Sunday, February 18, 2018

Self-Care Update

Sometimes you have to hit rock bottom before you are shaken awake and motivated to make a U-turn on a path that is not helpful or healthful. That might be what happened to me. You see, I snapped. At work.

I behaved in a way I had never before behaved in a work setting. In fact, I cannot even remember a time outside of a place of employment when I have come so unglued. I was feeling utterly frustrated, completely powerless to effect change in the ways that are essential for me and my team to be happy and healthy.

It's not as if I didn't see it coming. I had felt myself on the verge of losing it on a few earlier occasions. I did not want to come undone in front of students, did not want to end up taking my frustrations out on an unsuspecting client. The last thing these vulnerable people need is to be on the receiving end of an explosion by the very person assigned to help them. I knew I could not let that happen, and so I had sought professional help. It had fallen through, but the meltdown motivated me to try again.

About that same time, I was feeling a need to shed two winters' worth of pudge before an upcoming conference at which I'm presenting. I recalled John Sivell's having recommended a diet that worked for him. I emailed him to get the name of it and within days had two of Haylie Pomroy's books in my possession: The Fast Metabolism Diet and the companion cookbook.

The first couple of days were hellish. I suppose the killer headache and brain fog were related to detox. The regimen is a 28-day commitment to say no to alcohol, wheat, dairy, soy, refined sugar and chemical additives while saying yes to mostly organic, home-cooked, clean and healthy whole foods eaten at specific intervals in cycles (three phases) in order to reboot the metabolism.

I don't "do" diets very often--perhaps one every seven or eight years, in fact. But when I do one, I do it all the way. I read the book with highlighters and coloured sticky flags at hand. I took all the forbidden foods out of my pantry and stashed them in large shopping bags behind a door in a room I don't enter often. There was a practical side to this: I had to make room for a tonne of new-to-me ingredients! I went shopping for the coconut aminos, coconut vinegar, fresh (and frozen) foods I would need to do this right.

When I embarked on the diet, it was for weight loss. Little did I know that I would end up loving it for an entirely different reason: for how it makes me feel. Mind you, I already was a pretty healthy eater. I was already avoiding refined sugar and did not eat fast food or junk food. But now? I'm discovering a Kelly I did not know existed.

Now I get sleepy earlier than before and rise earlier without an alarm clock feeling rested and refreshed. I become mentally alert very soon after waking in spite of not having ingested anything caffeinated--not even my beloved dark chocolate!

Right about the time I started the diet and working with a counsellor with some Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) tools, I also saw a post in Global Innovative Language Teachers (FB group) about another FB group called Seriously Happy Educators' Forum. When I saw that the owner of the group, Kerry Garnier, holds a live tapping session every Thursday, I joined right away. Emotional Freedom Technique has been of enormous help to me in the distant past. I welcomed back into my life this method of getting psychically unstuck.

With these three new tools, I started to see changes in myself as an employee, colleague and teacher. Coworkers say I'm more chipper.

Students have also benefited from the transformation. I had an incident where a student went into my things on my desk without asking and proceeded to knock over my water, getting the day's worksheets wet. Whereas before I might have felt myself becoming upset and would then have had to mask or get control of that emotion, this time I was able to turn back to writing on the board while letting natural consequences take care of things. The students get wet worksheets. Whoopdie doo! It's not the end of the world. I was calm when I said, "Next time you want to borrow something off my desk, just ask."

And one day this past week I did something unheard of: I played ping-pong with students and teachers in the gym during my lunch break.

How about you? Have you taken any steps recently to improve your self-care habits? Are they working? If not, what is standing in your way? If so, please share what is working.

20 comments:

  1. Wow Kelly, this is a great article! Love that you have used EFT before and now you've found your way back! Honoured to be a part of your transformation!

