Let’s be honest with ourselves here. I bet I’m not the only one who can identify with pretty much all of these:
- You use up all your time and energy and there never seems to be any left over for you.
- You put everyone’s needs before your own.
- You have tried to incorporate self-care into your weekly routine, but none of these habits lasted very long.
We always hear people saying that for teachers, it’s “all about the kids” and we’re able to push on despite having little support and very few resources because we’re “doing it for the kids.”
I think it’s about time someone ought to be asking about who’s taking care of the teachers.
When a teacher is passionate about his profession, it’s easy to start feeling that the only way to be successful is to put children’s achievement above everything else in your life. A teacher will inevitably think with her (or his!) heart and believe if the children she teaches aren’t her first priority and focus all day, every day, he’s letting everybody down.
We know this just isn’t true, because there are fantastic teachers who prioritize their time with their own families and know when to step away from their work. We also know teachers who work non-stop but are not very effective in the classroom.
Being a good teacher doesn’t mean working constantly, but deciding on what is most important to be working on and going in that direction – focusing on the best use of time. When that happens, a teacher can make herself a priority, too.
Now, as a side note… If you don’t recognize your own needs as being important, then you will never make time to care for yourself. You have to see yourself as a priority- just as much as everybody else. Otherwise, you will just keep on making excuses.
In order to get going in the right direction, how about a few simple new habits to slip into your daily routine?
Instead of looking around online for lesson plan ideas while waiting in the dentist’s office, spend a few minutes reading the next couple chapters in that book you’ve been wanting to finish.
Instead of ruminating on a negative interaction with a co-worker while driving to work, do some mindfulness deep breathing or say out loud, some of the things you love about your spouse or your children.
Instead of scrolling through Facebook and Instagram, listen to some music you love or listen to an audiobook.
Instead of sitting with other teachers at lunch, take it outside for some fresh air and a change of scenery.
Instead of spending time, again, with someone whose issues are bringing you down, spend time with loved ones, or maybe with your dog! (The 2 mile walk I take with my pooches every morning is an amazing soul soother).
Keep a folder of Thank You notes you’ve gotten from parents.
Buy a journal and write down one positive thing every day.
Watch a mindless TV show.
Have yourself some chocolate.
We may look at that list and just smile. We may think self-care is something that should just happen as an occasional treat, but that’s not true. What we do on a regular basis is far more effective than what we do occasionally. A big weekend away with friends every six months isn’t going to cut it. Intensity is less important than consistency.
It’s all about choices and creating new habits.
It’s best to start out with just one, until it becomes part of your day. Then, more can be added. Being realistic, if you start with too many, it’s hard to make any of them sustainable and they will inevitably become just something else you can’t find time for.
Maybe you will create a morning ritual. Like most people, including me, your mornings probably always feel rushed. You will want to think about a ritual that allows for about 15 minutes to yourself, so you can mentally prepare for the day. I know when I began doing this, it was a life changer. I started getting up 15 minutes earlier and had time to enjoy a cup of coffee, read, or meditate…. to get some focus before all of the rest of my day started up.
Maybe you will create a nighttime ritual. A lot of us believe we can’t have any time to ourselves until everyone in the family is in bed, and by that time we’re too exhausted to do anything. This habit may involve shifting around what needs to be done, so you can hit the hay 30 minutes earlier. Then, you can read or watch your favorite show before falling asleep. Or, you can use that 30 minutes for a hot bath or shower to wind down.
Self-care isn’t selfish. It is crucial to your ability to do a good job of caring for others and for being a good teacher. By prioritizing your own needs, you enable the best rendition of yourself. Think about how you will start tomorrow!