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Mindset & Motivation, Podcast Articles   |   Oct 18, 2020

Find the small good things. Take the next right steps.

By Angela Watson

Founder and Writer

Find the small good things. Take the next right steps.

By Angela Watson

I’ve decided to end Season 12 of the Truth for Teachers podcast early, for reasons that will be apparent as I share what’s on my heart. I will not be back with another episode until at least January 2021.

This is a deeply personal podcast episode/blog post, so if you’re new here, I encourage you to revisit some of the previous ones that are probably going to be more helpful and along the lines of what you’re hoping to get from the podcast.

This one is going to be kind of all over the place, part inspirational, part confessional, part political, part visionary.

I’ve thought carefully about what message I want to end the season on, particularly since we have an election coming up here in the U.S. soon, and talk about it will continue to consume our news and social media interactions for weeks. I’m going to talk about the election toward the end of this episode — I know some folks don’t have the bandwidth right now to think about that so you can turn it off when I get to that part if you need to for your mental health.

But I don’t feel like I could have a platform this size and not address the most consequential election in my lifetime. Do you know the average Truth for Teachers episode now gets 25,000 downloads? That fact just blows my mind, that each time I step into my closet and that it’s too small to be a recording studio but is in fact my recording studio and turn on this mic. It’s the equivalent of a stadium with 25,000 educators gathered around to listen to me speak.

That fact is so humbling to me — it’s a lot of influence and I think that means a lot of responsibility — which is why I try to think through the topic each week really carefully and make sure I am putting the right ideas into the world. The ideas that I think are going to best equip teachers to raise this next generation of young learners.

And when I think about the ideas I want to leave you with here in October 2020, knowing that I won’t officially or formally be back with another episode until 2021 … these are the thoughts I hope will stay with you during that time.

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Finding the small good things

A foundational practice for me right now is finding the small good things.

This is a time when we are all stressed and exhausted, which has been true for a lifetime for most folks, just for different reasons than before the pandemic. There are new challenges now, and tempers and patience are short. The politically charged climate and division over how to handle the pandemic creates tension as well.

And again and again, I find myself looking for the small good things. The moments of humanity, the genuine connections with other humans. The connections with animals. The connections with nature.

The small wins are all we’ve got when it feels like we’re not making many big ones. So in the coming weeks especially, I encourage you to practice finding the small good things.

Actively seek out, talk about, recall, and savor those moments which will help you hold onto hope of better days ahead. They will refuel you and re-energize you. They will keep you afloat when you feel like you’re sinking.

Taking the next right steps

Many of the challenges we’re facing right now seem insurmountable and they’re things we’ve never had to do before. If you’re used to planning ahead, the uncertainty in every area right now can be very anxiety-provoking.

And when I feel that way, I try to remind myself:

Angela, just take the next right steps. You don’t have to see the whole staircase, right? Just the step in front of you. When you do that, the next step will be visible, and you can take that one. One step at a time, trusting that the following step will appear when you arrive at it.

Remember this when you are overwhelmed by everything that’s on your plate and everything troubling you in the world.

You don’t have to know what’s going to happen next year or even next week. Just focus on taking the next right step.

These are the types of thoughts that are grounding me right now, and helping me to keep pushing forward: find the small good things and take the next right step. Because these are heavy times.

What my family’s been experiencing since March

I don’t like to talk much about what I am going through personally because I know everyone has their own challenges, and frankly, I have the privilege of working from home at a time when a lot of folks listening to this are risking their lives going to work every day, or wishing they even had a job. I have many types of privilege right now that others don’t have.

But I will share that these last seven months since COVID emerged have pushed me past my breaking point many times.

My husband’s been out of work — he’s a musician and owns an entertainment company in Brooklyn, which is pretty much the last place and industry that will get back to whatever a new normal will look like.

We’ve had three family members get so sick with COVID that they had to be on ventilators for a month, and ended up losing one of my husband’s aunts and could not bury her because the morgues and funeral homes were so overloaded.

