“Isn’t that overwhelming?!”
“Oh, I bet that is so hard…”
“Is it ever heartbreaking?”
“Does it drain you?”
“You have to deal with a lot, does it ever become too much?”
There are days when I get into my car and just close my eyes, breathe deep, and say a prayer. There are days when I get home to my husband and just unload for an hour, and like a saint, he listens. There are days when I get to my planning period and go back through 4 locked doors just so I can get outside, look at the sublime mountains, and remind myself just how small I am. There are tears, there are prayers, there are hugs, and even therapy.
But I bet my fellow teachers, no matter where they are or who they teach, feel the same way.
There is both burden and beauty in being an educator. To be available and open for what these mini humans bring into your classroom, their brokenness, their struggles, the weights you can alleviate and the one’s you yourself can’t even imagine lifting through life.
I was 3 months into my first year at the Facility before I realized that in order to be my best self for them, to be able to meet them in the pits of life, I needed to actively care for myself – mind and body. Enter yoga.
I started practicing yoga during the terrifying void that is the summer between finishing internship and getting a job. I felt a complete lack of control over my life and my future, and needed to access the confidence I had felt in the classroom. My beautiful “sister-friend” invited me to join her at a new studio that had just opened, and I signed up for their 20 days-for-$20 starter pack. I went 25 times before I got a job, packed my car and drove across the country…I was on day 19.
“I wasn’t letting go, and I definitely wasn’t processing.”
Maybe it was the chaos of the transition, learning a new city, figuring out my new job, and trying to build community all at once, but I forgot about what I had gained. 3 months later, I sat crying in my car as I read an all-too-descriptive news article about one of my students. I was breaking under the weight of it all. I wasn’t letting go, and I definitely wasn’t processing.
I needed to take care of me. I started working out – pilates, barre, yoga, boot camp, cycling, hiit – every single day. One hour each day that became sacred. No thoughts of anyone or anything else could enter those moments, because if they did, I would literally hurt myself (I fell over one too many times in a yogic pose before I figured that out). My mind couldn’t wander back to work, it had to stay focused on me – my body, my breath. As an only child, I can honestly say that for the first time in my life, I had found a way to be selfish that was healthy.
Now I work at a yoga studio, for 90 minutes every week I clean and organize the studio (which serves as its own kind of therapy) for a discounted membership rate. It’s hard for teachers to find outlets and sources for self-care that we can afford, but there are ways. I encourage you to find them.
Teaching – whatever your district, building and students may be – is a passion, a service, a gift to and for others. But in order to pour ourselves out, we must first fill ourselves up.
Find your Me Time, make it, and take it! Give yourself fuel for the days that will drain you, strengthen your soul for the stories that will break you, access the peace and confidence you deserve. Whatever gives you that, unabashedly take it. Know that your kids, your coworkers and your future self will thank you for being just a little bit selfish – whether they articulate it or not.
Yes, it is overwhelming. Yes, it breaks my heart. Yes, it is hard and there are days when it is too much – when I feel defeated and utterly helpless. But I am humbled by my position and blessed to meet and mold the many minds that enter my classroom. And I can continue to do that every day, with the help of a little Me Time.