The most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched. They must be felt with the heart. -Helen Keller Introduction This school year has been challenging on many levels. So much so that I don't even want to list the 900000 ways because we are living it. I don't know if it is more problematic because I hoped this school year would be better than the last, or it truly is worse. Either way, I'm tired. With all the teachers I coach, the constant phrases I am hearing are "there isn't enough time," "I am so tired," and "I don't know how much longer I can do this for!" I am sure many of you nodded your head in agreement as you read those quotes. I know I do every time they are said to me. But, it is that last sentiment that scares me the most. Recent Teaching Findings If you feel close to reaching breaking point, you are not alone. A recent survey taken January and February of 2021 by the Rand Corp. found that teachers, in general, "were more likely to report experiencing frequent job-related stress and symptoms of depression than the general population." Additionally, one in four American teachers reported considering leaving their job by the end of the 2021 academic year. That is "more than in a typical pre-pandemic year and at a higher rate than employed adults nationally." What makes this worse, the only shocking part to me is that the numbers aren't higher. Now that I have made us all more depressed by reading this, we wanted to do something to help here at ACP. Sure, we can talk about the best teaching pedagogies all day long, and we will continue to do so. But right now, it felt like we needed to provide some ideas on self-care. While we are all exhausted, we have an opportunity to catch our breath, even if only for a moment with winter break upon us.
My Weekend Self-Care Trip
It is funny, Gina and I were talking on the phone, and she told me how she just got done doing a meditating exercise. My response to her was, "I wish I could like something like that, but I just move too much that it is not enjoyable." However, that self-care practice works for Gina and gives her that much-needed moment of life in her day. I am terrible at self-care in general, but that conversation with Gina got me thinking. What could I be more intentional about when it goes to taking care of myself?
I realized my self-care revolves around connecting to others, and what brings me life is emotional and social self-care. After a very stressful semester in school, I just took a trip with two of my college friends, Bridget & Sarah. I have not seen them in two years because of the pandemic, and we all don't live near one another. All three of us were nervous about the timing because we took our trip the weekend before Christmas. Yet, this weekend was full of laughs, and I forgot just how good it felt to laugh and listen to stories. This weekend re-energized me in ways that I didn't know I needed. Even if the timing wasn't the best, I centered my own self-care and can already see the results. While it is only mid-week, I haven't been this productive in my work in months, and now I wonder why I didn't do this sooner.
We hear a lot about how we need to be more mindful and take care of ourselves, but that can be hard to do. On our trip, Bridget said, "people say, 'oh, you need self-care,' and I'm like does a shower and grocery shopping alone count because that is all I have time for!" I laughed but realized that in small ways, that does count. Should Bridget try to do more self-care? Yes! However, she is a mom of three and an audiologist, so seizing the small moments she can will positively impact her mental health.
So while you are on your much-deserved winter break, I encourage you to practice self-care. I know that is better said than done sometimes, but we wanted to offer you some background information, strategies, tools, and techniques to get started in our workbook.
The workbook itself is not meant to go in any particular order. Instead, we have grouped the workbook into categories for ease of use. However, after reading the background sections, we encourage you to start with the section around visioning. You will take a self-assessment on self-care, and then there are a few visioning activities for you to choose from. After that, explore the rest of the pages to get various insights and ideas to help prioritize self-care for the second half of your school year. It might even be nice to do some of these activities with students, so pick and choose what fits your needs.
To get the workbook, click on the image or file below to download.
Conclusion We hope that you find this workbook of use as it serves as our thank you for all you do for students each and every day. The winter break always goes faster than we want, but try to take some much-needed downtime, and your students will be better for it. We will be back in January 2022, with a sneak peek of our upcoming e-book: HQPBL Connected: An Educator's Guide to Creating Meaningful Project-Based Student Experiences.