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    1. I can't tell you how appreciative I am of the sessions I've watched or participated in so far. The shifts I've felt afterward have been deep and lasting. --K

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  2. I started my organic whole foods way of eating vegan six years ago. I lost 20+ pounds and improved my health in many areas. Now I’ve added strength and balance building three days a week with a personal trainer. I’m probably more fit at 76 than I’ve been ever before in my life. I don’t call how I eat a diet, I prefer to call it a lifestyle, as I have no intention of going back to how I ate before. I love my plant based food, it’s easy to prepare and delicious too! I do not miss meat or dairy. Have you discovered N’ice cream? It is delicious, healthy and satisfies my desire for ice cream without the sugar buzz that I did not like.

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    1. Lynn,
      I'm with you! Haylie calls her lifestyle change a diet, but to her it stands for "did I eat today?" She's all about keeping the body fuelled and not skipping meals or snacks. I remember when you first lost that weight and I'm so impressed that you've stuck to this new lifestyle. Haylie's plan is not vegan at all, and that is the part that I find difficult, especially since she advises against ingesting soy. She thinks it's one of the dirtiest crops, plus the fact that it changes estrogen levels. I've done the plan as a pescatarian (with eggs), but I would like to eliminate dairy next. I think I'm past missing cheese now, but without soy, I'm craving turkey breast again. Fortunately, I do not miss sugar at all.
      I'm enjoying the return to cooking and having a pantry and fridge full of healthful real foods. This feels like a sort of self-care that I have denied myself for too long because I thought I "didn't have time." Now I see that I deserve to give myself that time. But here's what I don't understand about how to be vegan. How can you do it when your partner is not? Our two favourite places to eat out are an Italian club whose two specialties are their stone fired pizza and their Caprese salad. The other is a vegetarian place where almost everything is made from soy. How do you cook and dine out with a husband who isn't vegan? --K

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  3. Almost Burnt Out Anonymous

    Great article for those of us facing the dragon of PBLA.

    https://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/recovering-from-burnout.htm

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  4. Almost Burnt Out,
    Thank you for this. I know that when PBLA first hit our agency, some teachers and I cut down on the voluntary things we were doing. I stopped being nice about many areas where I had previously compromised, such as giving up my teacher desk so we could squeeze more students into my room. I claimed back my right to a desk. I know this sounds small, but it was this and five or six other ways I went about making my day easier on me. I hope those of us still hanging in there can continue to do so while we also bring this fiasco to the attention of our MPs, MPPs, and ministers. --K

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  5. How does your process compare to this?

    9. Number of artefacts
    The minimum number of quality assessments required per session and student is 16. A sufficient number of assessments per language skill is 4.
    As of September 2016, new regulations require 8 to 10 artefacts per language skill as sufficient evidence to make a decision about a student’s outcome CLB level at
    the end of the session.

    6 artefacts should be Assessments Tasks, the rest could be Skill Using Activities or Self/Peer Assessments.

    Notes
    • Teachers should not sacrifice quality over quantity. They should first work on increasing the quality of their assignments as outlined in this protocol, then they can increase the quantity.
    • Full Time classes (25 hours per week, 16 weeks per session approximately) should strive for 2 artefacts per week to fulfil the new requirement.
    • Part Time classes (9 hours per week, 40 weeks per session approximately)
    should strive for 1 artefact every week and a half to fulfill the new
    requirement.


    p24 ECSD_LINC_CLB_Curriculum_Guidelines-V2.5.pdf

    https://www.ecsd.net/Programs/Overview/LINC/Documents/sbfile/180215/ECSD_LINC_CLB_Curriculum_Guidelines-V2.5.pdf

    After you read this can you explain what this really means as far as how many assessments for each skill in how many weeks?

