I'm sure we can all agree we got into this teaching gig with the same enthusiasm and expectations for our future success as teachers. We looked forward to making a positive difference in students' lives, to helping them to love learning, to help students learn exponentially and to contribute to their become amazing people. It wasn't going to be our job; it was going to be our vocation.
Sure we do a lot of what we hoped to accomplish but we're worn to the bone. Why are we so tired and overwhelmed all the time? Well... there are lots of factors contributing to that. We could go on and on, right?! But, let's deal with the ones we can actually control.
Here's the ones we can control (off the top of my head): energy level, sleep, self-care, preparation, knowing how to say no, confidence, time management, classroom management, how much work we do after hours and contentment. Are there more than these items? Absolutely! However, these are ones that come to mind for me right now as things we can control on a daily basis.
We can't control how much we are paid today or what we are required to teach. That requires a long-term plan and lots of other people. However, most of us can control when and how much time we spend on the things we teach during the week. We can control much (not all) of our daily schedule.
To begin with, we choose to be teachers. Choosing to take work home is not a requirement, it really is a choice we make. Working late or coming in early to get the job done really well is a choice we make. As teachers, we get to choose how we respond to students when they misbehave - calmly or angrily. Making the choice to work when we aren't feeling well or write sub plans and stay home is a difficult one, but it's still a choice.
I'm going to jump right in here and say self-care choices are probably the first place we should all look to as one of the culprits to our exhaustion. Teachers are notoriously bad at consistently taking care of themselves. We just are. We're wired for caring about others and that fires us up. That's great, but like I always say... There's a reason the airlines tell you to put on your own air mask first. You're no help to anyone else if you can't breathe.
Knowing that, I'm willing to bet there are many times you feel like you barely have time to breathe, much less run to the bathroom. That means it's time to set some hard and fast boundaries.
What do you need in order to feel rested, refreshed and excited about school each morning? What would it take for you to be able to go into school every day for a whole school year (with a few blips and bumps along the way) ready, rested and feeling content and joyful? Make a list of things you can control that would make a world of difference for you. Write them down. Draw a line in the sand. That's a challenge, by the way.
Now, start by choosing one thing that's draining your energy and needs to change - contentment, sleep and rejuvenation, feeling valued and successful, student behavior... Then, choose three smaller things you can do that would help you correct that energy draining thing you want to change. Maybe they're things you'll quit doing or perhaps they're things you'll start doing. Here's a few ideas to get you going on that list.
I think we get so used to marking time at school that we forget about our quality of life at school matters. Let's face it, if we don't treat ourselves with respect, no one else will either. We teach others how to treat us by what we allow and how we treat ourselves. It's time to set a new standard and reteach those around us how we expect to be treated.
So, what are you going to do in order to take better care of yourself? What's your line in the sand?