On top of that, my mother-in-law entered the advanced stages of dementia, and then passed away a few weeks ago. We were able to hold a funeral for her but I would not wish a COVID-era funeral in New York on anyone, we could only have 25 people in the room and had to sit 6 feet apart during the service and wear masks. It was not the grand homegoing celebration she deserved and we’ve been unable to properly grieve any of the many losses of friends, families, and neighbors we’ve experienced.

Exacerbating this pain are the COVID-deniers, who think the whole thing is a hoax and overblown and we don’t need to take any precautions, like losing a loved one to lung cancer and having to constantly hear folks saying, “Cancer’s not that bad — most people survive it.” None of that will bring back the folks we’ve lost.

My experience with heightened anxiety and depression

This is just a small window into what has been happening in my world lately.

I’ve always struggled with anxiety and depression and the challenges with this pandemic have pushed me back onto medication after nearly 12 years of being off it. (I originally weaned myself off — under my doctor’s supervision, via a very long and gradual process — for the purpose of attempting to conceive. I didn’t get pregnant and am no longer trying, yet it didn’t occur to me until this summer that medication for depression was once again an option for me.)

I like to plan ahead, I like to have certainty, I like to have routines, and I like to have freedom. All of that has been difficult with COVID and pushed some of my biggest trigger buttons.

Being on an antianxiety and antidepressant — for those who are wondering, I now take 50MG of Zoloft — has helped tremendously. The lows are not nearly as low with the depression and I no longer feel hopeless.

The anxiety is also a lot better — I’m much more laid back, although also less motivated and productive, so it’s been a lot to adjust to.

The need for a time of silence, observation, and going inward

Right now for me, this is a time of going inward, and being silent. As I mentioned, I’m ending this podcast season early and taking a longer break between podcast seasons — I usually take 6 weeks off over the winter holidays and I’m going to give myself a few months this year.

And, I’ve withdrawn from social media almost completely. I’m ending my weekly emails for the first time in, I don’t know, 10 years maybe, and healing.

I’m following the lead of Tricia Hersey of the Nap Ministry and not adding anything else to the 2020 calendar — if I haven’t already committed to it for this year, it’s not happening until next year or maybe not at all, because I’m not in a hurry to pack my schedule for next year either.

And I’m also following her lead in taking a sabbatical. I will be mostly offline for the month of December, as well as most of November, if I can get the rest of my work finished in time without stressing myself out unnecessarily.

This sabbatical will be a time in which I do the least amount of work possible, rest, read, sleep, and heal.

I started teaching in 1999, and spent 11 years in the classroom followed by the past 10 years doing instructional coaching and educational consulting. And that means that every day of my life for the past 20 years, I have woken up thinking about teaching and learning.

Every single day, even in the summer, even on vacation — you know what that’s like. I think about teaching daily, and now I also have a business to run and consider. I have employees and contractors that depend on me for an income.

When you have an online business, the work never ends, and there’s never a day off from it, ever, unless one is intentionally chosen.

I am tired, y’all. I’m just tired of everything, to be honest.

I need a break from thinking about all of it because there are more important things, bigger things I need to process.

There is self-development work I need to complete. There are realizations and transformations I’ve begun but have not fully integrated.

I don’t know exactly what this sabbatical will look like as I’ve never done it, and I don’t want to plan it and schedule it out because I think what I need most is to listen to my body and my intuition each day instead of always making decisions with the mind and intellect.

I will tell you all about this sabbatical process afterward and what I’ve learned. I am observing and processing and regrouping now, with the hope to re-emerge from this little cocoon for myself in a few months with new visions and ideas and energy, and enthusiasm. I want to come back online feeling reinspired and deeply grounded in my purpose and mission.

Who do we want to become on the other side of these challenges?

Until then, I’ve been focusing on the small good things and taking the next right steps.

