Teacher Self Care

Top of the List: Attuning to Self-Care Needs of Educators

Written by Camica Edwards
Another day at the office, I am consulting with my principal on a plan for student mental health and wellness as the junior high school counselor. I’m in his doorway scanning his office and again, notice his half-eaten cold burrito on his desk. We are about 8 feet apart and masked because here we are still, month 7 into a global pandemic. 
Back in my office, I add our collaborative plans to my never-ending long list of tasks to complete for the month. Before I dive in, I take a deep breath and reflect on the much shorter sticky note list on my monitor that has the word ‘me’ scribbled inside a heart listed as #1. 2 through 5 include students in crisis, disengaged students, families, and staff. I breathe again. 
If you’re thinking like me “It’s only October, how in the hell am I gonna get to June!” then read on for practical self-care tips for every level of employee in the school building-
Ask what do I need at this moment? Check-in with yourself to assess how you are really doing. I use Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.
Believe that your life matters. Put yourself at the top of your to-do list. I use the visual of the sticky note and read Debrena Jackson Gandy’s Sacred Pampering Principles before bed.
Confide and collaborate to work smarter, not harder. Don’t hold in the stress. Chances are, your colleague could use the support too. Bust down the silos and send the message that teaching in an isolated vacuum is not healthy nor recommended for sanity’s sake. I use socially distanced happy hours with a close colleague as needed for self-care.
The beginning of fall is another season and another reason to address self-care for educators. The colors of autumn remind me of the transformative process that leaves undergo to prepare for the deadness of winter in contrast with the new life of spring. Those of us in public education will be transformed through the inevitable seasons of a school year as well. The difference between us and the leaves? We have the power to choose HOW we will respond to the sunny days, the cloudy days, the wind, rain, and yes even the darkness. 
If we plan for meetings and lessons and engaging activities, then let’s use that same skillset to make a self-care plan for ourselves and just like our lesson planning cycles- review, readjust, and realign with vision, goals, values, and objectives. 
WHY is putting yourself first not selfish? Why is educator self-care necessary? Because you matter. You too are an essential front line worker in the online trenches trying to do the impossible during a pandemic. You are needed to show up refreshed, re-energized, and rejuvenated because students matter too, not to mention your family and friends depending on you not to crash and burn. You are the only one who can give yourself the permission you need to go slow to go fast.

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