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Working at Our Little Village|Library during my Junior year has given me great experience in working with children and even some skills for being a future teacher. While I’m not a parent (but I plan to be in the future) there are so many lessons I can apply to own parenting philosophy and to my caretaking role now. Someone who has dramatically assisted in this process is Kristi King, our site coordinator, a parent of 3, and an amazing mentor! Kristi is especially good at guiding and teaching us how to be better childcare providers. Rather than just getting angry or frustrated, she gives us alternatives on how to go about different situations, sometimes in disguised ways. One Tuesday afternoon shift in particular made for a great teaching moment from Kristi, who showed me that sometimes having 8 kids in our small drop off childcare center can be a blessing in disguise!
That busy Tuesday in January was unlike any other Tuesday shift I had ever worked. Normally our weekday shifts are calm, only having 4-5 children, if that! On this Tuesday, the kids kept coming, which was awesome at first, but it began to be over whelming! 3 babies, 3 toddlers/preschoolers, and 2 primary aged children all arrived and began playing with different toys, and of course, playing very loudly. My co-worker and I each had a crying baby in one arm and were attempting to play with children using our other hand. Though this was no new scenario to either me or my co-worker, we still had our hands full! Kristi arrived early for her shift and observed the chaotic scene. Without hesitation she stepped into our disorder, grabbed some fun books, gathered up the 5 children and began to read to them. I was amazed and thankful! They were all sitting quietly, listening to her every word, and were engaged in the book! No more yelling, toys flying, or children fighting. My co-worker and I had a chance to calm the last crying baby and clean up the room while organizing our thoughts. I realized then that this could be a powerful tool in how we manage the childcare center when we have 8 kids and might be in the process of pulling our hair out. Kristi didn’t even have to say anything to us, because her actions spoke louder than any of her words would have been.
This past Sunday, OLV reached full capacity twice! In the midst of the craziness, I turned to my co-worker and said “In 10 minutes we are going to have story time!” And together, we gathered the 8 kids, read to them and had them work on different crafts TOGETHER! They were quiet and engaged, just like they were with Kristi! I learned that sometimes, quietly showing someone what to do can be better than just telling them, and that if you have a lot of kids in a tiny space…story time is amazing! Thanks Kristi!
by Charles Howard, University Chaplain, University of Pennsylvania
In 2009 our Baccalaureate speaker—Dr. Kirk Byron Jones, author of the popular book Rest in the Storm—spoke to our graduating class on the subject “Daring to rest.”1 His remarks were geared towards young women and men preparing to enter into a myriad of professional fields and graduate study, daring them to balance their hard work with “hard rest.”
And yet, his words should not only be heeded by students and young professionals. Those who have taught and teach these students may also benefit from a gentle reminder to pause, rest, and take care of themselves.
The life of a professor, while bringing much honor and a great many joys, can also be very stressful and challenging. Teaching and doing research places high demands on professors in ways that many may not realize. The hours of course preparation, writing lesson plans, long days and nights in the lab doing one’s own research on top of supervising research assistants, grading papers, meeting with advisees, writing articles and book projects, lecturing, committee meetings, and off campus projects and collaborations can all contribute to some very challenging days. For many academics, the day-to-day is in addition to the stress of being up for tenure or waiting for grant applications—not to mention the realities of navigating our personal lives including relationships with partners, raising children, care for aging parents, health concerns, and more.
Admittedly, I am hesitant in asking professors to take time for rest and self care. One might argue that the reason you are serving as a professor at a place like Penn is because of all of the hard work that you have done over the course of your career. Further, the work that you are doing is important. Your long hours are leading to breakthroughs in research, lives saved, academic fields furthered, beautiful literature and art produced, better prepared professionals, and another generation of brilliant scholars. We expect and count on you to work hard.
Yet along with working hard, here is a challenge to also take care of yourselves. At Penn we have some of the brightest minds in the world, but you are also human. So please take care of yourselves.
Firstly, I want you to be here—for a long time. I love shaking the hands of recently retired professors who worked at the University for 30 or 40 years. None of these great citizens of the University have ever told me that they wished they had worked more hours in the day. Rather they described how they balanced hard work with rich conversation over lunch at the University Club, trips around the world for both research and pleasure, enjoyable time with colleagues who became good friends, regular appointments swimming at the gym or playing tennis. Take care of yourself so that you can be here!
In addition, another reason to pay attention to self care is to model a work-life balance for your students. Professors whom students look up to hold a great deal of influence in their lives. Perhaps many of you have drawn from the examples of your past advisers, mentors, and professors as you pursue your own academic career. Your students are watching you as well. Let’s strive to provide for them positive examples of healthy living and balance as they prepare for their future careers.
