What have you done to take care of yourself today? This is not a question that teachers usually ask themselves because we are supposed to take care of everyone else, right? We give so much of ourselves to our job that the personal/professional boundaries of self care seem to get very blurry. Being really busy is something teachers wear as a badge of honor, especially this time of year! But being busy and feeling rundown and burnt out are two very different things. And when we get sick, everything seems to fall apart!
It’s March and we are in the middle of Music in Our Schools Month activities and concerts, preparing students for the NYSSMA solo festival and gearing up for the rest of our concert season. There is never a good time for this to happen, but I threw out my back yesterday and it has been pretty painful. Today the simplest of tasks (like walking) have taken me twice as long, and I am pretty sure I looked ridiculous hobbling down the hallway! So today I made sure I took care of myself when I was at work.
First, I said “no.” A colleague wanted to meet for something that I knew could wait, so I said no. And you know what - it was okay! Saying “no” is something teachers struggle with all of the time. We want to say yes to everything. But today, I said no. I knew I there was just not enough of me to go around, and my mind would have been elsewhere (like wondering when my back will remember that I’m in my thirties, not in my eighties!). When you are feeling spread too thin, give yourself permission to say no.
Second, I gave my students more leadership roles in my classroom. During class I am usually up and moving around, never standing in one place for too long. Today my body was not letting me do that. Instead of pushing through the pain, which would have been more harmful in the long run, I let my students take charge. In chorus today students came down one at a time to lead warm ups. The section leaders took attendance and I was able to facilitate the rest of the rehearsal with the students at the helm. They had a blast. It is important for them to fill in this role whenever possible anyway (not just when I am not feeling well). They had a chance to practice their leadership skills like managing a large group, eye contact, projection, and communication. They really impressed me and I will make sure to do this more often.
Third, I took the sick day. I made sure I could get to the doctor as soon as possible, and that meant missing school tomorrow morning. And that’s okay! When I speak with other teachers I hear about all the guilty feelings over missing school for being sick. Yes, missing a day can be a huge pain. Sub plans are sometimes a nightmare to plan, even if you are lucky enough to get a sub! But you know what?! The kids will always be FINE. They need you to be well so you can be your best for them. You are no good to anyone if you are sick.
I will be kind to myself today. After school I will go home and rest and go to the doctor in the morning. I will focus on getting better so I can get back to doing the job that I love- making music with amazing kids everyday. Be kind to yourself today too.