We Grow Through Rest

The science shows that when you’re sore from exercise it’s because of little tears in your muscles which is why taking days off from strenuous exercise is important, so those little tears can heal. This healing process allows your muscles to grow bigger and stronger.

This got me thinking about our hearts and minds in a less scientific way and all of the times when things feel hard. Lately, I’m getting to the end of my work week and by 9:30 PM on the couch, I’m out. I’m deep in slumber, so deep in fact that my trip from the couch up to bed looks like some kind of zombie apocalypse.

This is work is hard as educators. It’s only getting harder. And because our landscape is so complex and challenging to navigate, there is no way to do it all or do it all “right” every time. Sometimes, what’s making it so hard is how much we care. Our high hopes and expectations for what can be achieved. Our sense of urgency to meet the needs and to grow opportunities for the learners in front of us.

Currently, I’m trying really hard. I’m thinking really deeply. I’m planning as far ahead as I can. And still, there are things that are not working. Things that are not going well. Progress is not where I hoped it would be in places. And I’m tired. And that hurts.

And yet, this is where the magic happens. In this messy middle of figuring it out. If no one is uncomfortable (including ourselves) and if everything is going perfectly, we probably aren’t working on anything that really matters.

Because change requires little tears in our bravery muscles. Doing hard work requires us to exercise our hearts and minds. It requires us to hear things that are hard to hear. It requires us to see things that are hard to see. About both ourselves and our work but also the current state of our teams, our organizations.

There’s a saying “you grow through what you go through.” Yes. We learn by doing. We also learn by resting.

Because just like our physical muscles, we cannot grow if we do not give our hearts and minds a rest.

Do the hard things. The things that feel right.

But don’t keep pushing at that same level without a break. That’s not good for you or the people you serve.

This is why we need reflection time built into our school days. Built into our professional development days. Built into our work days. This is why we also need weekends. Kids need a break. We need a break.

When we don’t take time away, there is no space to reflect and to let the muscles grow.

And there is no also no space for the realization that some of our “hard” is made harder by the way we are working.

None of us are immune to the real possibility that our hard, good work is sometimes made harder by the way we work. Perhaps we aren’t utilizing our teams to their fullest capacity. Perhaps we are hyper-focused on perfecting things that are not urgent or important. Perhaps, we are assigning work to students in a way that is making our grading feel impossible. I heard a high school student say, “You know, she complains about all of the papers she has to grade and about how long it’s taking her to get through all of them, and I keep thinking, ‘Aren’t you the one assigning these papers and setting the due dates this way?”‘

Hard truth. I’ve been there.

Take some time way. Don’t keep pushing and pushing without rest. Rest is part of the work. Rest is how our muscles grow from doing and feeling the hard things. Rest is going to look and feel different to each individual and that’s OK. As long as you give yourself space and time to find the rest that you uniquely need.

What does rest look like, feel like, sound like for you?

How might you get the rest you need?

What self-created practices are getting in the way of your rest, reflection, and growth?

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