Winter Recess Reflections: NEEDs, WANTs, MUSTs…

What NEEDS to get done? What WANTS to get done? What MUST get done?

These are the three questions I believe every teacher ponders as their winter recess week speeds to a close with only a few optimal hours left to accomplish it all.

At the beginning of the recess, the MUST list dominates all action, but as we come to a close the WANTs list seems to have pushed its way to the front.

Here’s what I mean:

On Friday, December 23rd I knew that all else MUST be put on hold till every gift was wrapped, in the special “from Santa paper”,  and ready to be placed under the tree.  My eight year old daughter still believes, and one holiday MUST is keeping her belief system intact, for another precious year. Other MUSTs that dominate on December 23rd: completely grading 2 classes of open responses, 4 classes of compositions, and all the Google Classroom homework.  MUSTs like taking down a tree or putting holiday decorations away, never trump grading, as the nostalgia feeling they evoke is delicious well past the New Year party. Another MUST: visiting of family and friends to share sentiments and exchange gifts.

The NEEDs list includes (as I still whittle it down): the never-ending pile of laundry, both mine and my daughter’s, that has been waiting to be put away for days (thank you to the inventor of the laundry basket!), the cleaning of bathrooms, the washing of sheets and towels, and grocery shopping for the healthy foods to start out our New Year /New Living “resolution”.  And there’s the general NEED to tidy up and organize before the January 2nd back to school wake up call.

How about that WANT list?  On the 23rd, I had one colossal desire: to get two hours to indulge in an oh so sugary sweet Hallmark movie! Somehow, I managed to get in five featured films: A December Bride (3 stars), Love You Like Christmas (4 stars), Christmas Cookies (3 stars), A Nutcracker Christmas (5 stars – total AWESOMENESS), A Christmas to Remember (4 stars) …and one Netflix flick – The Spirit of Christmas (5 stars – complete sentimental romantic gushiness: love it).

Now fast forward: January 1st 2017 (Happy New Year!! btw), and in my hindsight wisdom, I arrive at a present moment new understanding.

Here’s what I mean:

Often what really NEEDs to get done, are actually the things we WANT to get done.  In other words, did I NEED to watch 12 hours of gushy holiday movies? No. But something magical happened as I snuggled on the couch with my daughter last night (sometimes we snuggle with IPADs in hand – she’s playing Animal Jam; I’m searching for a local yoga studio that incorporates meditation into the practice). I vocalized something closely and softly into her ear, “I’ve always dreamt of the day I would lounge on the couch with my daughter and watch Christmas Hallmark movies with you. My dream has come true.” With my warm words she gave me an extra snuggle and an ear to ear smile. So, a longtime dream – a WANT –  easily, effortlessly manifested last night.

Often, in life, as educators, we are obligated to look at the MUSTs as non-negotiables: those things that we don’t have an option to  not do, we must, with no choice, partake in them (our SMART goals and teacher evaluations for instance) … while those NEEDS tend to be essential, but often at times, they are optional (such as the apparent NEED to drink 8 glasses of water a day, but as a teacher with a full schedule – I’m lucky to get in ½ that! And I’m not dead from dehydration – yet).

And so, when are we are truly mindful, what happens to that WANTs list?  It’s interesting, that along the way it’s the WANTS that push themselves into our lives as impulse. Remember my NEEDS list? I have tidied up the house, cleaned bathrooms and changed sheets (there’s still time to organize laundry and grab those healthy foods) – somehow, those mindlessly get done! Yet, it is what I have WANTED to initiate – for days, for months, sometimes years  (this BLOG for example) that demanded my action this winter rescess!

Yesterday, that impulse (a strong desire to act) became a FORCE that could no longer be squelched.  And here is the manifestation: words I wanted to say, on a page, to drive me to this fierce reflection.  Hey, it turns out, the WANT list is the fire that invigorates! It’s that list that bites us in the proverbial ass and gets us moving, even when the stacks of papers and the Google Classroom keep calling out our name… The fact is MUSTs are absolute – they tell us what to do to maintain the status quo of our life (our pay check for instance!) – they are the voices of responsibility – and somehow, we manage to get to them (even if it is on a Sunday night grading ‘date’, at 9pm!).

It turns out that the WANTS – oh, those are the fires of desire! They are of what makes life worth living – like really good chocolate (Sugarpova is super delish btw), great sex, or a relaxing coffee hour with your best friend! And whether we find time for them or not, they find time for us, in a beckoning call that we must answer…

So, I invite you, this New Year of 2017, my fellow veteran teacher friends (and my newbie friends, too) to look at life in 2017 in the way you approached your winter recess – as TO DO lists: determine what NEEDS to get done this year (student achievement by trying a new strategy) and do it; then, nail down what MUST get done this year (getting to work on time, eating a little better, vocalizing your needs)and be responsible for it; BUT listen, really listen to the impulses of what you WANT to get done this year – as those are the fire and ice of life – and allow yourself to take action. After all, isn’t it the “WANTs list”  in your life,  that is really NEEDED? I think so.

New Year Blessings for Good Health and Prosperity!  — Pamela Rae


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