And, I’ve been thinking about who I want to become through these challenges:

What kind of person do I want to be on the other side of this pandemic? When I look back a few years from now, how do I want this experience to have changed me? What qualities do I want to have developed or strengthened in myself?

I am practicing showing up as my full authentic self in every context. No conforming to what other people expect of me, no pressure to upload the status quo or cultural norms. I’m practicing being honest about how I feel and what I want in my relationships. I’m re-evaluating how I use my time and what’s important.

I hope to come out on the other side of this pandemic feeling less of a need to control and plan, and more of an ability to be mindful and present and look just for the next right steps.

To appreciate the small good things and find them in any circumstance.

To loosen the hold of bad habits and strengthen the habits that bring me more peace and help me show up as the best version of myself.

When all of this is over — when we no longer have to think about the virus any longer — I will for sure still have ME. I cannot guarantee I will have any other person, or possession, or job, or financial asset. None of that is promised in life. But if I am still here, I will have ME.

And I want to be the strongest version of myself, the healthiest version — mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually — as possible. THAT is something I can return to even when everything else feels out of my control.

I can focus on the person I want to become through this experience.

What kind of leadership is needed right now?

I want to share something else that I hope to have on the other side of this pandemic, and am actively working to help create:

I want to have a country with strong, smart, experienced people in leadership.

You know I like to be as inclusive as possible with this podcast — I don’t like to intentionally alienate people, and I know political talk can be alienating. I also know that I can’t separate my politics from who I am — it’s all part of my worldview, and everything about my life choices, my beliefs, and so on stem from my worldview, from my values.

That’s all this podcast is, an outpouring of the things I believe are important, my truths, the things I care about, and the ideas I believe are good enough to spread in the world.

So I have to share my heart here with you. I would be devastated if Biden doesn’t win this election, not because I’m such a super fan of Biden or believe the Democratic party is so amazing, but because I see how Trump is intentionally and openly dismantling American institutions, and I think it’s incredibly dangerous. I don’t know if our democracy can survive four more years of Trump.

I’m not interested in bashing Trump here, because your opinions on him are probably already decided. I just want to share what my vision is for the future of our country.

I want to see a president that truly wants to lead people who are not his base, people who are not aligned with his worldview, who cares about ALL Americans. I want to see a president who puts the country’s interests ahead of their own financial interest, a person who cares about being decent and caring. I want a president who does not get pleasure from upsetting people who think differently than him, a president who doesn’t thrive on creating an “us vs them” narrative, who doesn’t bate people on social media, rehash old grudges constantly, or center himself in every conversation to make himself look good.

These characteristics were a given for our past presidents — we all used to agree they were important — and these things are still important.

More than anything, I want (and I believe we should all want) a president who surrounds themselves with smart people and listens to good counsel. I want to see experts leading in our government and have their expertise respected. I want people running our agencies who believe in the fundamental mission of those agencies rather than trying to make everything to maximize corporate and private profits.

I want the head of the Department of Education to believe in the necessity of public education. I want the head of the Environmental Protection Agency to believe in the necessity of protecting the environment. I want the head of the postal service to believe in the necessity of a functional mail system.

These did not use to be controversial viewpoints.

I believe the role of government is to serve the people, so you can’t run it like a business. The goal isn’t to make or even save money. It’s to serve the people. All of the people, not just the people who are just like you, and all of the time, not just when the wealthiest 1% stand to make a profit from it.

With that as the baseline criteria, only one presidential candidate of our two choices comes even close to meeting the mark. I want experienced people in government with a long track record of public service, a track record of listening to experts and wise counsel rather than making knee-jerk, ego-based reactions. And the only way to get anywhere close to that right now is by electing Biden.

Whatever happens in the coming months, we all still need to live together

But that’s not the full solution. We have a situation in which a good percentage of the country is terrified of what will happen if Biden is elected and another good percentage terrified of what will happen if Trump is re-elected.

There is a lot of fear right now, and choices made from a place of fear are rarely the wisest ones.

