“Be yourself; everyone is already taken” ~Oscar Wilde
Some of my recent podcast interviews have touched on how important it is to get to know yourself, take care of yourself and ultimately “be yourself” for the sake of you students… and your sanity.
As a parent and a teacher, I for one can vouch for how your own needs can very easily be pushed to the back burner in these such roles. Therefore, I wanted to take a moment to sit back and reflect on the importance of self-care in order to be the best to the children who need me in all the roles of my life.
Admittedly, I do not have all the answers, which is why this podcast and blog came to be in the first place. It’s been amazing getting to talk to professional educators and take bits and pieces of what they’ve shared and try to figure out ways to incorporate it into my classroom and life.
Running on an “Empty Cup”
When I began teaching I threw myself into it, as most teachers do. The summer before my first day as a second grade teacher, I lived and breathed classroom setup, poured over lesson plans and things like classroom jobs. I also had a 7-month-old at the time and a 5-year-old son getting ready to start kindergarten himself.
I was tired and overwhelmed before the first day of school even started. I was running on an “empty cup,” as they say. I didn’t realize how all the stress I was putting on myself was actually setting my students and myself up for failure. I’ve since been on a quest to ask other teachers how they keep their cups filled and prioritize self-care in their lives.
Three Tips from Professional Educators to Keep Your Cup Full
- Set boundaries, and don’t take work home
In recent podcast post, both Dana Graham and Elizabeth Isralowitz, both educators for ten years in California, talked candidly about how when they began teaching, they would leave work every day on, or close to their end of contracted hours — which resulted in often taking work home and working late into the night. They’ve both since learned that taking the time at the end of the day to unwind briefly once the students were dismissed and then use their time more efficiently to prioritize and get any necessary paperwork done, even if that meant staying a little later some days, helps them manage setting boundaries easier. For Elizabeth, making a clear and distinct separation from her work-self and home-self — where she says she no longer takes home to at the end of the day — has been an important step in her own self-care.
- Laugh at yourself
Melissa Ascencio, who has taught in North Carolina, New York City and now in Virginia over a course of 16 years, says she is able to keep herself, and her students successful and happy by always using her sense of humor in any and all situations. Melissa says that a huge part of teaching is building relationships with your students and one of the ways she does that is by being her true self. One value she holds true as a teacher is that if you want your student to open up to you, that you in turn need to open up to them first.
- Calendar time for yourself and find ways to combine your passions
She doubles as a full-time public school teacher and a part-time spin instructor! Danielle David, educator for 11 years in East Bay, CA, says she’s been fortunate enough to combine her love for exercise and teaching by becoming a spin instructor at her local JPower Studios in Benicia, CA. Danielle shared how her love for exercise came about as a means to manage her high anxiety. She recommends finding ways to incorporate self-care by doing things that make you happy, and to remember all the roles you play in your life – teacher, spouse, dog-owner, etc… and to not forget to calendar time for yourself, even if it’s to spend that time reading a good “non-teacher book.”
Whatever you find works for you, these tips are great starting points as you begin to think about how you can prioritize self-care in your own life. While teaching is such an important job, we teachers can only give our best-selves to our students, if we remember to give to ourselves first. As for me, Danielle’s tip of finding ways of combining your passions rings true as I work to build this very blog and combine my own passion of education, writing…and chatting!
By Jennifer Khadir