Coffeeshops and Chair Dancing

I stood in the warm sun for a few minutes (almost 70 degrees in November…gotta soak it in before Monday when it snows again) before hoisting my work bag out of the trunk with a grunt and slinging it over my shoulder, switching my handbag to my other arm for a bit of balance. The sage green (because most fishing-related things are green, beige, or blue) Fishpond messenger bag held my Mac, a smattering of files containing items that have existed on my digital and analog to-do lists for over a week, two pencil bags of random office supplies and cords, and good intentions for getting the work in the files finally taken care of. As I walked into the tiny coffeeshop which seats perhaps 20 altogether, I noted that biscuits and gravy were available until 11 and inhaled the familiar scent of roasted beans. I could work here a while before my meeting started.

I found a tiny table against the wall and pulled out my planner and phone with the intent to listen to a book while I worked, trying to find the best way to arrange things to accommodate the tin of biscuits and gravy (yes, because they were there and I can’t replicate them at home) and huge cobalt coffee mug while I began reflecting on the past week.

I must have looked ridiculous to others sitting nearby; a table of four young ladies in probably their early 20s glanced over more than once to watch me figure out the logistics of coffee, brunch, and journaling on a table meant for just coffee.

Most coffee shops have some sort of music playing low so that conversations don’t dominate the ambient noise. This one had an eclectic arrangement that made me grin a little. It was happy music–songs that brought memories of moments to mind. As I sipped my latte, scenes of Ben Stiller and Cameron Diaz flashed in my mind, and the four young ladies at the large table next to me began humming, then singing, then going full out show choir performance. It was absolutely adorable and completely made my morning. Others kept their exuberance under wraps, but I noticed that just about everyone at least hummed along a bit, chair dancing ever-so-slightly because you just kinda have to. It’s like an unwritten law.

One of the buzzwords in education right now is self-care. I have spent a fairly decent amount of time thinking about it, both for myself and for the teachers I work with and serve. I question often what more I could be doing to support others so that they get to care for themselves, making their lives a little easier, taking on tasks or figuring out workarounds to make processes simpler, both honoring and supporting their intensities when stress brings That Tone to the table. There was so little I could give over as a teacher–it was really all mine to own. The planning, the grading, the communication, the conversations. I had to own it all and I remember how that felt…it looks different now, but That Feeling is the same.

Simon Sinek says that leadership isn’t about being in charge. It’s about taking care of those in your charge. I think that sometimes, if we remember what it was like in the classroom with kids who are both glorious and utterly frustrating at the same time, we can get a little clarity and offer support in other ways. A quiet space to think or work. A chance to take a minute and sit outside in the sun. An opportunity to finish that damn email you started during recess or call home with a young one. A space heater when the heating guy took your blower away to fix it…and it’ll be a while before it comes back and it’s fixing to be a little cold. A soda of choice or a cup of tea delivered. A meeting that becomes an email. Popcorn or another treat slipped in among the papers in the mailbox. Taking a child who would benefit from a break with you to help you sort some things for a few minutes. The simplicity of letting someone know they’ve done a good job on a task that caused frustration. Our tall poppies aren’t always the children we serve. Sometimes they’re the people we serve with and they need care too.

They say the act of smiling brings about feelings of happiness even if you aren’t, making stress a bit smaller… Maybe this week, offer up a quick dance party during announcements to a song that brings people joy, makes them grin, or just invites a little chair dancing.

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