As I ready myself for another school year, I’ve been thinking about how, as teachers, we go into this business to serve.  Consequently, there is a conditioning that happens among educators that ends up manifesting itself in the educational mantra of “Others first. Others first. Others first.”  Teachers are the Olympic silver medal winners of the “Others First” Event, with only mothers coming out ahead for the gold.  But after, say, a hundred and fifty years or so of this (and no, I’m not just talking about my career alone), it starts to wear.  

We grow tired; exhausted, really.

We stop doing our best work.

And eventually, some of us burn out.

But it doesn’t have to be this way.

Yesterday was the one year anniversary of my creation of The Zen Teacher Project. And I’ve been very proud of what I’ve accomplished and of all of the supporters and readers I’ve attracted and all of the feedback I’ve received–all of which tells me that teachers are ready for a change.

I created this blog and wrote the accompanying book as a way to remind myself of what’s important so that I’d be able to stay both relaxed and fulfilled for another decade or so, until that moment when I handed in my dry erase marker for an AARP card.

So as a new school year starts and I celebrate a Zen Teacher milestone (one year!), let me tell you a few things I’ve learned in the last dozen months of committing to a Zen Teacher lifestyle and teaching practice:

–It’s time you gave yourself permission to take care of yourself.  In fact, it was ALWAYS time.  Carve out time for renewal and rejuvenation.  You’ve heard of Orange is the New Black.  Well, Pampering is the new Burn-Out.

–Trust your intuition. It’s almost always right.

–Approach situations as a student of Life and you’ll continue to see the awe and wonder of things.

–Give yourself the space and time to do what counts.

–Silence is a lost art.  Find it again.

–Compassion, appreciation, and gratitude are superhero powers as real as flying, X-ray vision, and invisibility.

–Remember that, as Anne Lamott says, “No” can be a complete sentence.

–Take out what isn’t necessary. You won’t be sorry.

–Teaching through the prism of who you are inside is not only advisable and permissible, but utterly transformational.

–Stopping to acknowledge, appreciate, and be present in the immediate moment will create more genuine joy and goodwill than you’ll know what to do with.

–Everything you need to be an awesome teacher is inside you. RIGHT NOW.  You have everything you need. You’re okay/good enough/talented enough as you are.  Never let anyone tell you differently.  

–Be Successful.  Be Happy. But be you.

If any of these ideas resonate with you, be on the look out (insert small, shameless plug) for news about The Zen Teacher: Creating Focus, Simplicity, and Tranquility in the Classroom, which is due out in a month or so.   I wrote it to remind myself of these truths, but it would be my wish that you would find something useful in it, too.

As your school year begins, I wish you luck, success, easy classes, hot coffee, an unjammed copier, and personal Enlightenment.  But I also wish you the courage to follow, “Others first,” with “But, you know what? Me, too, sometimes.”  TZT