Self-care is a buzz word these days, right? Everyone is telling us how important it is to take care of ourselves. I am one of those people because I have experienced the consequences of not practicing teacher self-care.
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In this podcast I am sharing mistakes I made when it came to practicing teacher self-care. There were very real consequences (even financially!) that I faced by choosing to put my students and classroom first. Here is my story in hopes of encouraging you to remember to put yourself first!
As teachers, we tend to be givers. That’s why we became teachers, right?!? We want to give. And sometimes we give too much of ourselves and it results in burn out. (HELLO! That’s me!)
I read this article a while back on why teachers are walking out of the classroom. In the article the author talks about how the education system takes advantage of teachers being predominately women. I won’t go into all the details because to be quite honest, it makes me angry. I agree a lot with what this former teacher is saying because I saw it happening to me and my coworkers daily.
As women we give, give, give and we keeping saying yes because, as nurturers and care takers, we feel it is our responsibility.
To be clear, I don’t think there is anything wrong with giving of yourself as a teacher. God calls us to give to and serve those around us. But sometimes we can take it too far, give too much of ourselves, and cause burnout. The danger of giving too much as teachers lies in the inability to know when to take a break. To not draw boundary lines.
What I am offering today is a shift in mindset. I want to share with you a letter I wrote to teachers back in April of 2018. I hope it will challenge you to think differently about your self care. (Remember, you can listen to this in podcast form here.)
Teacher Self-Care Letter
Written in April of 2018
Last week, I did something I’ve never really done before. I took off a whole three days during the middle of the week to go on vacation with my husband. I’m a hoarder or our money and of my days to take off. So when we booked this trip like five weeks prior…I kinda started hyperventilating. But…this was our “We’re debt free!” celebration trip and I have LOTS of days to burn, so it worked out.
We had such a relaxing time. We went to this tiny little all-inclusive in Cabin (email me if you want the name!) and pretty much spent our days on the beach sipping coffee (in the morning…cocktails in the afternoon, of course!), reading, and chatting with each other. I finished two and a half books…SAY WHAT?!?!
Most of my days looked like this:
And one night we decided it would be fun to get dressed up for dinner.
All through my early years in teaching I was told (or maybe I was just telling myself) that I needed to save my days…Just in case! In case I had a major accident. In case I was really sick. In case I had a baby. Just in case I needed them.
Fortunately for me, those things never came, and a baby hasn’t been on our radar quite yet…But, I took three days off last week and guess what?!? I still have over twenty-five days left in my “bank.”
Here is what I wish I would have known my first year teaching:
It’s OKAY! It’s okay to take mental health days and not feel guilty. It’s okay to go on vacation and relax. It’s okay to take the day off for just the heck of it.
I am not encouraging teachers to just take off whenever we want, all the time. Not at all! We need to be there for our students and consistency is important for them.
But I am a firm believer that in order to take care of those around us, we have to care of us first. And if taking care of us looks like a Friday off for a three day weekend every once in a while- go for it! Or perhaps it looks a little more like watching the waves crash into the beach for a few days- go for it.
The Cost of Not Practicing Teacher Self-Care
Here I am, two years post writing this letter and I still feel just as passionate on self-care. I may not be in the classroom anymore. In some ways, I am in an even more challenging situation to practice self-care since my home and my work all live under the same roof.
In the two years of living in Germany and working for myself full time, I have made some of the same mistakes I made as a teacher. I choose work on the weekends over time with friends or my husband. I work late thinking I can “get it all done.”
Luckily, because I have already experienced the downfalls of not practicing teacher self-care while I was in the classroom, I am aware of some of these pitfalls and have been able to course correct much quicker.
I should also add that I left the classroom in 2018, two months after writing this letter. I left the classroom with over 20 days still in my “bank” of days off. These 20 days weren’t able to be paid out or transferred in anyway. I couldn’t even donate them to a coworker in need of them. That means for six years while I was teaching and sacrificing my days for “just in case,” I was also giving up money and time that was mine.
I recognize that taking time off just because is a privilege not all people have. Please hear me when I say that I don’t think you need to go to some all-inclusive in another country for self-care. But I wish, as teachers, we could get to a place where even taking a day off of work to go to a doctors appointment in the morning and spend the afternoon doing things that fill up our own hearts is okay!
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Until next time,
If you found this helpful, make sure to pin it to your Pinterest board so you can refer back to it or so other teachers can find it!