Rødgrønn har også bismak for meg

Hvis det er noe jeg liker og respekterer i Norge, så er det ideologien om muligheten for et godt liv for alle. Ideen om at vi alle passer på felleskapet. Utdanning for alle, helsetjenester for alle, og ideen om et system som tar deg imot når livet viser sitt stygge fjes. Ikkke minst, at alle de som kan jobbe bidrar for felleskapets beste.

Likevel, jobber jeg i en friskole som ble stiftet for snart tjue år siden av noen foreldre som ville ha et alternativt til den norske offentlige skole. Den skolen jeg jobber i ble etablert på lovlig viss, og selv om vi har slittet gjennom årene med å ha alle sysakene på plass, så jobber vi kontinuerlig og lidenskapelig med samme formål som offentlige norske skoler: elevenes beste.

Vi er en relativt liten skole med 195 elever fra første til 10. trinn. Vi har utenlandske elever, halv norske elever, og helnorske elever. Foreldre og elever søker seg inn til skolen vår av ulike årsaker.

Jeg jobber med lærere, assistenter og ledere med forskjellige bakgrunn, og den beste og korteste måten jeg kan finne å beskrive dem på er at de er profesjonelle, engasjerte, dedikerte og de brenner for det de driver med.

I år ble det regjeringsskifte fra blått til rødgrønt. Det er bra, syntes jeg til å begynne med, men begeistringen har fått en bitter smak når jeg leser om kutt i statlig støte til allerede eksisterende og etablerte private barnehager og skoler. En gang til ser jeg med sorg or irritasjon at politikerne tar beslutninger ut av prinsipp, og med det som ser ut som mangel på innsyn i konsekvensene av deres avgjørelser. Til våre skoler og barnehager kommer barn som bor i Norge, og som dermed har samme rettigheter som barn som går på offentlige barnehager og skoler. De har fått seg venner, og har blitt kjent og trygge på de voksne som jobber der. Kuttene gjør jobben vår vanskeligere og i verste fall de som kommer til å bli rammet av det er barna. Hva er hensikten med å gjøre driften av private barnehager og skoler vanskeligere? Hva er budskapet? Hva er ønsket? At vi stenger ned? Hvor skal alle de barna som kommer til oss gå til?

Det jeg skulle ønske er at politikerne som frynser på nesa med tanke på skolene som vår tar seg byrden om å besøke oss. Det hadde vært fint at de ser hver lille og mellomstor menneske som hver dag kommer til oss for å lære, for å bli sett og bli tatt vare på. At de ser hvor hardt vi jobber for å tilby det beste vi kan til elevene våre, og at de ser at vi har nok av utfordringene også. I alle de årene jeg har jobbet i lille friskolen vår har jeg aldri sett en nyrsgjerrig politiker sette fot hos oss.

Er jeg naiv eller selvmotsigende når jeg tror og støtter en regjering fra venstre sida men samtidig ønsker å ha bedre råd og dermed vilkår i lille friskolen vår?

Poo under my shoe – or everyday ‘philosophy’

Monday morning
rushing out the door
I discover
poo under my shoe
No time to deal with it
Let's hope the incessant rain
will wash it away

It bothers me
this poo under my shoe
all the bike ride
from home
to work

Off my bike
I stamp my way to the door
Lift my foot up
there's still
poo under my shoe

Already late
I can't deal with it now
I leave my shoe by the entrance
not to bring into the school
the poo under my shoe

Early evening
I find back my shoes where I left them
No big surprise

On my bike ride home
I make a plan
to get rid of
the poo under my shoe

I park my bike
take out the hose
Under this incessant rain
My neighbours must think 
I have gone mad

As I spray the water
under my shoe
I wonder
What is the lesson to be learned here?

Such an awful stink
a bit of poo under my shoe
causes
yet when I spray it away with water
over our garden
the smell disappears

After some reflection
I conclude
sometimes
there is no lesson
just poo under my shoe

Unskillful with balls

One of my colleagues who is the gym teacher at our school has taken the initiative to invite everyone at work, every Friday evening, to play in the gym. To begin with, I was skeptical since ball games have never been my strength. Mainly because I never played ball games as a child.

However, this year, I have made the resolution to be more social in my spare time, and getting together to do some exercise is in my opinion a nice way to get together.

