Teachers do everything! Not only do we teach, we must be on our A-game each day. We act as counselors, disciplinarians, entertainers, activists, advocates, beauticians (in some cases), referees, and plenty more.
Five days out of the week. 189 days out of the year. We must be everything to our 15 to 200 students. And our hats change by the minute.
As difficult as it is, we do it because we love what we do. We love our students to pieces. We even dream about them—did this student give their parents the permission slip? Is that student going to have their rough draft completed by Friday? Did I call that parent for a conference already? I hope this student does his homework; he’s on the verge of passing my class. Why are my fourth period students failing? What more can I do? A teacher’s mind never just turns off. Oh, the luxury of having a spotless mind, even for just one day.
Over Spring Break, I decided to do absolutely nothing school-related. The stack of 120 Dialectical Journals that I brought home never received a second glance… Well, not until Easter.
In my first year of teaching, I used to promise my students that my turnaround time would be approximately a week or less. I would grade 150-200 writing assignments over the weekend so my students would have immediate feedback. I would spend my entire self-care time grading or answering emails or lesson planning. By the end of the semester, I found myself even questioning if I wanted to do this for the next five or ten years. I had not learned that teachers are humans who need to be replenished regularly. Even at the beginning of this year, I was still rushing to do simple tasks, for the sake of immediate feedback. That quickly got old.
If this year, as a second-year teacher and grade-level lead, has taught me anything, it has taught me to never feel guilty for doing things for myself. As my grandmother says, “You can’t squeeze blood out of a turnip.” This means that you can’t give what you don’t have. If I don’t have energy, I can’t give energy to anything. Self-care is necessary. Whether I’m reading a book, watching tv, baking, or simply lying in bed doing nothing, I always take the time to check in with myself mentally to see if I’m up for any additional work.
While my turnaround time may tumble over the week line, I’ve learned to pace myself. If I have the energy to grade it, I’ll do it, but I take care of myself first.
How do you participate in self-care?