Teacher Marty’s Letter (March 2016)

Dear MPS Families,

We are almost to spring! Almost. It appears we are experiencing one of the wettest winters in Portland history, so I know we still have lots of rainy days to come. But we sure hit the jackpot last week with a few super-sunny warm days to remind us of what is coming.

Do you remember way to back to September when we went through Orientation together? And I made you a poster for each month and I drew a little icon of how I see the parents as the year goes by? In September we were all smiling and filled with enthusiasm for a new year, excitement for our children’s new adventures, meeting new families and making new friends and everything seemed doable, shiny and new. Maybe we even felt a little invincible!

We crossed the halfway point of the year back in late January. The new has worn off. Things don’t look so shiny anymore. In the midst of winter, our energy and enthusiasm drags. Our kids’ energy and enthusiasm drags. They may have days they are not happy about getting up and getting going and actually coming into the school. Maybe your child is having a problem with a friend. Your own life is complicated and there is that co-op school again asking you to do one more thing. And on top of it all you are having to make a commitment about enrollment for next year! I know some of you are embroiled in the Portland Public Schools boundary reassignment situation and that is stressing folks as well. Argh! Are you having a “Calgon Take Me Away!” moment? (Does anyone still remember that commercial? Back before internet memes were the thing!)

How you deal with your sense of overload now can help you as you come into the final months of the school year. I would really encourage you to find a way to slow it down and assess where you are and what is on your plate. What are the organizational tools that are most helpful to you in this situation? Are you a list maker? A scheduler? Do you have any backup resources — friends or family who can take just one thing off of your plate for you? Is everything on your plate necessary? Is there something you can let go?

I know the world is full of tips and tools for helping us organize our lives when we feel like we are going under. But the moment I really feel sucked down is not the moment that a great book on simplifying my life is likely to help me. In fact, if confronted with that book, I am more likely to grab it and launch it at the nearest target.

You may feel like an island. And your personal experience of stress and anxiety is unique. But right now I promise you that you are not alone. Most of the parents in the school right now are struggling with getting everything done and having something left in their gas tank for their children, their partners and — most importantly but most likely to be neglected — themselves.

BREATHE! I teach it to the kids. Volcano breaths. Focused attention to how we are feeling in this exact moment. I would encourage you to practice it for yourselves too. Then do some perspective-taking. This very demanding time we are in right now: this time when your family is in flux, your elementary school boundary is shifting out from under you, when you realize that you still have a ways to go on your procurement goal for the auction, that EVERYTHING IS DUE AT ONCE! It will pass. It will get done. The sun will come up again tomorrow.

If you can take some mental health time to give yourself a break so that you can regroup and come at your to-do list in a more focused fashion, do so. Take time at drop off and pick up to just give each other a hug, or some moral support. Slow down. Do ONE THING — just one thing — that would qualify as self-care. A cup of tea in the morning before anyone else gets up. A 20-minute soak in the tub after everyone else has gone to sleep. A thirty minute walk while your child is in school — even if it means pushing the other child in the stroller or carrying them on your back. Listen to music of YOUR choice.

I love each of you more than you can know. And I appreciate all that you do for the school AND your families AND your communities. I would like to be able to give you all a gift of extra hour every day, or a magic wand you could wave to accomplish at least one thing from your list with no effort whatsoever. However, since I am constrained somewhat by time and my magic is limited, instead I will give you the gift of my unconditional love and support.

After the winter comes the spring, and with spring comes light, warmth, new life, growth and so often some perspective and hope. Hang in there. You are not alone; we seldom are. Together we will get the MPS work done, and I know the rest of your world will come together as well.

With warmth and love always,

Teacher Marty