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  • Writer's pictureDerek Stoppels

Not An Apology

Life is crazy, man. Especially these days! This week has been an especially tough one as far as finding motivation goes. Imagine how my (our) students must feel!

This week, I'm working on saying "No" and putting my family first. I'm at home all day, everyday, and I still have to get better at putting my family first. So the title of this article is "Not An Apology," but my family deserves one...especially my kids. Here's why.

I consider myself to be an edu-activist. There are a lot of things that I think need changing in education. And by that, I mean, the whole system needs changing. I am using this blog, and Twitter, and Instagram and Facebook and LinkedIn to do what I call "my part." but it's all consuming. I'm as bad as the kids that I teach when it comes to social media.

I went outside this morning to my campsite (I call it Camp Sawyer, in memory of my dog that passed away in March, he would have loved it out there). A few days ago, I made a seat for myself against a tree out of recycled wood and I sat there this morning for an hour and a half, in silence. I journaled a little bit, but I mostly listened and looked. I got to thinking and realized that until this morning I was having the hardest time being present in other parts of my life. I was always thinking about what I was going to post next, or wondering if my latest post had reached it's targeted audience, or if my students were liking my #dadjokes.

I realized I was posting things for myself, and not to advance any of my causes.

I was posting things in an effort to generate traffic to this blog and to all my other social media sites, and my posts began to miss the point.

I was more focused on the content than the cause.

My life has lost balance. In an effort to regain some of that balance, I took my work account off my phone, so I would only have access to my personal emails and calendars. This has been working well. But I found that, still, I was incessantly looking at my social media feeds because I wanted to see if anyone had commented on my posts, or liked them, or shared them. This addicition to social media is a real thing, and I am addicted.

I don't want to cut off my social media use all together, because I still see the value and the positive effects it can have, and the positive effects I can have while using it. But as for right now, the negative effects of social media have caught up to me.

I mentioned I am working on saying "No." I have been feeling a lot lately, like I have not been present on social media the way I should have. By this, I mean, I am not participating in the #OCDSBXL #digitaltimecapsule the way I originally wanted to. I have not been promoting, or writing for @standupourkids the way I have been wanting too. And this morning, in the bush, at my campsite, I thought to myself I should post something (see what I mean? I can't turn it off) and apologize to those guys in particular for being absent. But then, I thought to myself, "Self, you don't need to apologize to those guys. They get it, and that's why we're buds." So I'm not apologizing for not having the online presence I originally wanted, because I should really be apologizing for checking my phone at the dinner table, and during 'pizza, movie, popcorn night'. I should apologize for checking my phone while my daughters and I look for princesses in our Enchanted Forest. I should apologize for checking my phone while I cuddle with my daughter as she falls asleep at night. I should apologize to my wife for not being as present as I should be.

The entire education system needs changing. But it is changing. Slowly, but school boards like the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board are moving in the right direction. Slowly, but it's changing. I'm doing my part, and I'm trying to be the change I want to see in the world, but it's costing me a lot personally when it really shouldn't. I'm having a hard time keeping it all separate. My work life and my personal life.

When I'm out in the bush, it's easy to think of things, but even then, if I bring my phone with me, I'm thinking of a joke I can post, or a message I want to send or something I want to say, or tweet. So, this morning, I left my phone at home, and it was just me and the bugs, and the birds and the squirrels (and if there was anything else out there, they did a great job hiding from me). I felt a huge weight coming off my chest as I sat out there, thinking, and looking and listening. It felt really good. Why don't I do it more often? Because I feel like I have a lot more to things I should be doing instead.

But I shouldn't feel that way. If I take care of myself and my mental health, my work game, and my family game, and my social media game, will all be stronger. But I have to get better at keeping balance in my life. Usually, I think I have a pretty good balance. But sometimes, it all builds up and I get way out of control.

I need to slow my mind, and I need to be more present.

This is how I am going to be healthy, mentally, physically and emotionally. My kids need me to be more present, my wife needs me to be more present. I have to find a way to shut off the social media more often and for longer periods and only post things that send a strong message and are more about advancing my cause than increasing my content.

This is a picture of me in the bush on a rainy day. I know I've used this picture in another blog, but here's the story. I took this picture because I thought it was neat. I liked how the trees looked, and I was happy getting outside. But I took the picture shortly after making a video to post on social media. I was happy, but it wasn't a genuine smile.

Can you even take a selfie with a genuine smile?

I wanted to share this photo in this blog post because of the fact that I just mentioned. I was happy, but it wasn't a genuine smile. I went outside to connect with nature, but also to record a video to share on my social media. When this happens, I'm not truly connecting with nature. I shouldn't be going outside to make a video. I should be making videos because I'm outside. Make sense?

I need to stop explaining my philosophy, and I need to start living it.

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