband rarely happened. Setting a time to put away school and transition to the time for us after the kids were in bed would have helped both of us.
I needed some Me Time. Honestly, I don’t even know if that was a thing then, and I know no one talked about self-care. We weren’t very aware of our own needs, and it showed in our stressed faces, hunched shoulders and quick tempers.
My husband had a better understanding of the need for “me time” than I did. Instead of getting angry at him for taking it, I should have taken that as my cue to take some time for myself.
Choose quality time over perfection
Looking back, in striving for perfection, I forfeited a lot of quality time and family time.
Home-cooked meals didn’t have to be an every night occurrence. I grew up with a mom who came home and cooked dinner every night, and we all ate as a family. It was comforting and routine.
I did the same for my family, but looking back, we could have had the same experience with a lot less time spent in the kitchen. Trying to be Super Woman didn’t earn me anything more than a tired body.
Most of the deadlines and expectations I had were ones I inflicted upon myself. I should have asked for more help and expected less of myself.
A clean house was nice, but getting rest would have been better. I like a clean house and everything put away for my organized peace of mind. However, I should have asked for more help and expected less of myself. I know for a fact, my sons never paid a bit of attention to how clean the house was.
Most of the deadlines and expectations I had were ones I inflicted upon myself. I am that Type A personality that set high standards and worked hard to meet them. In reality, they were higher than the expectations of most administrators I worked for.
I didn’t learn this until I had a female principal who always told us to put our family first. Unfortunately, that was 22 years into my teaching career. I was a slow learner.
What I would do differently to improve my quality of life
If I could have a do-over, I would eat a bowl of ice cream with my kids after school, go kick a soccer ball, or snuggle on the couch. That down time would help us transition to homework. My school work time would be while the kids did their homework and that would be it.
I would lower my dinner expectations and throw together a quick meal or better yet pick up a healthy take out meal a couple times a week.
After dinner I would take some time for just me doing something I enjoyed, reading, crocheting, taking a hot bath with a glass of wine, whatever I wanted to do while my husband spent some time with the kids.
That transition would gear me up for bath time and give them some valuable time together. It would also be a good transition signal to them that a bath and bed were coming.
Once the kids were in bed, that would transition into adult time. Because I would have had some down time just for me, I would be more relaxed to spend time with my husband. Also, since I had made a commitment to put away school work, that would not be hanging over me.
How you can apply transition time to your own life
I don’t get a do-over, but if you are omitting the transitions in your life and not taking breaks from the craziness of life, it is not too late to rethink and redo.
- Do you need some downtime after work?
- Do you need to slow down and enjoy your family?
- Are you pushing yourself too hard?
- Is work consuming too much of your time?
If you answered yes to any of those questions, sit down with a list of how you currently spend your day and see where transitions might benefit you. Plan a routine that includes transitions and see if they help prepare you for the next phase.
Use those daily transitions to slow down your life and regain the quality time you need. It’s not too late to take your understanding of why transitions are important in our life and to begin to apply those principles. Good luck!