A fact that’s been heavily on my heart in recent weeks is that we will all still need to live together as Americans.

There may be some folks listening to this who think I didn’t go hard enough here and speak about policies and specific types of racial and social justice. But what I stand for is evident in every single 200+ episode of Truth for Teachers, if you’re a dedicated listener, you know who I am, and I can’t imagine anyone here is surprised that I’m voting Democratic.

This does not feel like a moment for me to push away people who think differently.

I believe my role in this moment is to remind folks we still have to share this country and live together. We have to find ways to create space for every person here to have equal rights and opportunities, regardless of who is elected.

We might not see eye-to-eye on specific issues, and we probably never will. I also don’t think we need to. There will always be people on the right tugging policy that way, and folks on the left tugging there.

The common ground, I hope, is wanting to uphold rather than tear down American institutions. Or in some cases, we want to tear down things that don’t serve all the people and rebuild with a more just and equitable society but never tear down with the intent to replace with systems that still marginalize, discriminate, or keep all the wealth to just a handful of people.

As teachers, I hope we all share the belief that a free, high-quality public education is the right of every American, and we deserve national leadership that believes in that vision and wants to see our public school system succeed.

So, the next right step for our nation — in my view — is to place someone who is qualified to lead and whose goal is to be decent, empathetic, and unite the American people. I believe the divisiveness, hatefulness, and despicable social media circus we’re living in will eventually be better under a Biden/Harris ticket.

With any election outcome, I will still continue to stand for these values of unity and equality, and find ways to bring us together in a push for a more just America.

That’s my truth. And these are the thoughts I will leave you with until the podcast returns with season 13 in 2021:

Find the small good things.

Take the next right steps.

Focus on who you want to become through the remainder of this pandemic. What kind of person will you be on the other side of these challenging times?

What kind of schools do we want to have?

What kind of nation do we want to be?

There is a lot of heaviness now, but better days are ahead — this I believe with all my heart. Sending you all love and support, until next time.

Truth for Teachers podcast: a weekly 10 minute talk radio show you can download and take with you wherever you go! A new episode is released each Sunday to get you energized and motivated for the week ahead.

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Angela Watson

Founder and Writer

Angela created the first version of this site in 2003, when she was a classroom teacher herself. With 11 years of teaching experience and more than a decade of experience as an instructional coach, Angela oversees and contributes regularly to...
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  1. So sorry for what you are going through. Truly appreciate your podcast, website & books. I always value your honesty. Hope you find the healing you’re after. Thank you for all your work & the hope you continually provide, wishing you & your family the very best.

  2. Good luck with your sabbatical, Angela. You’ve been part of my teaching life for years now, and I always appreciate your outlook. This podcast (well, I read it) was very moving and I think most of us can truly relate to your feelings right now. Thank you.

  3. Thank you for literally pouring your heart out here today. I found myself nodding throughout as I read your words. I hope that the next few months help in your healing journey. Stay well.

  4. Angela, I am so sorry for all that has happened that has put you in this place, but I am so deeply grateful that you have created this place for us all. Every week that I have read your messages or listened, I feel calmed and sane again. I will miss you while you take this time, but it is healthy and right. It is so good that you are listening to that voice inside telling you what you need. Take care.

  5. Angela, you’ve helped me so much. I wish I could help you!
    So I will leave you with these: and ❤️ because I have a Friend who specializes in comfort.

  6. You are amazing, Angela. I’m crying as I type this. I hope your sabbatical fills your soul and gives you everything that you need. Even in your darkest days, you still continue to give us all hope. Bless you and your family. Sending all my love to you.

