[By Regis University Assistant Professor of the School of Education and Counseling, Dr. Vicki Caruana, Ph.D] I surveyed this year’s academic calendar, looking for pockets of rest. A few days were scattered here and there for professional development or times when we wouldn’t be in the office. A few holidays created three-day weekends, but there was nothing substantial until next Christmas. I realized that if I needed time, I needed to take the time out to rest.
Every academic year has its own ebb and flow. As teachers, we start out raring to go, believing in new beginnings and great expectations. As the months go on, we collect burdens and worries that weigh heavily as we slow the pace in a funeral march to the end of the year when we should be making a proud procession to graduation.
The problem is focus. We’re looking for the wrong end results. If we’re to focus on the things above, we need to avert our eyes from the earthly and empty promises of the academic calendar and focus instead on the life-giving calendar of the Church. Many religious traditions follow a liturgical calendar to help us leave behind daily distractions and focus on what truly matters.
Whether you teach in Regis University’s School of Education & Counseling, the School of Management, the School of Humanities and Social Sciences, or the School of Computer and Information Sciences you can treasure the peace and renewal the liturgical year offers. Each month may mean something practical to us as educators, but it also can mean something spiritual. In the busyness and urgency of life, it helps to stop and refocus our view on what is really important.
And it’s not final exams, the end-of-the-year checklist, or even graduation. Sometimes we need reminders to separate ourselves from the world, to be consecrated in order to walk through the year in a more peaceful manner.
The lazy, hazy days of summer arrive, at least according to the calendar. Many of us work through the summer months uninterrupted, but we all try to look for ways to escape and find restful vacation spots. We try to accomplish reconnection, rest, and restoration all at the same time. How do we stay focused on important things when all we really want to do is escape?
June is the month the church contemplates the mystery of the Holy Trinity. This mystery doesn’t fit easily into a specific calendar sequence, so we must exercise our faith to understand the concept. We may have difficulties multitasking, and because of human limitations, that’s no surprise. But the Trinity accomplishes all in complete harmony and during the creation of the world still made time to rest.
The goal is not to unravel this mystery, but to immerse ourselves in it and revel in its complex simplicity. St. Patrick attempted to illustrate the Trinity by using a three-leaf clover. Three in one and one in three. That’s what Patrick saw in it – the beautiful mystery of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. The mysteries of your faith bring peace, not anxiety or restlessness.
The quest for personal renewal begins with each of us. As summer begins, so can our quest for rest and renewal. “We can lose sight of our sense of our self within our role, regardless of the type of role(s) we hold. Burn out, a sense of dividedness and fragmentation and growing sense of incongruence can distract us from the life we want to lead” (Kaplan, n.d.). The work of the Center for Courage & Renewal focuses on this very thing, especially for those in both K-12 and higher education.
The demands and challenges of our life work distract us. We are all passionate about what we do, and as such, we need to take time to renew our own spirits. Finding rest and renewal is an active pursuit. We can’t wait for rest to come to us; we must enter into it intentionally.
If you feel fragmented and distracted from your vision of your life’s work, then it’s time to stop and take the time to get your life back in tune. Here in Colorado there are Courage & Renewal retreats that can help renew, refresh and refocus your view.
Find something bigger than yourself to focus on this summer. Use this time to refresh and restart your commitment to learning and you will feel recharged and better able to face the new academic year.
Caruana, V. (2005). Recess for teachers: Taking time out for your body, mind, and soul. Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers.
Jackson, M., & Jackson, R. (2002). Courage to teach: A retreat program of personal and professional renewal for educators. Jossey-Bass Publishers.
Kaplan, S. (n.d). Courage and renewal. Retrieved from http://www.susankaplanmsw.com/services/colorado-courage-renewal.
Dr. Vicki Caruana, Ph.D is an assistant professor of education at Regis University in Special Education, a former classroom teacher, and parent turned writer who seeks to educate and encourage kids and those who live and work with them to strive for excellence. She has a Bachelor’s degree in Specific Learning Disabilities, a Master’s degree in Gifted Education, a certificate in Educational Leadership, and will obtain her Ph.D. in Special Education in 2011. Her best-selling book “Apples & Chalkdust” has sold more than 600,000 copies! She has written more than 80 articles and 20 books and is a frequent guest on national radio and television programs. Vicki speaks at educational, parenting, homeschool and writers’ conferences. Vicki is also an educational spokesperson whose most recent client is Nintendo®. Her radio media tour reached more than 3,000,000 listeners nationwide.