It’s New Year’s Month for educators all over the country! No doubt many of you began preparing for this new school year before the last one even ended – saying and/or thinking things like “I need to try this next year,” “This would be perfect for my students next year,” “I need to do something different, I’m exhausted!” etc. Out of all the things you may have thought or felt about this upcoming year, anything close to that last one could be the clincher.
It is totally okay to be honest with yourself. It is VITAL to be honest with yourself. I believe we lose too many educators – paraprofessionals, teachers, counselors, principals and all other supporting roles because leadership typically does a poor job of allowing them to be human and fail to encourage (and build-in opportunities for) SELF-CARE.
Educators – we NEED YOU to take care of yourselves first. If you aren’t at your best, you won’t ever be able to give your best to anything or anyone else no matter how much your heart desires it. You see, SELF-CARE is not selfish…it is SACRED. Your physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health are all sacred and you deserve to be the best YOU can be. The world needs you – for there is only one of you, and no one brings to the table only that which you, in your uniqueness, can bring.
So, I, as a former urban school district teacher, principal, executive director and now national consultant, implore you to TAKE CARE OF YOU and encourage your colleagues to do the same. “Be there” for yourself and one another. As you go about preparing for the new school year and do marvelous things with and for your students all year long, allow these 5 Steps to Self-Care for Educators to guide you:
STEP 5. Recognize and embrace only that which is within your control
• When you find yourself in a place of frustration ask yourself - EXACTLY how much control do I have over what is stressing me out? It could be a leader or colleague that you “just don’t get how they got there.” It could be a school, district or state issue which you cannot immediately change. It could be about your student’s neighborhood or home conditions that you cannot immediately control.
• Let go of what you know you cannot change and embrace the parts that you can control. As we tell our students, you may not be able to control the actions of others, but you can control your reaction.
STEP 4. Don’t be afraid to say “no”
• It is perfectly fine to say “no” when people keep trying to add something to your personal or professional plate.
• Some of the best ways to determine if “no” is the right answer for you at any particular time is by asking yourself these questions:
1. Do I have time for this WITHOUT compromising excellence in everything else I am already doing? Will I actually be able to give it my best?
2. Will saying “yes” keep me balanced both personally or professionally?
3. Would saying “yes” keep me in tune with my beliefs, morals and ethics?
• If you found yourself saying no to any one or more of the above questions, then “no” might be your best answer.
STEP 3. Don’t be afraid to say “yes”
• Far too often, we miss out on incredible opportunities for growth simply because we think we aren’t ready. The truth is no one is ever 100% ready for everything coming in their next step.
• There is a reason they are referred to as “growing pains” – the best opportunities tend to stretch us. As long as you aren’t compromising your integrity, it’s okay to step out of your comfort zone.
• As billionaire Richard Branson puts it, “If somebody offers you an amazing opportunity but you are not sure you can do it, say yes – then learn how to do it later!”
STEP 2. Make decisions only after consulting BOTH your head and your heart
• While it is important not to let your emotions run away with you, they do serve a very important purpose. So, listen to your heart when it speaks, but check in with your head at the same time.
• Make decisions that resonate with your beliefs, morals and ethics and weigh-in with the technicalities.
• Again, balance is key.
STEP 1. Be kind to yourself – Ground yourself in love and kindness
• So, you’re not perfect – give yourself a break. Don’t slack but do allow yourself to breathe. Make time for doing something fun, or perhaps nothing at all!
• Pay attention to your inner dialogue. Would you like it if someone was talking to your best friend the way you have been talking to yourself?
• As actor-model-author RuPaul professes, “If you don’t love yourself, how in the hell are you gonna love anybody else?”
AUTHOR: Sylvia E. Fuentes