Dear teachers, I would first have you know that I am one of you. I’ve taught for fifteen years, and I know the struggles you face. They are not imaginary, they are not your fault or failings, they are real and exhausting and more than we can handle. And when Covid hit, we were asked to go above and beyond the responsibilities of our role. To be flexible, to help students and families during a crisis. We did our best to rise to the occasion but we are struggling.
Teachers really are struggling. It is not an easy profession. It’s a difficult one, fraught with challenges that are ever changing that have no set criteria to overcome. Sometimes they are never overcome. Even those with more experience, with more years under their belt, those who are principals and consultants don’t have the answers to help teachers in facing some of these daily challenges. Teaching is a frustrating profession, one that causes daily stress and anxiety, and one that was already far too demanding before Covid. So I implore you today, when your child’s teacher forgets to answer your note, or doesn’t post the assignment online for the day she’s away, or forgets to call when your child bumps their head, do not judge. That teacher has way more on her plate than you know. Than you can imagine. You haven’t walked in her shoes, and they are hard to walk in. Trust that she’s doing her best even if she (or he) seems to drop the ball from time to time.
Teachers need self care more than a lot us right now. As much as doctors and nurses. So today I want to reach out those teachers, and suggest that you step back and put yourself first.
We often have students practice mediation in our classrooms. But do you ever go home and practice it yourself? Give yourself ten minutes when you get home that are just yours. Lie down. Breathe. Clear your mind (this is tough, but just envision a leaf floating on a stream and keep coming back to that when your mind wanders) and relax your muscles. It’s just ten minutes. We have ten minutes. I know you are exhausted, I know cordistol is pumping through you, but give yourself that ten minutes. It helps. You deserve those ten minutes.
Find a Quiet Hobby
If you have been following me here on my blog, you know I am big on hobbies. I think it’s important to have a life outside of work–and that is because I am a teacher, and I know how all consuming this profession can be. I know you’re probably thinking about cute crafts to create for Valentines, or the next huge bulletin board display of learning to showcase, but that’s work. Find a quiet hobby that is for yourself. Reading. Yoga. Drawing or colouring. Something that requires mindfulness and attention and just enjoy it. You deserve that time to yourself. If you have young kids yourself, get them engaged in a quiet hobby as well. It’ll do them and you a world of good.
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I know what goes on in the staff room. Someone always brings in chips, donuts, chocolate etc and you’re eating junk instead of a good healthy lunch. You get through the day on sugar and caffeine (probably the same coffee you came in with, warmed up twice in the microwave) and then crash at home. Culivate healthy habits instead! Get your lunch ready the night before–it could be a salad, or leftovers or even a tuna sandwich–and stick to the healthy eats. You’ll thank yourself later. Also, quit staying up late marking tests and creating Google Slides into the night about re-grouping. We are being asked to do two jobs at once, I get it, and I get that you want all your kids (the ones at home and the ones in front of you) to do well, but you’ll do them no good at all if you burn out. Get your sleep, and do that by getting to bed on time. Healthy habits are key for us right now.
Don’t Re-Invent the Wheel
I see this so often in teaching. We want to update the lessons, we want to try something new, we want to integrate technology or centres into a new subject area. We want to improve our math lessons or physical education lessons. This is all good teaching practice, don’t get me wrong, but you don’t have to re-invent the wheel. Use what has worked in the past. Get a unit from another teacher and use what works for you. Fill in what doesn’t. It’s okay to do that in the middle of a pandemic. And remember, it doesn’t have to be perfect. Like our students, we are learning and growing too.
Self Care Weekends
Get in some extra self care on weekends. Go for a massage. Take a nap. Go for a walk. Connect with family and friends. Do your own nails. Listen to music. This is your time to re-charge and relax and it’s okay to let it be your time. Keep the marking or planning to a minimum or remove it altogether from your weekend. Be lazy if you need to be because that can be self care. If you need to go for a run or a hike, then do that. Give yourself permission to take back your weekend and take a break–like your students likely are–so you can go back at your best without a racing mind and tired body.
Ask for Help
Teachers are martyrs, both at work and at home. Teachers seem to think we need to do it all–plan great lessons, provide feedback consistently, create amazing learning spaces in our room, and the list goes on and on. And then they go home and make dinner, read stories to their own kids, work through Venn diagrams about living and non living things and other homework their child has and then do laundry at ten at night. We are SUPERHEROS after all, it’s just what teachers do right? Wrong! You don’t have to do it all. Ask for help, at work and at school. Let others know you can’t take on that committee right now, or that baking a cake for an upcoming birthday isn’t happening without some help. Let the students decorate the bulletin board even if they are only in grade one–it’ll look perfect no matter how they put it together. Asking for help isn’t weakness, or laziness. It just means that you are human. And it’s okay to be human.
Final Thoughts …
I know exactly how real the struggle is. Even if you are like me, and stopped taking work home a while ago, it’s still hard. You still have to be “on” all the time–helping with struggling learners, teaching conflict resolution while in the middle of reading a story to the class, reminding kids to pick up pencils and put away lunch bags. Calling parents, photocopying, sitting down with the speech and language pathologist. It never ends when you are in the school, and it seems like the right move to take things home with you that need getting done. And that is okay to do once in a while–just don’t make it a habit. Instead, make your self care a habit. Do things you love, do things that relax you, practice mindfulness. And know that it’s okay any year to do that, but this year especially, when our classrooms and learning environments are so different, it’s especially okay to take time for yourself. It is actually essential you do. Enjoy your self care my friends.
How do you practice self care as a teachers? Share your thoughts below.