The topic that I am about to discuss is one that has become of the utmost importance to me. If you have read any of my past blogs, you may remember me talking about how difficult my school year was last year. I am not talking about difficult…I am talking the worst year in 20 years, draining every bit of my mental, physical, and spiritual being, make me look at other career options on a daily basis…kind of difficult. I have always heard of people talking about burn out, but I lived it last year! I honestly did not think that summer vacation was going to be enough for me to recharge and refresh. I knew it was bad because not only was I feeling this way, but so were the other teachers on my team. I saw really good, hard working, dedicated, caring people crumble before me. That is when I knew something needed to change.
I made a plan about 2 weeks into summer vacation. That plan was to put myself first. I knew that for the first time in my life, I really had to take the advice that everyone had been giving since, well, forever..”Take care of yourself so you can take care of others”. See the problem was, I thought that was only advice for moms. I did not apply it to my teaching life. You might wonder how I separate the two being that I am a mom and a teacher. Well, I don’t know, but I just always have been good at compartmentalizing.
However, I am here to SHOUT OUT AS LOUD AS I CAN…fellow teachers…take care of you!! The past few years have taught me a lot, but this is the biggest lesson I have learned. Fellow teachers…we give so much in our profession. I recently have read a number of books on a number of topics regarding education. In all of them, there has been a reoccurring theme of compassion and compassion burn out. Our tanks need to be full if we are going to be able to give what we need to our students. Our students are coming to us these days with more on their plate than ever. Our society is more divided than ever. More is being asked of us than ever. Do you feel it? It seems like everyone that I talk to these days in the teaching profession has plenty of stories about how they do not feel supported in their profession whether it be from administrations, parents, or society. Many feel as though they are taking care of issues that they have never dealt with before with students and are finding it affecting them on more emotional levels than ever before. With all that is hitting us and our students on a daily basis, we have to recharge and refuel so that we can give what we need to at school.
So what does it look like? You need to find what works for you! For starters (and I know that this is going to sound insane to some of you) but teachers start by simply making sure to take a lunch each day. We get so engrossed with everything that we have to do that nearly all of the teachers that I know do not actually take time to eat their lunch. You need to do this! You need to take the time to mindfully sit back and give your brain and body a break. You need to give your body fuel to get through the rest of the day. I remember a time, many years ago when I first started teaching, where everyone (and I mean everyone) ate lunch together in the faculty room. Now, I feel like it is one of the least visited rooms in the school. Second, do not take home work every night! If you are like so many who have a family, think about what you hope for your students. You hope that they are going home to a place where their parents are able to make time for them. You hope that they are going home to a place where they may be having a meal together. You hope that they are going home to parents who are able to turn off from their work day to read with them. You have to do the same. If you don’t have kids at home, you need this time to do whatever the heck you want to do!! Recharge and refuel!!!!!
This summer, I found yoga. It has been a life changer for me and I swear was sent to me at just the right time from a force above. It has been the thing that has helped me to focus on the good and had helped me to relax and recharge. It has also been something that I have shared with my colleagues and many of us have gone to classes together. There is no better team building than stretching and relaxing with friends who are all feeling the same things. We commiserate and then let it all float away during class. If yoga and mindfulness are not your thing, find what is your thing and make yourself a priority! Once your get over the initial guilt for not taking home a bag of work that weighs more than most 2nd graders and start taking the break that you need, you will find that it is something that you wish you had done year ago. For me, I have A LOT more patience with students and I am better able to come home after a long day and give to my family as well.