Being a teacher has its “feel good” moments. These moments are like walking along the shore of the beach with my feet in the sand and water brushing softly over my toes. The sunset is warm. My students are doing exactly as I planned. And then reality hits like the biggest wave scooping me up and carrying me away. Before I know it, I feel like a teacher so weighed down by a growing to-do list that I am drowning in waves that just keep coming.
This feeling hit hard in early February when my teaching partner was out often for personal reasons, our Special Olympics basketball season was in full swing, snow days were frequently occurring, and I just felt like I couldn’t get a firm grasp on any part of my life. I was at the point where I could barely catch my breath anymore. My students were lacking routine with our schedule. I was going stir-crazy not having consistency with unexpected days off due to inclement weather as well as the constant rescheduling that had to happen because of these days that were taken away from us. We’d have a snow day (or five), then come right back and jump into traveling to a rescheduled basketball tournament or a grocery shopping trip or academics that were put on hold from two weeks prior. When various disabilities and student needs were thrown into the mix, I felt trapped because I simply couldn’t keep up.
My mind constantly felt like it was running at 100 miles per hour. I couldn’t sleep at night because I honestly felt guilty for taking that much time to myself and away from my students when I could be doing much more “productive” things—adjusting my classroom, preparing a better lesson, or figuring out new ways to get my students back on track. All I could think at this point was, I can’t do this anymore. If I don’t take care of myself, how am I supposed to take care of my students? This was the breaking point.
The only way I could bring myself back to shore was through finding that balance of work and my personal life again. There is such a strong stigma for teachers to reach the conclusion that this kind of lifestyle—always feeling one breath away from drowning—is just part of the job. I was determined to break this stigma and not fall into the statistics of being another teacher to burnout. I tried some new self-care strategies as well as some old ones from my college days to combat this near burnout stress.
It pays to put in the effort to find those blissful beach moments in the classroom.
When you take the time to take care of yourself, you’re able to notice the simple moments that are worth cherishing. Those little moments are the ones that matter most. In looking at the school year overall, students will most likely remember who you are as their role model rather than whether your lesson plan was top notch!