The more time we invest in ourselves, as educators, the more we can give to students. The richer our interactions and relationships can become when we get better acquainted with ourselves. At the risk of sounding cliché about self-improvement, it is powerful to spend our time taking care of ourselves. The world of education can be chaotic on a good day and now the chaos has turned up a few thousand notches as we navigate COVID, student mental health, missing assignments, student absences, and ever- changing rules/guidelines.
The last year has revealed many obstacles and mental health challenges to educators, parents, and students alike. Social-emotional learning has become an even bigger buzzword in many school districts as a result. A component of social-emotional learning is self-reflection/self-care.
Apart from getting enough sleep, taking breaks, and eating well, self-care is also about being reflective when things are not going well. It’s easy (and let’s face it, appealing) to blame others for the problems we encounter, but it is a better choice to spend time thinking about our part in the problem. Maybe there is a colleague we have a hard time working with or we don’t like the rules being made. Maybe there is a student, or twelve, we have a difficult time with because they aren’t getting their work done or they disrupt our efforts. In these circumstances, I find that it is best to ask myself, “What is the role I am playing in this situation?” Now, maybe it’s hard to hold that mirror up, but if we don’t, we can trap ourselves in doing the same thing and thinking things are going to change (insanity). Therefore, we spend our time UNWISELY.
Students are asked to think about their consequences and hand in reflections from educators and we must require the same of ourselves. I don’t know about you, but rather than spending my time having the same conversation with the same student or repeating the same rules in class, I would rather spend time focusing on the root causes of behavior. That doesn’t just mean understanding student behavior, but understanding my own. Some question prompts come to mind: What am I believing? Are my beliefs true? What could I do differently in how I show up to others? Do I need to apologize to anyone? Where are my growth opportunities? What can I control and what can’t I control? Are my needs being met?
Now, being reflective one time isn’t going to be enough. We have to put on those proverbial rubber gloves, that go up to our elbows, and dive into ourselves for resolution, insight, and our inner truth DAILY. Sometimes, I have to do this work multiple times a day. Really. However, the more I do it, the less relationships and situations overwhelm me, and the more my emotional/mental health improves. It is vital to our own practice as individuals to find the power in the pause. We have to slow down and learn how to be with ourselves, to take some breaths, to journal, and to reflect on problems. It can be formal or informal. The important part is that we earmark time to take care of ourselves in this way. We deserve it and we are worthy of it.