I’m not sure when the building I teach in was built, but it was probably during the 1960’s. It’s a depressing institutional structure, with almost no natural light, especially in the interior corridors where my classroom is located. Students report feeling the presence of Dementors in the building, and I honestly am not surprised, as I’ve sensed them myself. It’s not a beautiful place to be, but we teachers try to make the best of it by painting our classrooms with cheery colors. Nothing quite makes up for dim fluorescent lighting and general lack of interesting architecture, though.
This summer, when my friend and colleague, Lauren, realized that we shared a common prep period, she suggested that we walk a lap each day at the beginning of that class period. We’ve since dubbed this short walk the Sanity Lap. It takes place daily, unless there’s a downpour (which is generally unlikely). We make our way outside, descend the stadium steps to the track and walk one lap, climb the steps and re-enter the building. The entire trip takes probably no more than five minutes, from classroom door to classroom door. We are leaving the track just as Boys PE is coming outside for their warm-up lap.
There are some days when I wonder if those five minutes could be better used if I were grading or planning or organizing or photocopying or contacting parents or the myriad other things we teachers try to accomplish during the fifty-five minutes we’re without students. But after a semester’s worth of laps, I can definitively say that the time spent on the lap pays greater dividends than the time it takes. I have a daily opportunity to talk with an adult (and one who is wise and witty to boot), which can be a rare occurrence during the school day. I spend a few moments outdoors, which restores my soul, and I inhale clean mountain air, rather than the stuffy re-circulated air in the building. Just before we descend the steps to the track, I breathe in the distinctive view of Thumb Butte and the Bradshaw Mountains south of town. I can discern if the sky is clear or cloudy or somewhere in between, having arrived at school before the sun is fully up during most of the year. I connect with a friend, if only for a few moments.
Some days one teacher or another joins us, but usually it’s just the two of us, ranting, venting and laughing. It’s often the best five minutes in the workday, leaving me refreshed and ready to tackle the challenges of the rest of the day. The Sanity Lap has made me more productive and gives me focus. I look forward to it each day. It costs me only a tiny investment in time, but the pay-off is huge. I’ve been reflecting on the year, as most of us do in December, and taking stock of habits I want to continue and change. This one is a definite keeper. As you reflect on the opportunities a new year brings, and the practices and rituals you want to establish, I hope that you will find something both as cost-effective and priceless as the Sanity Lap.