Let’s Remember Self-Care This Semester!

by | 01.18.19

Ciji Thurman is a teacher in Kentucky. Follow her on Twitter @ciji_thurman.

I love teaching. Even on those bad days, I’m in a child’s life, pushing them forward, and I love every minute of it. I love taking the time to build relationships with kids. We can talk about math all day long, but what really inspires me is getting to know about what makes them tick, what sports they play, what TV shows they watch … going to their games and seeing what they’re involved in. Those relationships bring heart to my practice.

As much as I love this work, though, I also know I need to set limits on how much I give. You can’t pour from an empty glass. If I don’t take care of myself, my classes are going to be a struggle. I loved my winter break, and it’s important to make full use of the times we have off, but we also need to work that self-care into the weeks and months when we’re busy teaching.

This is something I had to learn. In my first few years in the classroom, I didn’t necessarily set boundaries for myself. I was here, there and everywhere. If parents needed me, I was there. Phone calls, text messages, emails, whatever – I was there.

I finally learned to be like, “Okay, I need Ciji time. I’ve got to just slow down. Stop and think for a moment. Prioritize.” I knew if I didn’t make that time, I’d go crazy. I don’t want to be exhausted when I come to school, or the students won’t get what they need from me. Now I ask myself, what are the things at the top of my to-do list that really need to get done? And then what are the things that I really want to do?

If I make plans to go to the gym after work, I don’t let myself start thinking, “First, I have to grade this, this and this.” I make my plan and I go to the gym. And then if the work gets done, it gets done. If it doesn’t, my kids will understand. It’s a big deal for me to be honest with my students about why. I tell them, “Ms. Thurman didn’t get this done, and it’s okay. We’ll get it done next time.”

I tell the students they feed off my energy just like I feed off theirs. So if I’m not taking care of me – if I’m always tired, not eating well, if I’m sick, kids are going to feed off it, and no one is going to have a good day.

I also communicate with students’ families. We use the Remind app, and I let families know there are set hours when I’ll be available. A few days a week it may be until eight o’clock, some days until four, and then weekends are mine unless there’s an emergency. The families know that if they message me outside of office hours, they might not get a response right away. They all understand.

Don’t get me wrong, I still work a lot – we all do – but, like I said, I really do love what I do. So when I get that thought in my mind and I get inspired to work on a project, when I have that feeling, “I can do this,” I put my head down, sometimes at home with my pajamas on, and I let myself get caught up in that work I love. When I’m taking care of myself and letting myself rest when I need it, then the work can feel energizing.

We all have to find our own way to keep that energy. As we look ahead to a new semester with our kids this year, we all need to find a way that works for us – so we can keep bringing our best selves to this work we love.

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