Adaptation can be exhausting! And if there is one thing that has been required during the past six months of living in a pandemic, it is one adaptation after another. And who, more than educators, has felt the impact of endless adaptation as they have had to adjust to changes in their personal and professional world, as well as supporting their students in their own process of adaptation to the educational “new normal”?
What did God have in mind when He led the leaders at ACSI to focus on flourishing, during a time when fatigue would seem to be the natural end result of our current predicament? Did He miss something? Or did some kind of heavenly miscommunication take place?
Flourishing is made for times like these! In Psalm 92, King David writes of flourishing within the context of the troublesome circumstances—the presence of evildoers, enemies, adversaries, wicked foes. And within the reality of trying times, he proclaims boldly that “The righteous will flourish…” As an educator battling adaptation fatigue, you may doubt that flourishing is possible in these circumstances. To flourish, however, you must first understand what flourishing means.
What does flourishing mean?
In Psalm 92, King David provides a picture of flourishing through the characteristics of two trees: the palm tree and the cedars of Lebanon. Taken together, these two trees characterize flourishing as:
- Standing tall and upright even in difficult environmental circumstances
- Staying beautifully evergreen
- Blessing the world through years of practical usefulness that contributes to the well-being of others
- Symbolizing characteristics of well-being (strength, resilience, peace, and prosperity) in ancient cultures
King David sums up the purpose of flourishing in two actions: to bear fruit (even in old age) and to proclaim (the righteousness, strength, and stability of God).
Hugh Whelchel from the Institute of Faith, Work & Economics explored flourishing as it pertains to life in the modern workplace. His picture of flourishing involves being empowered by the Holy Spirit to thrive through the well-being of the whole person—physical, psychological, emotional, and spiritual—as opposed to the world’s emphasis on striving for material prosperity alone. His thoughts mirror those of King David on the purpose of flourishing—to give God glory in personal flourishing and, like the palm tree and cedar of Lebanon, bear fruit as we share our gifts with others, helping them to flourish as well.
What does flourishing mean within my current reality?
Teachers desire to flourish both personally and professionally, and the pursuit of whole person well-being is a part of that. But to be honest, this pursuit can feel overwhelming because it is often associated with doing more. And for busy teachers stretched by the strain of pandemic adaptations, doing more can be difficult. Actions related to whole person well-being are often prioritized behind tasks that are more urgent, more measurable, and for which teachers are more accountable.
It’s interesting to note that Psalm 92 was written as a song for the Sabbath day. It was intended to be sung on the day of rest. God’s people reflected on the idea of flourishing not within the context of an admonition to do more, but within the context of rejoicing, rest, and renewal. This psalm also connects the place and state of being planted (in the house of the Lord) with flourishing (in the courts of our God). God’s people flourish not within the context of striving, but in the stability and security of being planted and cared for by the Father. These observations lead me to believe that perhaps flourishing is more a state of being than a benchmark to be achieved. And in this season when teachers are already operating at full capacity, perhaps the idea of flourishing through teacher well-being should be more about appreciation than achievement.
Appreciation is powerful because what we appreciate, we seek out and replicate. And what we experience as pleasurable, we voluntarily pursue even in the most difficult circumstances. For example, when I allow myself to fully experience and appreciate the release of physical and emotional tension associated with a brisk Saturday afternoon hike, I’m motivated to experience that again, even if it means walking for only 10 minutes on a tightly scheduled work day. Consider the following “Rest Day” experiences that elicit the feeling of pleasure and expression of appreciation. Experiment with these activities and reflect on how your experiences of well-being might propel you to pursue and replicate them in small ways within your busy life as a teacher or leader.
Take a bite of a healthy whole food, in the form closest to how God created it, and take some time to savor it—noticing the color, shape, smell, taste, and texture. Thank God for His good creation and provision! When was the last time you slowed down enough to engage your senses and really enjoy and savor your food? Where could you build in slowing down and savoring God’s provision like that again?
Take a walk outdoors and notice the movement of your lungs, joints, and muscles. Thank God that He gave you a body that moves! How did this movement impact your mental and emotional state? How could you scale this back to replicate this experience in your daily schedule, even in short spurts?
Take a break from your duties as an educator and notice how it feels to discipline yourself to give your full attention to relationships and recreation. Thank God for the fulfilling and fun things in life outside of work. How did it feel to really unplug from work? How could you turn this into a realistic routine?
Take a nap and notice the heaviness of your limbs and evaporation of your thoughts as you drift off to sleep. Thank God for His faithfulness which gives you the freedom to sleep! How did it feel to let go and let God run the world without you for a while? How could you allow yourself to let go more often without accusing yourself of being irresponsible?
In these difficult times, pursuing well-being by adding more achievement goals to an already busy school day can be overwhelming, while facing near constant adaptations and the limited capacity for change that is common to all humans. Just as there is “more than one way to skin a cat,” there is more than one way to pursue teacher well-being in the interest of flourishing.
We can grow in our flourishing in a restful state. We can soak in the pleasure of well-being through simple experiences and the sincere appreciation of them. These are small, yet powerful, ways that we can begin to move from fatigue to flourishing.
- Check out Ginger Hill’s blog post on Teacher Well-Being: Not Just an Afterthought
- Register today for ACSI’s virtual PD forum on well-being, with convenient dates beginning at the end of September and throughout the fall
About the Author
Ginger Hill is a founder of Good Health for Good Works where she combines her professional wellness expertise with biblical principles to help the earnest, but often exhausted workers in Christian organizations to take steps toward healthier living so they can fulfill their organization’s mission with energy, effectiveness, and excellence. She is a committed Christian and an employee wellness advocate with over 18 years of experience serving employees on every level in a wide variety of workplace settings, including schools. She serves employees as a wellness speaker, coach, program manager, and consultant. She has a Master of Science in health promotion and has earned and maintains her designations as a Master Certified Health Education Specialist (MCHES) and a Certified Wellness Coach. She can be reached via email at email@example.com.