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    1. Hi, Anonymous,
      Yes, much of this is the same as what we were told in our training at my place of employment. I never knew the artifact quota was once four per skill. By the time my cohort (2) came along, it was already 8-10 per skill per...um, I think it was 320 or 350 hours of classroom instruction. Most of these had to be RWT assessments, but the rest could be skill-using. So at my centre, we figured out that since our Ss come part-time (12.5 hours a week), we would need to change our terms from three 3-month terms to two 5-month terms. So that is what we have done in order to give teachers enough classroom hours with the students between progress reports to collect the needed number of artifacts.
      Now that being said, here is where I find huge fault with this process. The number of hours is based on the average number of hours it takes a learner with 8+ years of prior formal education to change a benchmark. Right off the top of your head, I'm sure you can think of at least four types of students this does not apply to. I know I can: seniors, recently arrived refugees who are missing lots of school, suffering from PTSD, etc., students with learning disabilities--diagnosed or not, and all students with fewer than 8 years of prior schooling. You will not see their benchmarks change at the same rate. So, hey! How about a little common sense here? How about letting us classroom professionals make common sense decisions on a case-by-case basis regarding how many artifacts we plan to collect in a given sort of class? For Foundations Literacy, how about a total of 8 for all skills combined? One of those might be "can hold pencil."
      It pains me that schools across Canada are all singing from a different songbook depending on how militaristic their admins are. Some are ignoring the "quality over quantity" clause.
      I hope this has helped somewhat, but I am not sure how it can. --K

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  6. Does anyone else believe that this is wrong? Should people not be able to train to be a PBLA lead by their own choice?

    PART D: EMERGING TOPICS
    Certifying New Lead Instructors

    4. RECOMMENDATION FROM ADMINISTRATOR

    Recommendation for PBLA Lead Instructor certification.
    The letter should address:
    · The program’s intention to assign the individual as a LI on certification

    · The applicant’s qualities as a classroom teacher

    · The applicant’s experience using PBLA in the classroom

    · The applicant’s leadership qualities

    · The applicant’s openness to new ideas and change

    The present situation in PBLA was caused by Administration choosing the PBLA leads. They were chosen for being compliant and being compliant has lead to poor working conditions across Canada. A good system would ask for problem solvers, people that can work with their peers without screaming at them, and people that coach and encourage while doing the same work as their peers. Maybe mistakes have been made in the past with lead selection. Wouldn't it be better if PBLA lead/mentors were chosen by their peers rather than by Administration?

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    1. I completely agree with you. Sadly, they seem to be seeking out sycophants while trying to silence the critical thinkers. That's how it feels on this end, anyway. A good friend and academician remarked that the creators and pushers of this experiment seem totally oblivious of some of the most basic practices when it comes to change and group theory, such as the idea of agency. There are basic principals known and used by all of the humanities. Why is it that TESL seems to be a world unto itself, refusing to avail itself of the ample research that has been done that could have made this process healthier, more theoretically sound, more democratic, less top-down, less oppressive and fascist-looking, etc. But no. They will not admit to the huge cracks in the foundation. Rather it's build, build, and continue to build on that still shaky foundation with a big focus on cosmetics. Maybe if we paint the building a pretty colour, people will stop talking about the shaky foundation! SMH. --K

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    2. I think I'm somewhat lucky because I didn't come on board as term teacher in a PBLA-based program until a year ago. I like it, for the most part! Also, the PBLA Lead I work with is supportive and dare I say "diplomatic". There must be a few other PBLA Leads out there who are able to consider the flaws and how to get around them.

      I do see that it was a huge blunder to expect teachers, paid only for classroom time really, to be responsible for generating all the required materials and assessments, integrated with PBLA expectations.

      Yes, they should have created a big pool of ready-made materials that would take a teacher all the way through to an evaluated task.

      As things stand, it is easy to feel overwhelmed most of the time. This Saturday I spent about 10 hours preparing one mixed level night class and then an overall weekly plan, an assessment (end of week) and full lesson plan for Monday (1L/2L)... along with a few administrative matters.

      BTW, I also could jump into another discussion about teaching ESL as a contract worker at a community college... the haves and the have nots, etc. It was not fun supply teaching at less than $30.00/hr. for a full-time, union protected "professor" who was earning at least $80,000 annually. She only had a B.A. along with TES/FL certification. Of course, your blog is not about EAP, community college contracts, etc. Still, it's kind of odd because I was always trying to find ways in inject my ideas into a lesson plan that was based on a ready-made curriculum, textbook and even the tests (often with typos).

