Your teacher heart is all about the kids. You want to create amazing lessons and you want to make sure that your students succeed. Your teacher heart is dedicated; often working overtime and burning the midnight oil. Your teacher heart feels alive when it sees the students learning and engaging. Sadly, your teacher heart will also become tired and burned out. Your teacher heart needs rest.
It seems weird to talk about this when a new school year is just getting started, but this is the prime time for this subject, especially if you’re a first year teacher. This isn’t a topic we can discuss in May or June, when the damage has already been done. Passion fuels us and makes us push past the limits. It is that passion that makes you so amazing, but sometimes passion comes at a price to you. As the year starts and you laminate all the things and write all the lesson plans, do not forget to care for yourself. Now is the time to learn how to say no to certain things. You may think that you don’t have the ability to say no, but dear teacher, just say no without guilt (click link to read all about why saying no really means you are saying yes.)
For many years, I became unimportant to myself. I neglected my life because I was busy caring for others. The truth is that you DON’T have to consume yourself in order to be effective and bring light to others. On the contrary, the more consumed you are, the less you have to give. The next time you decide to care for yourself, do it without guilt and knowing that in the end, it will yield better results for you and those around you.
Here are some things I do to care for myself during the school year and that you can do also.
Leave your teacher bag at school
You read that right! Leave it! Maybe that’s not necessarily feasible when there is so much to correct and put together, but afford yourself at least ONE weekend where you don’t take anything teacher related home. One Friday a month, I stay at school a little later than usual and I get as much organized as possible. Then, I hang up my teacher bag in the closet, I shut the lights off, close the door behind me, and never look back. I admit that the first few times I did this, I struggled, but soon enough I made peace with it. With time, it gets easier because you realize that come Monday, no one got hurt and things didn’t completely fall apart.
Read a book
NOT a PD book! I love PD books; they get me excited! But, as I’m reading it, I’m highlighting, writing on the margins, and planning implementation. That means that my brain is still working and planning and NOT resting. Let your mind wander with a fictional story that will let your brain escape.
Turn off Social Media
I don’t know about you, but I love social media. I love connecting with fellow educators and learning new things. I also love to Pinterest stalk and then spend 200 hours and $400 DYIng instead of just purchasing for $3.99. Ha! I bet I’m not alone on that, but seriously, step away for a few hours or maybe a day. The ideas will still be there tomorrow, but give your brain a rest from all the ideas.
Go for a walk
Let’s be honest: I don’t exercise. I should, but I don’t. I plan on changing that. Years ago, I took up running and quickly figured out that moving makes a world of a difference. Endorphin is released in the brain when we put our bodies into motion. Maybe you don’t like working out, and that’s ok (Jillian Michaels would disagree with me) but get yourself walking and you will see the benefits not only physically, but mentally.
Keep a Journal
About a year ago, I started keeping a journal. Nothing heavily involved; just a simple journal to log my feelings and some of my everyday happenings. I would go back and re-read my journal and it helped to pin point some of the triggers that really brought on stress. This helped me to slowly weed out those things from my life. Journaling can be therapeutic. Maybe you think you don’t have time for it, but not having time for things that can help you will only be detrimental in the end.
Pray and Meditate
I’m a believer, so naturally prayer has to be part of my list. For me, there is tremendous peace and joy found in His presence. In 1 Peter 5:7, He reminds me to cast all my cares upon Him because He cares for me. In Him I find rest and refuge. Some days I become very overwhelmed and I’m not sure about the outcome of certain things, but I know that the plans He has for me are far greater than I could ever imagine. Prayer brings me stability and although in the end, my plans don’t always go as I intend, I know His will for my life is perfect. Whether you are a follower of Jesus or not, I recommend prayer. There is great beauty in recognizing and inviting the creator of all things to be an active participant in your life.
Spend Quality Time with Loved Ones
Often times we become so wrapped up in all the work that needs to get done that we neglect those that matter. It is not done intentionally, but it is done nonetheless. Give time to people and things that matter to you. Your students matter, but they’re not the only ones that do. I go into this topic more in depth in the Just Say No post that I linked above and I’m referencing it here because it is THAT important. We are busy loving other people’s children so much that we inadvertently neglect our own. That sounds harsh, but it is a sad reality. There is a thin line between passion and obsession and we have to stop and think about what side of the line we stand on. Remember, if you want to service your students and do right by them, you have to care for yourself and your loved ones because YOU matter, too.
Are you caring for yourself?
Perhaps some of these points seem obvious and maybe they’re not what you would consider mind blowing; however, if you’re not actively taking care of yourself, knowing these points won’t make a difference. I wanted to share these ideas, because it’s high time that we start responding and doing what we know we ought to do but don’t. It is a reminder that if you and I intend on helping the rest of the world, it has to start with us. You cannot expect to give water to the thirsty if you’re an empty well. My fellow educator, we have so much we want to accomplish and so many lives we want to reach. We can’t do any of it if we are tired and broken.
Every year I teach my first graders the difference between wants and needs. Where do you think we categorize “caring for oneself?”