You Need to Breathe

You need to breathe. 

It wouldn’t seem like something that I would need to be reminded of, and yet…even as I write this I have found myself holding my breath.

You need to breathe.

For several years at the beginning of my teaching career it seemed that every fall  I would muddle my way from the end of September all the way through Winter Break with some kind of pneumonia. It would start slow and mild as the leaves changed colors and result in more than one Christmas morning that the memory is more medicinal than merry.

You need to breathe.

During this time in my life I was introduced to a crazy little contraption that you inhale through to measure the depth of your breath. Forcing you to increase your lung capacity. Pushing air into your lungs so you can push it back out again. Inhale. Exhale. Repeat. Clearing the fluid that is causing the problem. I hate that little thing. It is not fun. It is not comfortable. It is frustrating. It is necessary.

You need to breathe.

Last week I attended the School Reform Initiative Fall Meeting. It is unlike any other conference I attend, and I have looked forward to it all year. Instead of moving from session to session, you are assigned into a learning community that you work with over the course of three days: thinking together, learning with and from each other, examining issues of equity and excellence in education, really listening, and sharing your work for feedback.

It isn’t easy work. It can be challenging and scary to introduce yourself to a group of strangers, throw open the doors to your practice, invite them into the home of your heart to move things around, shake up your routine.

Sometimes this work feels so much to me like that silly, awful, necessary, breathing contraption. It is actually called a Spirometer and its function is to measure the capacity of your lungs and help you learn how to increase it.

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I think that true purpose of the small learning communities (critical friends groups) are to give you a new way to think about your capacity and help you learn how to increase it: Your collaborative capacity. Capacity for compassion, empathy and action. How you listen, engage, respond, stay silent. Your capacity to see the perspective of others, own your truth, commit and recommit to equity and excellence in education. It is not comfortable. It is frustrating. It is necessary. It is wonderful.

I need to breathe.

To stay healthy I have do one of the things that is essential for life, most of the time it is a reflex-but sometimes it requires pause and thought and intentionality. Over the years I have learned to do it without prompting-but I am grateful for those close enough and brave enough to remind me when I️ need to breathe.

I need these experiences in my professional life, just like I needed them in my personal life. This week I am deeply grateful for the closeness and bravery of my learning community (Raquel, Amy, Sebastian, Jean-Jacques Margaret, Andrea, Donna, Jennifer, Susan, Kim, Anissia, Maya, & Lindy)  who not only reminded me, but in many ways taught me how to breathe in a new way.

I feel like I took a “deep cleansing breath”. The kind of breath that centered me and helped me reset. I don’t just need to breathe, I️ AM breathing…and as always…I am still learning.