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  • Writer's pictureDerek Stoppels

Health, Family, Work...Choose two

Yesterday was the last day of classes and so today is the start of exams. I still have some final things to mark because I've procrastinated, but I'm taking a break to write this post. Marking is the part of my job that I find the most challenging. Especially since this school year has been a breakthrough year for me and my philosophy of education has changed so much. The challenge is, since I started the school year with one "school" of thought, I feel compelled to finish it that way. But the assessments I have given my students and the exams they are going to write of the next few days don't reflect who I am as a professional and what I believe. The goal is that next year, I can align my philosophy of education with my teaching, student learning and the assessments I give.

The thing I love the most about my job, being a teacher, is that there is so much room for growth! It seems like I am forever reading and listening and learning and creating and doing all the things I want my students to do.


I just thought of something that is neither here nor there:

There is one PD day a year, in the Ottawa Carleton District School Board that is funded by the OSSTF and we usually always have a guest speaker. They say that doctors make the worst patients, but same goes for teachers. Teachers are the worst students. They all get in a room together and think they already know everything. It's like a room full of the types of students that do really well in our classes and think that they're smarter than the teacher. And then there's always a few students (teachers in a PD session) who ask too many questions, and are almost arguing with the guest speaker. Two things: 1) there IS a respectful way to question someone without making yourself look like you know more than they do (and it starts with remembering who you are and who they are and ends with a little humility) and 2) why don't we want people challenging the speaker/teacher? I will argue that when a student starts questioning and challenging the teacher, that is when we know we have done a good job!


Now back to the regular program.

I saw this poster at an autoshop a few months ago and I thought it was hilarious. After thinking about it a little more, I also thought I can modify this and apply it to real life.

There are three things in life: 1)Work 2)Family 3) Health You can only be great at two.

At the beginning of this year (after reflecting about last year) I decided to focus on my family and my health (physical, mental and emotional). And do you want to know what?! It made me better at my job! Not every day was a good day, and perhaps I could have done a little more for my students, but it would have been at the cost of my health and my family.

I have two daughters at home, two and three years old, fifteen months apart, and they are incredible! Being a dad is the best job I've ever had and the most fun I've ever had! It's not always easy, and I know it won't always be easy (remember I work with teenagers every day), but it's the best! I can't imagine anything that is worth taking time away from my two girls. BUT. My health on the other hand, can be sacrificed, and it has been. But it also has consequences. When I'm not active, my mood changes. I lose patience, I'm less present, I'm not as happy and I am much less motivated to do any kind of work. Last year, I sacrificed a lot of health choices for school work and I promised myself I would never do that again!

Now, sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do, and that may mean skipping a workout, or only playing one game of hockey that week, not three, because life happens and sometimes work has to take a front seat. Fair enough. But don't make it a habit. Everyone always talks about how important a work-life balance is but few people actively try to create that healthy balance. I don't want to peel my own potato, but I think I've done a pretty good job at finding that balance this year. I'm so much happier, and patient, and present -- at work AND at home.

And so here's the thing. I said that you can only be great at two, which is the truth I think, but while making a conscious daily effort to focus on my health and my family, but understanding that sometimes I have to give up my health goals for a day, I've managed to find a really healthy work-life balance, overall. There may be a few days, or weeks where it seems a little unbalanced here or there, but in the grand scheme of things, I've been pretty level this entire school year. And everything is better for it!

When I feel great, I perform great. When I know I have a solid family at home, my performance is solid at work. This blog wasn't about me bragging about how awesome my life it, it is about me hoping someone reads this and either asks me a question about how I found balance, because it was a long hard struggle of trial and error and continues to be, OR, someone takes a look at their life and can apply something they found here to their own life and I never find out about it!


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