“As educators, we often quiet our inner voice; we tell ourselves, “Oh, I’ll put myself on the back burner because twenty-five littles need me” to the point that we can’t go anymore. – Danielle Brown, 3P’s in a Pod S1E1 with guest Marian Mellen
When I first met Marian Mellen, she was one of the presenters at a conference run by the AZ K12 Center back in the summer of 2018. The topic was on self-care for teachers, and the only thought that kept popping up in my head was, “there’s no way I can do this; there’s not enough time during the day.” Sitting in the little conference room, I mentally fought every single suggestion she brought up.
Fast forward a few months later, and I finally hit a point where I couldn’t go anymore. I would walk into my classroom and feel suffocated; it was no longer a safe place for me, and I was no longer acting as the teacher that my students needed. Knowing that I hit my breaking point, I went back to the worksheets that Marian had passed out during her conference session that summer.
The worksheets asked about the different ways I was “filling my cup” and to describe my current level of self-love and confidence. I answered the questions honestly, but I didn’t hesitate to roll my eyes, not because I didn’t believe in my answers, but because I didn’t see my answers fitting into my teaching schedule. It wasn’t until I started working with Marian consistently that I knew I needed a plan.
The key to self-care truly is routine, and through practice, I learned that the best time to figure out which self-help tool works best for us is to practice them on the days that we’re feeling more content and not when we’ve hit our breaking point and are desperately grasping for any self-help tool that we can find.
Right now, as we try and fight through this pandemic, make it through the election, and attempt to teach virtually or, in some cases, both virtually and in-person, many of us are feeling overwhelmed, so I came up with five self-care tips that you can utilize during the day both on your own and with your students;
1. Step away from your computer.
- When your students go on breaks, YOU also need to take that break, even if it just means walking a lap around your house.
- Get your students off the computer, make time to stand up and stretch, jump up and down, or even dance.
- Set at least one or two days a week where you get out of school when your students get out of school. Instead of sitting at your computer all night browsing through Teacher’s Pay Teacher’s and Pinterest trying to create the perfect lesson, take that much needed time to do something for you.
2. Allow yourself to ask for help.
- I know, I know, I’m terrible at asking for help too, like many of you I’m a very stereotypical teacher who wants to do everything my own way, but during this year where we all became brand new teacher’s once again, it’s crucial. This is particularly important if you have admin asking you to change something about the way that you’re currently teaching. Do not be afraid to ask them to come in and show you what exactly it is that they want to see when they come in during observations, especially when it comes to virtual learning.
- Allow your students to become the teacher. Not only does it give you a second to take a breath, but more often than not it allows us as the teachers to learn from the students, especially in regards to technology.
- This is an easy one to incorporate with your students. I try and incorporate breathing once in the morning and once in the afternoon. There are some really incredible children’s books out there that can help you guide your students through breathing in a child-friendly way.
4. Drink water and eat well-balanced meals.
- As teachers, it’s easy for us to forget these two basic concepts when running around all day or busy trying to call parents. As teachers, it’s easy for us to forget these two basic concepts when running around all day or busy trying to call parents. Still, I challenge you to drink two big gulps of water after each phone call and after each subject, and please, take that much-needed lunch break.
5. Remember, YOU ARE ENOUGH!
- 2020 has been a wild year, and we are all doing the best we can, whether that’s teaching in a hybrid model, teaching virtually, or teaching in-person. Keep building those relationships with your students and their families, keep building those creative lessons that your students love so much, and keep remembering that we are all going to come out of this year as stronger teachers.