There are a lot of trendy quips people say about self care. Things like "self-care isn't selfish," or "almost everything works if you unplug it for a few minutes, including you,"an empty lantern provides no light." Usually, when people use these quotes to talk about self care they're promoting an idea that it's okay to make time to pamper yourself or encouraging you to take long baths and make appointments to get your nails done. I'm not saying you shouldn't do those things if you enjoy them. I'm just saying that long baths, fresh manicures, and splurging for a soda aren't things that you necessarily NEED in order to survive.
True self care has to do with the essential tasks you make yourself do to take care of your real human self that needs sleep, food, comfort, entertainment, and security. Real self care is eating enough vegetables even though they're not your favorite. Real self care is making time to clean the kitchen floor regularly. Real self care is sticking to your budget and going to bed on time. And you deserve that kind of self-care, too.
Brianna Wiest wrote an article about self care and she said something about self care that I love.
True self care is not salt baths and chocolate cake, it is making the choice to build a life you don't need to regularly escape from. And that often takes doing the thing you least want to do.
Teaching is a DEMANDING job. Teachers often put in hours well over their contracted time, staying up late grading papers, planning lessons, printing worksheets, brainstorming activities, completing forms, answering emails, organizing field trips and parties, and worrying about everything. Teachers don't need gift cards to Target or mugs with cute sayings; they need permission to say no and courage to put their own needs at the top of their to do list.
Sometimes teachers are mistreated in the name of "caring about kids." Which is ridiculous, for a few reasons, but mostly because you don't have to put students first at the expense of supporting teachers. Supporting teachers IS supporting students because happy, cared for, rested teachers are more effective.
But the problem of sacrificing the needs of teachers in the name of "putting kids first" doesn't just apply to other people. We do this to ourselves, too. Putting students first is the excuse we use for things like:
The story of a teacher as a selfless martyr who gives until they burn out is damaging and dangerous. We as teachers need to stop perpetuating that story and write a new one: healthy, happy teachers who respect themselves, have boundaries, stop bullying each other in the name of "putting kids first," and go to bed at a decent hour.
Be enough for yourself. You can't pour from an empty cup, but more importantly you don't have to put your job over everything else. You don't need to wait until summer to give yourself permission to rest. Put yourself first. Eat real food for dinner. Do something fun on a weekday. Go to bed. Save the grading for later. Your needs matter, too.
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