The first Friday, I arrived ten minutes late on my bike and I saw three of my colleagues and the son of one of them engaged in playing basketball. They were having lots of fun, but the game seemed ‘serious’ to me. I stood outside the gym, in the dark, considering riding my bike back home. I felt intimidated because I would be unable to join a game like that and I didn’t want to ruin their fun. When I was about to turn away to get on my bike, one of my colleagues saw me and opened the door for me. I came in and joined them. It felt uncomfortable, but the gym teacher, who is used to students like me (haha) organized some games where I could join. It was lots of fun. I pretended a couple of times that I was very tired and needed a break, so they could also play some basketball without having to worry about me.

The next Friday, I came home from work, ate dinner with my family, and started doubting whether I should join or not my colleagues in the gym, but I decided to push myself. This time, we were even fewer than last time, the gym teacher, another male colleague, and his son. All three, quite fond of and good at playing basketball. I felt uncomfortable again, but again, the gym teacher found ways to include me in some of the games. I had so much fun, and I think I got a good workout without even thinking about it.

Growing up in a small town in Mexico, I went to a small school too. The gym lessons in primary school weren’t great, and I was not very good at pushing myself out of my comfort zone. I also played sometimes football with my neighbours, but I was very insecure, and very soon I created this idea that I sucked and that nobody wanted me to be in their team. The older I grew, the less I participated in team sports at school and with my friends. I never learned to play any of the common team sports. It was uncomfortable to not be good at something, and I didn’t have the awareness to realize that all I needed was to play and have fun, and with time, I could have maybe gotten a bit better…or not.

Last Friday, when my colleagues and I were in the gym having fun, I started thinking about all the moments I missed out as a child and teenager because I was unable to push myself beyond my comfort zone and because I was too afraid of not being skillful. So sad, I thought.

Even though my dad and some of my friends tried to convince me to be less self-conscious and join the fun, I was unable to do so. I wish our gym teachers were more inclusive, like my colleague. I don’t feel regret, and I have had a good life even if I haven’t participated in any team sports, but my point here is that I believe it is important to understand as early as possible in life that one of the best ways to interact with others is through play. The goal is not to win, nor to prove skills, but to lose yourself in a game, to learn to be part of a team, to have fun. To learn to push yourself beyond your comfort zone, and collect experiences.

Nobody knows for sure what the point of living is, but one of the things I have come to believe makes life meaningful is gathering experiences. Good and bad. Success and failure. Fun and boring. We are not here to prove something to anyone. Not all of us are here to become champions of some sort.

Tired

Do you have days where you feel you are not ready to face ‘the world’? I sometimes have such days. I feel tired and irritable and feel that I don’t have the energy to face whatever small or bigger challenges the day might bring… I know, it sounds dramatic, and luckily, I don’t have many of those days, but I do have them. Especially after an intense period at work and/or at home.

I try to work with my mindset, and I also try to find out why I feel like that to avoid going into that space. There can be different reasons, but what was overwhelming my mind this morning was the thought of having to ‘deal’ with teenagers the whole day to come home and ‘deal’ with my own teenagers the whole evening.

Neither my students nor my own kids are especially difficult teenagers, but I often have a feeling that as a teacher and as a mum, I am constantly negotiating with them to do what they actually don’t want to do, and trying to explain why they need to do less of what they actually do want to do.

I can go on and on in my mind about why it is so tiring and why I am so worried and wonder also if I am right or if I am exaggerating. This usually makes me feel even more tired and overwhelmed, and I start dreading certain situations that lie ahead in my day: a lesson because I know how certain students are going to behave and I am going to have to deal with it, a situation at home because I will have to be stern and I don’t feel like it.

I was having one of those clairvoyance moments by the kitchen counter this morning when I realized that all I have to do is to do my job. I just have to show up, and if the usual suspects do the usual that require me intervening, I just have to pull them aside and take that conversation all over again. It doesn’t really matter how they react to it. Whether they respond well or not, it is up to them. All I need to do is to stay calm, be clear, maybe even be stern and stop reading people so much. Stop expecting this or that, and most of all, stop dreading uncomfortable situations/conversations. They are what they are, I can make them less uncomfortable by keeping my cool and talking calmly.

I recently read somewhere something like “burnout happens when we have expectations connected to our actions”. Yoga philosophy says something similar without using the word ‘burnout’. We cultivate a peaceful state of mind by doing our best and letting go of the fruits of our actions. I think I get very tired because I am constantly absorbing my students’ and my kids’ reactions to what I say and do.

