By: Antoinetta J. Rogers, a South Carolina High School ELA Teacher
The Importance of Self-Care is a simple title one would think requires little effort, but it is a very complex issue for teachers. Within the educational system there is an unspoken hierarchy. This is not to be confused with the official Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. The hierarchy that is being referred to consists of first year teachers, experienced teachers, and then the beloved veteran teachers. Once upon a time, before the world changing pandemic COVID-19 occurred, the issue of self-care would mainly be engrossed upon first year teachers. This was of course implemented to make sure that first year teachers would not burn out. The promoting and encouraging of self-care also assisted with turnover rates and teacher retention. As teachers model, demonstrate, and simply provide so many daily life lessons to students; it is anodyne to say that the 2020-2021 school year taught teachers worldwide that regardless of the years of experience; self-care is essential, vital, and indispensable.
What is Self-Care?
Self-care is self-dependent. Teachers should take advantage of two things. Realizing when to practice self-care and recognizing when the body is in need of self-care. According to Google, self-care is the “individual practice of health management without the aid of a medical professional.” In health care, self-care is “any human regulatory function which is under individual control, deliberate and self-initiated, for the purpose of the maintenance of health and wellbeing.” Teachers give of themselves every single day inside and outside of the classroom. The countless hours of planning and anticipating how lessons flow requires not only a lot physically, but mentally and emotionally as well.
Learning to Disconnect
It is essential that teachers disconnect. This means time specifically set aside for not checking emails, leaving work at work, and setting reasonable and realistic goals. Teachers, instructional coaches, curriculum leaders, administrators, etc. have to be on the same level across the board when it comes to self-care. Most of the time, being on one accord looks like displaying compassion and empathy towards counterparts that are in need of self-care.
Self-care became vital for me at the beginning of the 2020-2021 school year. In my school district, we began teaching in a phase 1 model due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Phase 1 was completely virtual. While I can adapt to technology, teaching completely online was very new and required a lot of planning. I had to rely strictly on technology, and honestly relying stringently on technology can limit plans, but this was the new reality that most teachers had to become accustomed to and rather quickly. Working remotely, I found that my work day would not end until around 9 p.m. nightly for about a month. Needless to say, at the end of the month, I was exhausted. One weekend, I forced myself to make sure that my work was completed by Friday evening and to simply relax on Saturday and Sunday, and it made a huge difference.
Self-care looks differently to every individual. So, my advice to teachers and others in the educational arena is to leave work at work and this has to not only be implemented physically, but mentally as well. As a teacher, I am genuinely connected to my students and their well-being. While I am a professional in every aspect as possible, I still care deeply for my students. Sometimes, it is hard to disconnect from that at the end of the day. There are countless times when my body is tired and in need of rest, but my mind is wondering about what needs to be done for each individual child as well as my class as a whole. It is easier said than done, but it is vital to do most of the time and when it is possible.
Self-care is an obligation. Teachers give time, care, advice, knowledge, and simply themselves daily. It is important to remember that in order to be the best, we must be at our best and take care of ourselves regularly.
About the Author
Antoinetta J. Rogers has seven years of teaching experience and currently teaches Secondary English at Richland Northeast High School.