Teaching Profession Opinion

Getting Back Into My Flow State After a Break

By Starr Sackstein — February 28, 2019 4 min read
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A calm focus overcomes me, and time just flies. It’s like the zen moments of complete oneness with my world.

It’s the aha moments between my students and I or a co-teaching experience where we finish each other’s sentences and the students can’t tell who is the “lead” teacher.

“According to positive psychologist Mihály Csíkszentmihályi, what you are experiencing in that moment is known as flow, a state of complete immersion in an activity. He describes the mental state of flow as “being completely involved in an activity for its own sake. The ego falls away. Time flies. Every action, movement, and thought follows inevitably from the previous one, like playing jazz. Your whole being is involved, and you’re using your skills to the utmost.”

This excerpt from ‘Flow’ Can Help You Achieve Goals: Understanding the Psychology of Flow by Kendra Cherry reminds me of the deep satisfaction that I have felt in moments of teaching, writing, leading, and sometimes even parenting. It’s like the rest of the world doesn’t exist, and I am completely present in what is happening now.

The flow state is what I aspire to in my work and personal life.

However, momentum can often be disrupted by well-needed breaks that can impede the reconnection with a flow state.

This week we returned to work after a week’s hiatus for midwinter break. Having had the fortune of an actual vacation with my husband, I spent a full week not really worrying about my life at home. Both my husband and I didn’t bring our computers so even the temptation to work wouldn’t be there.

Since I love my work so much, it is often hard for me to shut off at home. Having a regular education career in a school district while I’m also managing a personal career around my writing and prior work and balancing a happy marriage and parenting a 13-year-old, middle schooler is challenging.

Each one of those experiences matters to me. On different days, with different levels of priority if I’m being honest. The older I get, however, my priorities are growing more clear.

And now that I’m back to work, I’m trying so hard to find my flow again.

Here are some of the things that have worked in the past to help me find that flow again:

  • Connect with people who inspire me. This can be making sure to have lunch with friends and colleagues, getting a few laughs in and keeping it light. Chatting it up about our breaks and the different things we want to try in the near future. It’s a good idea to check in with folks as well that you knew were doing things over the break, just a follow-up, letting them know you remember and you were thinking about them. It’s a good chance to talk about books you’ve read and other exciting things that can jump-start on-going conversations.
  • Plan with a teacher for the upcoming week. Another way to get back into the flow is to do what I love most about my job: helping teachers prepare great lessons for students. So this week, I took the opportunity to co-plan with an English teacher on our team and plan to come in to teach with her next week. This is one of my favorite things to do as a leader—spend time with kids, teaching and digging deeply into a content area I love.
  • Walk the halls and peek into classrooms. Rather than doing intentional walk-throughs right after a vacation that can sometimes seem ill-intentioned, I like to watch the positive re-engagement and catch teachers and students being awesome. There is nothing better than to hear laughter or productive noise that can draw a passer-by in. That kind of exciting learning should be acknowledged and shared.
  • Take time to catch up on emails. Although it isn’t exciting to go through emails, it is essential to making sure you know what is going on and it helps prioritize as you set up your calendar for the upcoming weeks. Although plans are meant to be flexible, having a plan helps to organize. First, we have to gather information, and that’s where the emails come in.
  • Make a plan. Now that you gathered the information, it’s time to make a plan. What are the priorities for this week, next week, the month, etc. Are there deadlines that need to be met? Are they are on the calendar? Are there meetings upcoming that require planning? For me, I first brainstorm, then I get into my electronic calendar and start making a plan. Since informal observations are due to be finished no later than April 1st, a priority I have is scheduling the informals as well as time for post-observations and other data meetings to set eyes on the next benchmarks.
  • Uninterrupted Time. One thing we do in our district that I struggle with is uninterrupted time. This is time we are supposed to plan for where we focus on something that helps us professionally but isn’t necessarily work for work. I like to read and research during this time, and since I’m not always the best at making sure I adhere to an hour block of uninterrupted time, making sure it happens on a week I’m trying to get my flow back is important. It’s also a great time to write reflectively and think about my goals for the year.

The work we do as educators is so important, and being able to do this work in an optimal and passionate way is ideal. Although recharging and taking breaks is certainly necessary to maintain balance, ensuring an easy transition both out of work and then back into it is important too. No one likes the feeling of dragging themselves out of bed to go to a job they just aren’t feeling right now, and the best antidote to that is finding our flow.

What do you do to ensure your flow state in your life? Please share

*photo made using pablo.com

The opinions expressed in Work in Progress are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.