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    3. I think I'm somewhat lucky because I didn't come on board as term teacher in a PBLA-based program until a year ago. I like it, for the most part! Also, the PBLA Lead I work with is supportive and dare I say "diplomatic". There must be a few other PBLA Leads out there who are able to consider the flaws and how to get around them.

      I do see that it was a huge blunder to expect teachers, paid only for classroom time really, to be responsible for generating all the required materials and assessments, integrated with PBLA expectations.

      Yes, they should have created a big pool of ready-made materials that would take a teacher all the way through to an evaluated task.

      As things stand, it is easy to feel overwhelmed most of the time. This Saturday I spent about 10 hours preparing one mixed level night class and then an overall weekly plan, an assessment (end of week) and full lesson plan for Monday (1L/2L)... along with a few administrative matters.

      BTW, I also could jump into another discussion about teaching ESL as a contract worker at a community college... the haves and the have nots, etc. It was not fun supply teaching at less than $30.00/hr. for a full-time, union protected "professor" who was earning at least $80,000 annually. She only had a B.A. along with TES/FL certification. Of course, your blog is not about EAP, community college contracts, etc. Still, it's kind of odd because I was always trying to find ways to inject my ideas into a lesson plan that was based on a ready-made curriculum, textbook and even prepared tests (often with typos).

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    4. HK,
      You are welcome to jump into other discussions / topics. Teaching ESL is a pretty broad theme.

      I'm happy to hear that you are not at one of the centres being run by micro-managing, short-sighted administrators who care more about kowtowing to the powerful than they care about the wellbeing of their employees and clients. I am one of the fortunate ones, as well.

      The problem is this: if those of us who have it good do not continue to speak and act in solidarity with those who are being silenced and mistreated in the name of complying with the rules (or one of the interpretations of same) of this experiment, then who will stand with us when we are on the receiving end of unfair, incompetent policy? Until the funders and pushers get this right for every teacher and every client across Canada, the rest of us should not sleep well. --K

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    5. Dear Instructor who wrote "Saturday I spent about 10 hours ",

      If you are honest, spending this unpaid time working when you should be refueling, living your life or helping others...you should not be happy.

      You are either complicit with the creators of PBLA or are blind to the working conditions of your peers. Would you really say that PBLA is wonderful? I would say that you either haven't read the Emerging Practice Guidelines for PBLA or your employer is ignoring the strict unrealistic guidelines. No one can implement what CIC and IRCC have mandated...not in a 5 hour day, or a 6 hour day, or an 8 hour day. It takes a full 12 hour day five days a week plus weekends. Since this reality is a condition of employment, I suggest that CIC and IRCC need to be at the centre of a Me, too! movement that focuses on their exploitation of women, and people in precarious employment. CIC and IRCC have created an unmanageable workload that is more restrictive and stringent that most professional workplaces all at the same time ignoring pay increases, increased hours to do the work and compensating increased duties and responsibilities. CIC and IRCC have been irresponsible. Service provider organizations are not without guilt and should carefully consider that they may be at the centre of a class action suit. Certainly something needs to break in PBLA as instructors in Western, Central and Eastern Canada in all environments are cracking under the workload. Please, let's somehow fix this. It is too much.

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  7. Hey Everyone! Don't forget about talking to Yuliya about the failed PBLA experiment that is taking over our lives.

    Happy March!

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  8. Service Provider Organization recanting on some stringent and fabricated PBLA requirements. There is hope. Keep asking questions, keep asking for resources and make sure you read the documents so as to keep Service Provider Organizations honest. IF you can ask a FUNDER to explain why the are letting SPOs off when they are found to be abusing the PBLA process.

    This is the best way to care for self...protect yourself.

