St. John’s is pleased to offer a series of articles through which faculty, staff and students share their Lasallian experiences. This month, Kate Fernandez, St. John’s director of vocal music, shares her thoughts on beginning a new school year and finding balance.
Happy New Year!
I say that repeatedly every August with a big, genuine smile. It usually receives some laughter, followed by a look of acceptance and an exclamation of agreement. It IS our new year, our season to start fresh and improve upon the past as we move forward with another set of young minds and souls placed in our path. Oh, the possibilities! January has nothing on the opportunity presented to teachers in August and September.
This year I found myself incorporating a bit of the January mentality into my new year – focusing on self-improvement, specifically finding and maintaining a healthier work-life balance. This job is truly a vocation; beyond a profession, it is a calling. In Meditation 32, St. John Baptist de La Salle emphasizes this thought and labels all of us as the shepherd described in the Gospel of John (Chapter 10: 11-16) —shepherds to all entrusted to our care. Our administration shared De La Salle’s thoughts in “The Lasallian as the Leader, the Teacher, and the Shepherd,” sent via email right as our “new year” began, and it was a poignant reminder. In the parable, the shepherd is willing to give his/her life up for the sheep. The hired worker is not.
Do we do this? All the time? Every day? That is quite an expectation.
I’m the type of person that feels the weight of an expectation like that…sometimes to my detriment. How do I provide a balance to that level of demand…handling this vocation and keeping a healthy sense of self? If you asked me this a month or so ago, I’d start by saying – I read a book! The 4-Hour Work Week by Timothy Ferris; it was a title absurd enough to catch my attention when I saw it in my husband’s hands. And while I will never reduce my DAY let alone my week down to four hours, I found myself drawn to several positives within the book that I have tried to take on as I started this year. The biggest one was asking myself this simple question: “Am I being productive, or just active?”
My commitment to answering it daily has really changed my perspective on how I spend my time and with whom I spend it. I often find myself saying out loud – if only I could JUST TEACH! I’d love this job even more than I already do. It’s the extras that bleed into our day and absorb our time, the less significant distractions and the work that can engross us often to the point of avoiding the important. This little statement helps me manage those extras and focus on being a more effective teacher. I find that I am more present in the moments that I need to be—a healthier, less distracted shepherd, if you will.