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Retraining My Brain

Hazel is cranky because she wants to type on the keyboard. Mommy says no.

Today is the first day of my last semester of graduate school. I have three courses remaining for my Masters in Educational Leadership and Policy: Curriculum Instruction and Design, Legal and Political Aspects in Education, and the final Capstone class. If all goes according to plan, I will graduate at the end of Spring with my master's. I’m no longer eligible for the principal’s certification because I’m not working at a Texas public school, but that’s okay. Being a principal is not in my future career plans at this time.

Having a full load of graduate-level courses includes a significant workload. Between reading assignments, reflections, formal term papers, discussion boards, interviews with numerous people in education, video assignments, and many other requirements, needless to say, I’ll be busy. However, for me to be successful in finishing graduate school strong, I will need to make some personal changes. I will need to retrain my brain.

Naturally, I’m a morning person. I love waking up two hours or so before everyone else does. When I first wake up and the house is sleeping soundly upstairs, my head is clear. I can write with ease. I slowly sip my coffee and I set the tone of my day. With both of my children equally early risers, these opportunities are few and far between. I’d like to wake up about two hours before everyone else, but 3 a.m. is simply too early to be functional the rest of the day. Ever since the fall time change, the kids have not adjusted to a later wake-up time. Realistically speaking, my best window of time for extended concentration is at night when my girls are asleep. They’ve been consistently down by 8 most nights.

My problem is my brain is tired at night. What would take me 30 minutes to an hour to write in the mornings would take double the time because writing is a struggle for me at night. As far as productivity is concerned, it is not my optimal window of time. My body clock fights deep thoughts at night. But if I try to work with both kids up, that is a different kind of struggle.

Both kids require constant attention. If Maggie is home from ABA, there are seizures to monitor, behaviors to redirect (she still tries to climb and mouth things), and at-home learning reinforcements, never mind an intensive potty training schedule. Hazel simply wants constant attention. Whatever I’m doing, she wants to do. If I’m typing, she wants to type. If I’m reading, she wants to take the book out of my hand and flip through the pages herself. If I’m making a video for a class, Hazel wants to photobomb it. Anything that requires extended concentration, as in more than five minutes, means the kids need to be asleep for that to happen.

This brings me back to the evening. The kids are asleep and my brain wants to sleep, too. I need to fight the urge to wind down and retrain myself to work at night, even if I’m tired, even if I don’t feel like it. There are simply no other hours in the day to do it.

I’m hesitant to do anything that would prevent me from going to sleep when I am ready. I typically avoid caffeine after my morning coffee, but outside of caffeine and maybe a quick shower, I’m not sure how to best help myself stay up and focused without jeopardizing sleep for the rest of the night. In the meanwhile, I’m going to approach this challenge the same way I approach any other attempt to begin a new habit... showing up. Tired or not, struggling or not, I’m going to pull out my tablet after the girls are down and work as much as I can. In time, it’ll be easier once my brain and my body adjust to a new work schedule for grad school.


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