Teacher Talk: Breaking Bread
Montessori teaching is a calling that demands self-care. We are intellectually engaged long beyond after the children have gone home, analyzing our observations, preparing lessons, maintaining the environment, and active models whenever they are present, scientists, servants and saints. It's exhausting. And self-care matters. Finding time for yourself, for restoration and quiet, matter.
So does finding time for community. We don't grow out of our need for other people. We don't reach some point in adulthood when we are happily islands unto ourselves, even in a profession that expects us to spend so much time as one of a very small number of adults in the room, and not to talk to them very often at that. Indeed, the child-centered nature of most Montessori classrooms can leave teachers needing more adult contact at the end of the day, not less.
As you're thinking of your need for self-care, don't overlook the restorative powers of community. On the days when you're feeling the most overwhelmed by this work, reach out to others to step away from your classroom, get off campus from your school, and go to break bread together. And just as you would suggest for parents, leave the agenda for the conversation behind. Just pay attention to each other, offering each other a genuinely curious spirit and eye contact. We don't always have to talk about work. It's ok to leave it back in your classroom sometimes.
These times off campus shouldn't be rare, but they also don't need to be the only way you connect with other adults over food. Organize a potluck lunch with the teachers who share your lunch schedule, or suggest a simple breakfast that each teacher can contribute to, or (gasp!) model some of that food preparation work you have in your classroom, but leave the classroom to serve other teachers in their rooms. We enjoy the same benefits the children do when we break bread together: a sense of belonging, of contribution and of meaning. And because sharing a meal necessarily requires time when your hands are busy and your mouth is closed, connecting with your colleagues over food also allows for a different pace to your conversations. There's less stress about filling the silent spaces. It's ok just to sit quietly with each other and enjoy a piece of fruit.
Food might feel rushed during the busy-ness of the school day. Make it a priority during school to slow it down, to eat mindfully and to invite your colleagues to share together. You might not need it every day, but you can create sustaining connections, the kinds on which you'll rely on the hardest days of teaching, by protecting regular times to simply be with each other.