I am a teacher. I’ve taught preschool, grades 3-8 and currently work with first graders. I’ve worked in two completely different school districts. One rural, one suburban. One low income, one highly affluent. But one thing has remained consistent across time and place- the passion, creativity, expertise and devotion of my fellow teachers. And the reality of exhaustion and burnout among almost all of them.
When I was a flight attendant I instructed passengers to, in the event of a change in cabin pressure, secure their own oxygen mask before assisting another. This bit of life saving advice has been applied across many fields, but not in teaching. In teaching, we are instructed to focus solely and completely on the needs of our students. Although not explicitly stated, the message is clear. The only people deserving of grace, effort, energy and sacrifice in a school building are those under the age of 18. A child hits you, and the primary concern is whether you responded in a manner that was respectful toward the child and her dignity. A child screams hateful insults when you request he complete a math assignment and you are asked why you didn’t scaffold more effectively and encouraged to implement a new system of rewards-based motivation for the child.
The reality is this. It is too much. I’ve had some wonderful administrators over the years and the great ones always encourage self care. They would come by my classroom and urge me not to stay too late or come in so early. However well intentioned, my unspoken response was, “Okay. And what should I not do? What pieces of my job is it okay for me to skip tomorrow?” For many years, I assumed this was a rhetorical question. I carried on, literally running from one task to another from 6:30am-5pm, sometimes earlier and sometimes later. Not to mention work on the weekends. Until I hated every second of the work I had wanted to do since I was a little girl.
The journey I took from that place to where I am now is what my blog-teach-her self care is all about. If you’re looking for a space for compassion and perspective, you are welcome!