Some people think that being an educator is the best job in the world. And it can be. We get to meet so many new people, travel for conventions (if you're chosen), and shape and influence the lives of future leaders. But we get tired. When I tell you ain't no tired like teacher tired, I mean that with every ounce of my being.
I wake up in the middle of the night fretting over lessons I've taught, trying to figure out what I could have done differently, what I could have done better. I worry over kids and their grades, even when they don't worry over themselves. I'm constantly trying to figure out what I should do next to help them improve. I do this at the expense of my rest. At the expense of my own child at times. And I feel guilty for it.
People just don't understand. When you are in this and are teaching from the heart, you don't stop. There's always something that needs to be done. Always something that you, as the educator, need to study and figure out so that your kids can do better, can grasp a concept, can grow.
My own son needs my attention and wants to do things with me. And many times I'm so exhausted, I can't even see clearly. It pains me to hear him say, "Mom, you're always tired." I have cried on more than one occasion because I've struggled to find balance between my work life and my personal life. I have so many things and people pulling at my hems, at my sleeves. I get overwhelmed. And it's no one's fault but my own.
I have come to realize that I have to take time for myself, my son, my goals and aspirations. If it doesn't improve my mental health, physical health, or financial status, I'm going to have to let it go. I cannot continue to pour from a cup that is empty. Some things I've learned about self-preservation (because that's what it is) in the educational field are:
1. Leave Work At Work- I allot myself an hour after school to grade and file student work. Typically during my planning period, I'm called to meeting or helping my kids work out whatever issues they may have so I don't get a lot of work done. So, after school-if I'm not in a faculty meeting or conducting cheer practice-I get done what I need to get done for my students. If I'm not done by the time my timer sounds, oh well! It will be there the next day. In this way, I stay on top of materials and I don't bring them home. I do have a house to maintain.
2. Stretch and Meditate-Teaching is a stressful job, especially if you're naturally introverted. My yoga mat and my blackout curtains were the best investments I could have made. Stretching and deep breathing relax my mind and allow me to cast as many of my worries away as I can. Once I'm done, I always feel a little better than I did going in. I've even gotten to the point where I use meditation music as well. Find your happy place and release any negative energy that you may be clinging to. I try to do it daily even if it's only 15 minutes.
3. Do Something For Yourself- A few years ago, I was gifted with a certificate to Massage Envy. Sixty minutes was all it took to know I needed the gift of spa in my life. I went a couple years without using the passes and now I've accumulated so many that I go weekly. I never knew how much I could love massages and facial treatments, but lemme tell you somethin'! Whhheeeewwww chiiiil'! I feel like a new woman each time! You have to take care of you. Whether it's a trip to the salon, getting a mani/pedi, or getting a massage and facial. Treat yourself! With all of the work you put in trying to save and make the world a better place, you truly deserve it.
4. Say No- I don't think this one warrants much elaboration but I'll do it anyway. I think educators are most underrated and used people on the globe. People expect so much from us and many times we oblige because if we don't do it, who will? We are blamed for the ills of the world and not compensated half as good as those who cause the issues that we are tasked with correcting. And we are expected to do it all with dignity and a smile. But it's okay to say NO! You can't do it all. And you shouldn't be expected to. Don't let people take advantage of and use you mind, body, or spirit. It's really okay to say no.
5. Never Neglect Your Family- My son is the best thing that has ever happened to me. From his quirky spirit, to his constant quotation of movie lines, to his Michael Jackson impersonations. He makes my heart smile, my head ache, and my plate full! There will never be any amount of love and admiration from my colleagues or students that could replace what my heart and soul feel when I see him. Any time I have to spend with him will be done. And I advise anyone else to do the same. Make memories, give flowers, express your love while you can. A couple weeks before Thanksgiving, my sister and nephew where in a horrific car accident that almost claimed their lives. I took several weeks off to be with and help my family. Did I miss my students? Of course! And many of them checked on me daily. Did I miss some of my colleagues? Absolutely! They are my family and I love them dearly. But would I give all of that up or push it aside to ensure the safety and well-being of my family? Without question. We oftentimes get so wrapped up and consumed by the lives and well-being of our students that it can take a toll on our personal relationships. Don't allow that to happen. As a teacher, you can be replaced in that building. But as a family member, once you are gone, that emptiness is there forever. Do not neglect your family, blood relations or otherwise. They will be there for you and with you when all else and others have forsaken you.
All in all, I say this- take time for you. You are no good to yourself or anyone else if you are unable to perform. And don't allow anyone to make you feel guilty because you have chosen self over others. Balance is the word of the day.