  7. I applaud you for knowing and listening to yourself and taking a break. While there is so much uncertainty in the world right now, one thing is certain for sure…if we don’t take care of ourselves, no one will. Take care Angela

  8. Sending thoughts of healing and peace your way. This has been a very stressful year for me as well due to the loss of my son, but thankfully economic hardship has not added to it. Heal, and come back stronger than ever. XOXOXO

  9. Angela: I am proud of you for taking these steps to take care of yourself. 25 000 teachers are benefiting from hearing that when things are tough, we need to take care of ourselves. Speaking your truth will inspire others to take care of themselves – whether in small or big ways, it does not matter. I am truly sorry for all those things which have been happening to you. You can own them and no one but you really knows how they have affected you I will keep you and your family in my thoughts and prayers.

  10. Angela,

    I am very sorry for what you are going through. Although I will miss your weekly emails, I am glad you are taking some time for yourself and your family. I wish you the best during this time.

  11. I have great admiration for your professional expertise and now your personal vision, Angela. Your family and yourself come first. Taking care of physical, mental, and emotional health has to be a priority, and I’m so happy to hear you are doing that. We all need a break, even if we love what we do. The world does not satisfy, and I pray that you will be refreshed and rejuvenated by your time of solitude. Waiting and hoping with you!

  12. Angela, you have helped me gain a more balanced approach to teaching through your podcast. I send you calming and healing thoughts as you begin your sabbatical.

  13. Thank you for being who you are, Angela! Your work has been so helpful and inspiring to me over the past few years. I will miss you during your sabbatical, but thank you for setting an example of taking care of yourself. You are amazing!

  14. Angela,
    I am so sorry that COVID and this world is affecting you and your family so much. You have saved me a lot of time, you have provided me with countless words of wisdom when I need it, and you inspire me to be a better teacher. Take good care of yourself and take all of the time that you need. Blessings, Sara

  15. Thank you for sharing from your heart, Angela. You continually bless me with your advocacy for teachers and your rallying call for a more just America.

    Love to you,


  16. I have the utmost respect and admiration for you and what you represent to me. You are a model of wisdom and love. Thank you for once again leading, in word and deed, with what is best for all of us during these times. I too am integrating these goals and wonderings as we move through this vortex. I share all that you have said and even I began taking Sertraline daily as well as other strategies to keep going.
    I trust you will find Peace and Serenity during your sacred time inward. I will join you and others with reflective thought and prayer in our preparation for a better day.

  17. Angela,
    Thank you for sharing yourself and your experiences here today. I feel less alone as a result. I live in Manhattan and teach in Brooklyn. I lost my mom in early April and had to make due with a COVID-era funeral, not at all what she deserved. I also lost my oldest, best friend (we go back 40+ years to college) this summer to ovarian cancer. And now I’m teaching in an environment I don’t even recognize. I, too, am looking into therapy for depression and anxiety. I feel your pain as I’m sure you feel mine. I’m planning to retire in a year and that, in addition to my family, is what’s keeping me going. I am also a political junkie and a life-long Democrat. I am terrified of what more could happen to our country, so I am a big supporter of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. I wish you all the best as you take time off to regroup and regain your strength and I look forward to hearing from you in what I hope will be happier times in the new year.

  18. I wish I could hug you and make everything better. I’ve followed you since you were in Washington, DC and then to Florida and on to New York. I am now 70 and retired 7 years…and still I follow you and learn so much. I am so happy that you are taking time to care for yourself. Thank you for everything you’ve done for all of us. You get it. You understand. And that’s why we love you.

  19. Angela,
    I am so sorry for all that you have had to face during COVID-19. Thank you for being strong enough to admit your need to put yourself first for a while. I hope this sabbatical allows you to heal and rejuvenate. Sending positive thoughts your way.

  20. Thank you so much for truly being my ‘cornerstone’ during this pandemic. I found your podcast as our school went virtual, and you have lifted me up and through our time of moving to a hybrid model. I have even shared your messages with colleagues as they started to need extra support. You have given me so much that I felt the need to reach out at this time and say thank you. As you rest and seek your own peaceful moments, please know what you have done for so many is appreciated greatly. I will dive deep into your archives so that I may continue to be supported as I go to work each day and try to do my best and be resilient. Please be well and know that you matter and you are a gift to so many of us. I pray for you and your family and look forward to your return in a bright and hopeful new year. Thank you!