Finally, self care will only improve your work. The connections between a “good night’s sleep” and productivity at work are much documented. Yet, self care is more than sleep. Self care looks different for each of us. For some it is exercising (we have amazing facilities and classes here through PennRec). For others, it is the pursuit of hobbies and interests like reading, dancing, music, dining out, theater, or spending time in nature. Still for others this is cultivating their inner life through religion and spirituality, meditating, or just finding quiet time with loved ones.
Self care is also seeking help when we’re feeling stressed, anxious, or down. Our University’s Employee Assistance Program (EAP) is available 24 hours a day to talk confidentially about both professional and personal challenges that anyone on our faculty or staff may have. Certainly our office as well as the campus cultural centers and hubs on campus are available (The Women’s Center, Makuu Black Cultural Center, The LGBT Center, La Casa Latina, The Greenfield Intercultural Center, and The Pan-Asian American Cultural House). Maybe it’s a trusted colleague who is the best person to talk to. Whoever it is, during those moments of overwhelming frustration, or anxiety, you don’t have to endure them alone.
There is much about Penn that is amazing and at the very top of that list is our world-class faculty. There is no Penn without you. You all take care of Penn so well, make sure that you also take care of yourselves.
By a professional faculty mom of a 16 year old son
I think all of us wish to balance our lives and intellectually we strive to do that. Where the train always drove off the track for me was around the holidays. We celebrate Christmas in my family, so the “holiday season” stretches from late October through New Year’s. Chalk it up to emotion, too much sugar or too little sleep, the derailment happens for many of us. Here’s what my life looked like “before”….
Full time professional. Extensive business travel. Lots of local family. Daughter. Wife. Sister. Friend. Community Volunteer. Mother. Hand-made Halloween costumes. Large, elaborate Thanksgiving dinners. Carefully chosen holiday gifts for each family member, including extended family. Elaborate holiday baking and delivery of baked goods to friends, neighbors, doctors, dentist, dog groomer, etc. Hand-made holiday wreaths. Personally selected and decorated holiday tree. Holiday letter and hand written cards to list of about 75-100. Community holiday events….lots of them. Holiday parties….lots of them. Hosting family for either Christmas or Christmas Eve, complete with large meal, clean house and overnight guests. Careful choreographing of holiday celebrations so that each set of parents and each sibling was accommodated. I hated the holidays.
And then it happened. I really did not see it coming. I sat sobbing from exhaustion with my baby on my lap in late December, realizing that if I didn’t get a hold of myself all he would remember about the holiday season was that his mother was circling the drain for two months each year.
So after banishing caffeine and sugar and taking a good brisk nap, I asked myself some hard questions. What would you subject your very best friend to? Is exhausted and cranky a normal state of being? What gives YOU joy? And here’s what the holidays look like now….
Full time professional. Lots of local family. Daughter. Wife. Sister. Friend. Community Volunteer. Mother. Halloween costume support, not leadership. Boundaries around Thanksgiving and time spent with people who GIVE energy, not drain it. Charitable contributions in honor of adult gift recipients that are meaningful to them; books and pajamas to the littles in my life. A day spent in the kitchen baking with my mom and my sister because I love it (and because we ROCK the kitchen!). A tree selected and decorated by my family. A few cards….maybe after New Year’s….and more meaningful connections throughout the year. Holiday parties only if they bring me (or my immediate family) joy. Chinese food on Christmas Eve (who knew you could DO that!). Holiday celebrations planned around love and not accommodation. Holiday music played long and loudly. I am joyful.
Guess what? The world did not stop spinning. Nobody got mad. My husband, son and I enjoy the holidays immensely. Will it work for you? I don’t know….but try it. Give yourself permission to NOT do everything. Your family, friends and colleagues will love you for it.
by a Classified staff mom of a college student son and a 4th grade daughter
Has anyone seen today’s article in the GT? Childcare rates have increased with the state regulations and yet the wages have not. How are we to choose between our child’s welfare and making a living? When will society start putting our families wellbeing ahead of making a living wage? In some ways Oregon has, but at what cost? We protect our children, provide good teachers, teach them virtues and yet we struggle to provide for our family. Why as a single working parent, do I have to choose between feeding my family and paying the electric bill or providing quality child care? It should not have to be this way in our country, in our state or in our neighborhoods. I appreciate my child care provider and was thankful for each person who provided the quality care to my children, however they were not in state organized facilities due to the cost. I mean how I am to afford spending over half my wage on these state regulated organizations? I might as well not work and stayed home, which I feel a lot of families are choosing today. One can only afford to pay for some of the state regulated child care centers if you were in a highly professional position or had two incomes. I hope the future of our families are not jeopardized by the choices our state and federal governments think they are making on our families behalf. I would like to see them make the choices we have had to make in regards to our children; nutrition/warmth or quality childcare. What do you think they will choose?