One Small Change: Meeting our Basic Needs as Educators

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Nutrition. Exercise. Sleep – Every being on the planet knows and understands the importance of these 3 little words. Who among us is the most deprived of these three? One word: teachers. Teachers run on almost no sleep; they depend on day-old donuts left over from whatever group had a meeting the day before; and outside of running to the bathroom and back in under 2 minutes (because you can’t turn your back on the ocean), getting actual exercise is simply a luxury. Teachers arrive to work long before the students, and, for most of us, that includes being to work, having the room set-up, picked-up and prepared, and the coffee poured, all before 7am. When the bell rings at 3, it just means that the “performance” aspect of our job is complete. Now begins the next job: replying to emails from staff, students, and parents; making copies and preparing materials for tomorrow’s lessons; organizing stacks of papers or looking back through assignments submitted on Google Classroom for assessment. Once the work has been assessed, it needs to be entered into the online gradebook, including feedback and comments to students about revisions, next steps, etc. Sometimes, this is also where parent or student communication needs to happen. By the time this is complete, we need to get ourselves home to be ‘present’ with our own families- make their dinners, attend their events, help with their homework, do the laundry, and make lunches so that we can do it all over again tomorrow. Oh, and there are still two sets of assignments that need to be assessed, too, because our work is never done.

But, wait, this is supposed to be about nutrition, exercise and sleep. Precisely the issue. As a teacher, it is nearly impossible to weave these ever-important factors into our day to day existence. However, here is the plot twist! Just about two years ago, I started making one simple change in my life. This change, as it turns out, was the key to turning over a new leaf and unlocking the path into those 3 simple words: nutrition, exercise and sleep!

The change, as it turns out, starts with nutrition. I started noticing that my friends who were the most positive, who had that ‘healthy glow’ and had what seemed like boundless energy, had one thing in common: nutrition! It was through my conversations with them that I learned that within nutrition, there are two camps: micronutrients and macronutrients. By changing (and by change, I mean by adding) my micronutrients, I was astounded by how easily the macronutrient change fell into place.

The micronutrient change that I made involved consuming 30 whole food fruits and vegetables, twice daily, in capsule form. This product is called Juice Plus. By simply taking the capsules twice daily, I noticed that my entire palette changed. I began craving more fruits and vegetables and whole food nutrition as part of my daily diet. The small change in the micronutrients rippled out to buying, prepping and consuming more vegetables in my daily diet than ever before! Sunday’s became Prep-Day! My husband and I set aside an hour to peel, slice and roast veggies for the week. Then, we both set out containers to make our lunches for the week with the veggies as the base. With the veggies that are left, we create our dinner menu for the week. From this small change, we started noticing more energy at the end of the day, so we joined a nearby gym. Suddenly, instead of sitting at home, dragging ourselves to bed, we were scheduling the few hours we have together at night around the classes offered at the gym.

You know what happened next? Our sleep improved! Why? Because we were actually physically tired instead of just drained. We were sleeping better because we were exercising. We were exercising because we were eating better, and we were eating better because we were taking our Juice Plus.

Then, our children noticed the change, and wanted to come with us to the gym. From here, our students started to notice that we seemed happier to show up in the morning. Yes, all the same responsibilities were still awaiting us: the early mornings are still early, but I somehow get out of bed easier. The papers are still there, but because I want to get to the gym, I find myself setting other boundaries to get the assessing done more efficiently. The emails still have to happen, and sometimes it happens on the way to and from the gym, or sometimes they can wait until the morning, when I am rolling out of bed at 515am.

Yes, the reality of education is what it is: hard, hard, hard work. However, with one small change, good things happen: nutrition, exercise and sleep.  And from one small change, there’s no telling how far the good will go!

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