We often talk about the benefit of collaboration and connectedness in education. There was a time where every educator went into their classroom and closed their door and were isolated from the rest of the world. Fortunately, we have gotten beyond this stage, and in the advanced technological world, we have become connected at all times, and answers and learning are just the touch of a finger away.
I, myself, have jumped in wholeheartedly, connecting and sharing with educators all over the world. I sometimes wonder, however, if we can all use a little more isolation. You see I am an only child, and I spent a lot of my time growing up just thinking to myself.
Sitting and contemplating.
Nothing more than just thinking.
We can all use those moments of solitude that allow us to contemplate and consider our place in the world. It can sometimes be difficult to find those quiet moments, especially with the lure of connection and collaboration. There are always chats to participate in, colleagues to talk with, students to engage with, and families to connect with. It is important, however, to make sure that you are still finding time to enjoy isolation.
Below are some times that I have found to enjoy my aloneness, to sit back, think, reflect and contemplate.
Find a morning routine. I wake up every morning about an hour before the rest of my family. This time allows me to reflect on my own learning. I think about what my day will bring, what other ideas I have been trying to process for the past couple of days. The quiet time alone allows me to appreciate the time spent with my family once they start to rise for the day. I even find about 15-20 minutes to write on many mornings, documenting my thoughts and drafting what later become blog posts.
Extend your evenings. Each night, I usually extend my evening by finding some time to read. I take about 20-30 minutes right before bed to read a book, journal article or blog posts that I have tagged for reading. This time allows me to find solutions to problems I may be facing, or ideas that I can implement to improve learning outcomes for students and teachers. I find that if I am facing a problem before I go to bed, reading and reflecting just before I sleep, I sometimes wake up with an idea that might lead to a solution.
Quietly enjoy your lunch. As a teacher, I ate lunch in the faculty lunchroom with colleagues on most days. However, once a week, I would eat lunch in my classroom by myself. This time allowed me to think about how the morning lessons had gone, what students still needed help, and how I could arrange the afternoon’s lessons to meet student needs. While I did miss the camaraderie of the lunchroom, it was helpful to give myself that additional quiet time on some days to be peaceful and mindful.
Make Friday your time to reflect. One of the best times I enjoyed during my teaching career was Friday afternoons. Students would be on the bus by 3:25pm, and I would be back in my classroom by 3:30pm, enjoying the quiet, and reflecting on the week. I would usually spend 30 to 60 minutes considering which lessons had worked (or not worked), what skills and objectives students still needed to master, and how I would plan the following week to improve learning outcomes. The time spent quietly in the classroom on Friday afternoons allowed me to clear my mind in order to better enjoy the weekend, and re-energize for the upcoming week.
Take advantage of your commute. My commute takes a little over an hour each way. While not all have this type of lengthy commute, everyone has some time during their trip to work that they can utilize to think about various issues and deliberate on different topics. I often use my drive time to speak into my smartphone to take notes. I find some of my best ideas while I am driving, and my note taking app allows me to remember and retain my best ideas. The time spent commuting can also give you an opportunity to weigh and propose options that might help you accomplish something later in the day or the next day.
While not everyone enjoys time alone, I find that it gives me time to think, reflect and improve. I try to find time to myself, sometimes even to relax for a few minutes before engaging in my next activity. Do you enjoy times of solitude and isolation? Share your best alone times to think and reflect in the comments section below.