So, on my way to work today, I kept repeating to myself “be clear, be firm, but don’t get angry. If I get a negative reaction from a student, let it be”. It might sound weird, but I keep telling myself that the less I focus on what other people do or don’t do and the more I focus on what I do and why I do it, the less stressed and tired I will feel. I also think that putting my attention in myself allows me to be more mindful of how I act and why.

It turned out to be a good day at work with the usual challenges, but I think my mindset helped me stay focused and less stressed. I really need to remember this every day.

At home, things are also what they need to be. I keep choosing my battles. and reminding myself to speak calmly but firmly even if it is the millionth time I ask my youngest to pick up her dirty clothes from the bathroom floor.

Can you relax without stimuli?

The other day, I shared a short relaxation session with my colleagues where the main focus was to use the breath. I know that for many, the idea of sitting ‘just’ breathing sounds intimidating and maybe even boring, so I divided the session into three parts. One where we would connect the breath with soft movements (achievable for all kinds of bodies), another with a simple breathing exercise, and the last one with a body scan. The whole session lasted for approximately twenty minutes.

After the session, one of my colleagues told me it was very nice to ‘check in’ with herself. She said that while she was sitting there, she noticed how she was feeling and realized she hadn’t take the time to notice before. This reminded me of something I have been reflecting a lot about lately. It seems to me that most of us rarely take the time to slow down and just be, to check in with ourselves.

It is, of course, understandable that we all have different ways to cultivate our well-being, some choose to go for a run, others to watch a TV show, and although this does allow us to disconnect from everyday tasks, it is not necessarily bring long-lasting well being for our body and mind. During the years I have been practicing Yoga, I have come to the conclusion that there is a difference between sense indulging and self-care. I don’t necessarily think that indulging is wrong, it is nice to sometimes give in to a guilty pleasure, and as mentioned above, it can be part of our toolkit to disconnect from everyday life, but the thing is, I don’t think only indulging is going to bring real peace of mind because the satisfying feeling only lasts for a short period of time. In addition, we might seek activities that stimulate our mind and body like food, alcohol, and even entertainment, which feel good at the moment but do not allow for our nervous system to reset and restore.

I believe self-care requires more work, but less fuss. Self-care might bring some immediate comfort, and at times it can also bring some discomfort. In the long run, however, it brings peace of mind.

I might be biased by my enthusiasm towards the practice of Yoga meditation, but in my view, the only way we can really relax and take care of our well-being is by bringing silence to our body and mind on a regular basis. The challenge is, however, to have the patience to bear the noise our mind makes when we turn off the external noise. This is where the work starts because we need to learn to be with the noise of our mind as if it was background music. It is there, we notice it, but we choose not to do anything about it at that moment. We do not judge, we do not try to change it.

These moments of external silence but internal noise can be precious because like my colleague put it, it is then we have the opportunity to ‘check in’ with ourselves. We create the space to feel and think, we allow our mind to express itself. Sometimes, that is all we need. To give ourselves some ‘self-attention’, sometimes, we need further reflection on what is going on and what we need to do about it.

Making room for moments of silence and softness in our life not only helps us deal with our thoughts better, it also has an effect on our nervous system which in turn influences our state of mind. In addition, when we learn to quiet the mind on a regular basis, we are able to benefit from this practice in moments of intense distress.

To begin with, I recommend a combination of techniques like soft movement with breath for the busy mind. Practices like soft yoga asana, Tai Chi or even Qi Gong, going for a walk but with the awareness of being with yourself, with your breath, and trying to leave other distractions aside. Simple breathing exercises can also be very useful. Some help calm down the body and the mind, others are energizing. Yoga Nidra, is als a very good way to relax, and the fact that you need to focus on different body parts keeps your mind busy. If your mind is very very busy, I recommend writing. Sit in a quiet place for five to ten minutes and let words flow. No structure, no purpose, just write. Avoid reading what you write. Just leave it. This is a very nice way to ’empty’ the mind. Once you have practiced this for a while, you can start journaling. There are different ways to do it. I often like to sit down and write my reflections of the day, often, a specific aspect of it takes more place, and I discover quite a lot about myself and my interactions with the world. I often realize that something that seemed overwhelming when traped in my mind, wasn’t that bad when put into words in my notebook.

Whatever works for you, try to create at least one moment of quiet calmness in your everyday routine. With practice, you will notice the difference it makes in you. You might notice that the urge to indulge will reduce as you create more space for what I like to call ‘real’ self-care.