  21. Thank you for sharing your personal story. I trust God will continue to be with you and see you through this. I appreciate how you have allowed Him to use you for so many of us.

  22. Thank you for everything you’ve done for this community; it has been a blessing to me personally and so many others. This is a difficult time to live in and you’ve helped me to navigate it. I am so happy for you that you are taking the time to heal and care for yourself.

  23. I am so sorry to hear of your personal struggles through this pandemic. I have been following you for a considerable time now and always appreciated your perspectives and wisdom. I am very glad you are taking care of yourself now and wish you a rewarding and healing sabbatical. I look forward to your return when you are ready. Stay well.

  24. Thank you for your wise words, prior and especially during this pandemic. I can relate to every word you just said in this podcast. Every heartbreaking one. I wish you the rest and renewal you need, the adjustment to go forward in joy and hope. Thank you Angela!

  25. I will miss you. I hope you can rest and heal and grieve. I am so sorry for your losses. I too had to go back on anxiety meds due to covid and losing my boyfriend’s son to addiction. It’s been awful and I sincerely hope you will heal and feel better.

  26. Thank you for this very validating and transparent podcast. I was in the midst of penning my resignation letter when today’s podcast came on. It confirmed all I was feeling and carrying, and it helped me finish the letter and begin to step away for my own time of rest. You are still exemplifying the very best of teaching by taking a rest. Thank you! Our love to you!

  27. Rest and healing is so important. Good for you for recognizing this and doing what your body and spirit needs. Take care.

  28. Thank you for sharing your wisdom, insights, expertise, and in this message, your heart. I, along with so many others value and appreciate you! Please take care, stay safe, and be well. I will be here when you are ready to return…

  29. Take care, you have earned a rest. I have a quote of you taped to my desk. Resist the pressure to perform optimally in conditions that are less than optimal. (I can never say it exactly, hence why I taped it to my desk!). Sometimes when I look around at my students in their masks and feel like I can’t say one more thing while wearing my mask I walk back and read it. I hand it to other teachers when they feel low. I credited it to you in case they want to look you up. Thank you for sharing with us.

  30. Love you Angela! I admire you so much. I am so grateful for your brilliance and wisdom. I am so amazed by you at every turn. I am so proud you are taking this time and speaking up directly from your heart about the fear and anguish so many of us are feeling. Holding you in love.

  31. Your presence will be missed and your return highly anticipated. However, your decision to step away and to focus on healing is another beautiful example of the wisdom and strength that you have shared with so many educators for a long time. Be well, Angela. We are all here for you!

  32. This was awesome! It was refreshing to know I am not alone in how I feel about things … thank you for sharing, it was what I needed to hear! So sorry to hear about your family and everything that has been going on, I hope that this time away will be much needed and bring everything it should to you . Take care!

  33. Thank you so much for your heartfelt post. I am so sorry that your family has had to deal with such tragedy in the past months. Your words always feel to be written just for me and this post is just that kind of post. Thank you. Heal you, my friend. I look forward to your vision when you return.

  34. Angela,

    I feel all of your pain. You are not alone.

    Peace be with you. May clarity come to you.
    Take the next step. And rest.


  35. I do not feel the educational system is the proper platform for such political indoctrination. Students should not even know your political beliefs. This division is what is tearing our country apart. I have been teaching, from elementary to college levels, for 14 years and have never pushed my political views on any of my students. Being the first I have listened to your podcasts, it will also be the last. I am sure you have a lot to offer but you have ruined it for me, and I would imagine for many others as well.

  36. So very sorry for all you are going through. I do find comfort in knowing that others are having a rough time as well. I am new to Blogs and find that your message has struck a chord with me and so I am looking forward to going through all your prior posts. Thank you for your open and honest voice.

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