- Taking care of yourself has multiple levels; these levels aren’t exclusive and work together.
- Self-care looks different for everyone. This summer, take time to refresh, renew, and replenish.
Life’s a Drain
Teaching is my second career. In my first, I had the standard two weeks off. We always took one week and did something away from home; the remaining days were scattered through the year to take care of routine needs. My then-job as an assistant editor for an international trade newspaper was fast-paced much of the time, and it changed constantly.
I rarely took work home. As busy and intense as it was, it was very compartmentalized—work was work, and my time was mine. I worked with a small group of people and didn’t supervise anyone.
This marked year 19 for me as a teacher.
Like journalism, it is fast-paced, and it changes constantly. Unlike my career in journalism, I find myself working at home (I’m an English teacher in a middle school—I review a lot of writing!), thinking about how to tweak a lesson/presentation, how to differentiate, what still needs to be prepped before the lesson, and so on.
For anyone who works like this (and not just teachers), it becomes mentally tiring. I think about prepositions while I’m cooking dinner. I dream about paragraph writing. And I often find I’m not in the moment because I’m still processing the day or thinking about how it impacts tomorrow. This is draining for me mentally. I have to combat this. I have to retrain my brain!Find ways to take care of yourself; make yourself a priority. Let others know you are a priority to yourself. Our world needs refreshed, renewed, and replenished teachers. Click To Tweet
During the school year, I’ve found I need to refresh and renew. When I do that, I’m better for me, for my students, and my family around me. During the summer I also replenish. As a person who works with words, these are different for me. It’s all connotation and semantics!
Taking Care of Yourself: Topping Off the Glass
Refreshing is a surface thing for me. I think about refreshing makeup or refreshing a room’s look with accessories. Refreshing as a teacher, for me, means trying a new activity, seeing how students respond, or stepping out of my comfort zone. It’s mentally stimulating, and it changes the status quo. It brings an energy previously not there.
Refreshing means bringing in something new to a tried-and-true lesson; it doesn’t revamp everything, and it doesn’t take a lot of new work. It’s a breath of fresh air, though, that is invigorating. It helps me break out of a rut. This is a form of self-care in my book as it keeps me fresh. Becoming stale is a concern of mine, and refreshing something takes away a bit of that concern. Still, even while it adds to my mental well-being, it takes a little out of me to do this.
On a personal level, refreshing means changing the genres of books I read (yes, I read during the school year…it’s part of my mental health routine).
It might mean trying a new recipe with ingredients I already love. It’s a coffee shop latte rather than brewed coffee from home. For some, I know, it means rearranging furniture, trying a new restaurant, buying a candle with a different scent (or a different essential oil). Refreshing for me is never anything expensive, but rather something that changes how my senses process my environment.
In addition, refreshing myself can be when I do something unexpected for someone else. It’s a note of acknowledgment or appreciation to a coworker or a student that makes their day. Refreshing can be an unexpected positive conversation. Refreshment, to me, is simply a breath of fresh air that is out of the normal.
Refreshing helps me approach things I generally don’t enjoy (laundry, making seating charts) with less frustration because I’m in a better place mentally.
Taking Care of Yourself: A Bit Deeper
Renewing is a commitment. I renew my devotion to leaving work at school a few evenings a week. I renew a commitment to spending time with friends. It means taking care of me by renewing the understanding that “no” is a complete sentence. Re-, meaning again, means I’ve slacked on something and want to emphasize it. I often renew something that has to do with my personal life and makes my life more meaningful, less stressful, and more fulfilling personally.
In the classroom, I renew my commitment to something I’ve let slack (daily vocabulary discussion, for example) that is important to me. It’s like a New Year’s resolution, but I tend to do them all through the year, usually at a “start” time, such as the beginning of a quarter or month. Renewing is part of the process of becoming who I see myself as, both in and out of school.
Renewing helps me focus on what I deem important.
It acts as a sieve for me, keeping what’s important at the forefront and letting the non-essentials go. It helps clear my mind and move forward with a clearer perspective, purpose, expectations, and goals.
Be careful with this one, though. Truth? I used to make these renewal statements and then following them had the opposite effect. I’m way more careful about what I think of as renewal now. Is it truly going to benefit me, or is it something I will feel compelled to do because I said I would? I also have to remember that renewal is a process; it’s ongoing, and it is evolving.
Renewal means knowing when leaving the essays at school to wait for another time will be beneficial as opposed to making myself assess them, thereby eliminating the task from hanging over my head, despite my commitment to not bring work home on a Wednesday.
Taking Care of Yourself: All the Way
Replenishing is the deep refilling and nourishing of the part of you that makes you who you are. It is what takes place over summer break for me. I’m an introvert at heart, which comes as a surprise to many as I technically fall into the extroverted introvert category. I need time to recharge. I need to be alone. This is my need; I know others who are excited to go work their second job (summer school teacher, library desk worker, lifeguard, etc). Replenishing is filling you with what makes you the very best. It is nourishing who you are at your core. What nourishes me may very well be what drains someone else.
I’m at a stage in my life where it’s somewhat easier to replenish than it was 10 years ago.
My children are adults; I’m not actively involved with planning and attending their activities. However, I am also the child of aging parents. In some ways, this impacts my replenishment, as their needs draw on my emotional and physical strength. I’m figuring out ways to balance, or at least live in harmony with, the demands of my family.
I’m not saying that we just quit doing things we don’t enjoy; life isn’t that simple (unfortunately!). Only you can identify what makes you content. Not just happy, but that feeling that your heart is full. Mine include reading, journaling, and cooking when I’m home.
It’s talking to a close friend for an extended time with no set time we must part. It’s petting my dog outside. Or marking tasks off my to-do list that seems to grow rather than shrink. Additionally, it’s professional reading and learning opportunities that fit how I see myself as a teacher. It’s sitting on my porch with a book, listening to the neighborhood sounds.[scroll down to keep reading]
Taking Care of Yourself: The Challenge
I challenge you to understand how you refresh, renew, and replenish. I challenge you to figure out when you need to refresh, renew, and replenish. Help others in their journey of refreshing, renewing, and replenishing. Don’t get to a point where you can’t be refreshed, renewed, or replenished.
Find ways to take care of yourself; make yourself a priority. Let others know you are a priority to yourself. Our world needs refreshed, renewed, and replenished teachers.
About Carrie LaRue
Carrie LaRue is a second-career teacher at Royster Middle School in Southeast Kansas, where she has the privilege of instructing 8th graders in reading and writing. After a short stint in journalism, she returned to college to earn a certification in education and went on to earn a Master’s in Literacy from the University of Missouri. She is passionate about creating strong relationships with students (#reachbeforeteach) and their families. Her students know she loves to read, cook, travel, and do counted cross-stitch when she isn’t teaching them.