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    1. Anonymous 3:40 PM,
      I agree. Advocating for ourselves and protecting our health and wellbeing, which includes standing up for our right to fair and reasonable work conditions, is a huge part of self-care. --K

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  9. RISKING MY JOB BY TRYING FIND WORK / LIFE BALANCEMay 3, 2018 at 5:05 AM

    IF I get fired, CIC and IRCC and CLB will be named in the lawsuit to get my job back.

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  10. I didn't work on school work last night. I didn't bring anything home. My boss expects more and is disappointed in me but I would rather disappoint my boss than disappoint my husband . If I disappointed him, I would have no joy. I work to live. I don't live to work.I replied to a job ad to get this job. I interviewed for a job that required me to be on site for 5.5 hours. I like my students. I spend my work time with them...I teach them how to care for themselves in learning English, in their homes and in the world. It is a hard job.
    My job changed with the arrival of PBLA at my workplace. I say arrived because it wasn't negotiated with me. My working conditions were thrust upon me. If I asked questions I was humiliated by being told to be quiet, to email the questions later which I did but I never got a good answer about why my life was changing so drastically because a "mythical" funder wanted it to. I am ashamed by the antics of my employer to harm me to appease the "mythical" funder who "wants it". Could it be that my employer is unnecessarily harsh in their implementation of PBLA? I thought so and started to talk to others.I found that some people teach PBLA "light" and that at their workplace things are good and other than having to use a rubric that nothing has changed. I tried that but was humiliated over and over by the PBLA leads. The leads who didn't have to do PBLA were critiquing my every step in the classroom;the same classroom where for two decades all was well was now being torn apart because the activities in it were not aligned to the CLB according to the PBLA leads who haven't taught for many years.I want to share about how I plan for my students. With CLB in hand I would cautiously and carefully reflect on the weekly journals that were written with gains, losses and goals in mind (which is a PBLA process but done as a reflection of my classroom). I was told that my process was BAD and not PBLA compliant. So I changed and could no longer easily read what my students needed next, and instead I gave them what they "wanted"...and how do they really know what they want? They asked friends which topics were easiest to get an artefact for and then told me what they wanted. So, PBLA really doesn't give the students what they need but what is easiest. Easy is never best.When I asked for resources, they were not given. To make my own I needed good fulsome examples, and they were not given and none have been created that are possible to replicate in my paid time. It all comes back to my job and my hours and my pay and my life.

    I have decided to do my job the best that I can in my paid day and then come home and love my husband and family we have build together. He is a truck driver who arrives home daily at 4 PM. We live close to my work so that supper can be ready at 4 when he arrives home tired and hungry. I will no longer make him wait for his meals. He didn't before PBLA and he shouldn't have to because someone out there "wants it" to be. The funder should not be allowed to invade our unpaid time unless they are looking to exploit us. I am standing up against the exploitation. It must stop so I am bravely stopping the extra unpaid time so that I can love my life again. Self care. I am exercising again. I am enjoying the birds and the sunrise and the sound of the rain. No more PBLA at home. I have a dining room table again. No more eating on a TV tray because the table is clean of papers. Before PBLA we didn't have a computer or the internet at home and I had to borrow a computer from my brother and get hooked up to internet. The computer goes back this weekend and the internet is being disconnected on Saturday. I will be free. I want time to enjoy my coffee, eat my meals slowly, talk to my neighbours, kiss my husband and enjoy my life that my very low, unchanged salary supports. We are not wealthy by a long shot but damn PBLA, we will be happy again.

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    1. Dear "Works to Live,"
      I'm so proud of you. It takes a lot of courage to do the right thing in the face of unreasonable off-the-clock work expectations because we LINC and board teachers are not all in one union (some of us are not unionized at all), which means that if one of us puts our foot down, we can be singled out. I've received private messages telling me that we just all have to do exactly what you're doing. It's scary if you are the only one at your SPO ready to do that. I applaud you for reclaiming your life, your dining table, your headspace after work--which is, after all, supposed to be your time. --KM

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