Have you ever felt the need to prioritise your wellbeing and take a little time out, just for you?
Of course you have; self care is essential in our line of work. We go, go, go…worrying about the needs of everyone while all the time it’s quite likely that our own mental and physical health is at the bottom of that never ending To Do list.
I’m sure it’s the same for workers in all people professions; I’m not suggesting that teachers are alone in this, it’s just that in our case the focus is on working with ‘little people’ and that’s what can make it even more taxing on our own personal wellbeing. Spending day after day with our kids, which they are of course, ‘ours,’ as soon as they come into our world, means that not only are we keenly aware of their learning needs, we are also drawn into their special worlds. And we are key players. Many of them rely on us for the only bit of routine or predictability in their lives. And that can be hard on our souls.
Each of our kids has their own story, and there are many who insist upon involving you in their day to day dealings, like it or not. “It’s my birthday in 17 more sleeps and my dad is coming home from jail and he can help me cut the cake and I’m going to invite you to my party and Mum says I can ask Aunty Fran even though she hates Dad and last time she threw the plates at his head and he went cray-ay-ay-zy…”
And there are those who draw you in because…
“Mrs Sowter can I please have a bandaid?”
“Of course Bobby, let’s have a look sweetheart.” Shoe comes off to reveal a gaping hole in the top of Bobby’s foot; clearly ulcerated and clearly infected.
“My goodness Bobby, that must be so sore (now considering how the phone call will go knowing that Bobby’s mother is likely to come and throw something at me). You aren’t wearing socks mate, that will make it worse.”
“It’s not my turn to wear the socks, it’s my sister’s turn.”
Bobby heads to sick bay with a note for the office staff and I head to the shops at lunch time for new socks; three pairs for $2 at Coles. I resist the urge to take Bobby home, fill his tummy with nutritious food, bathe him in Dettol and tuck him in to a warm bed.
(I have done that by the way; many years later with a kid who needed a bed and, well, we had one. An emergency overnight placement that lasted two years. I thank the Heavens for my beautiful, patient family. That’s another blog for another day.)
Of course I still wonder what happened to Bobby. I had his sister Jennifer, two years later. She would come to school smelling like a wet bed due to not having a shower. We kept rose scented (her favourite) hand cream and talc in my top drawer, along with hair ties and a soft brush. She would come in before the bell and tell me about her dreams whilst I did her hair. I wonder what happened to Jennifer too, along with their five siblings. One family of many over the years. Many.
Teachers engage with our kids and spend time in their complicated little lives every day. We teach, of course, but we constantly aim to ‘fill each child’s cup’ – smile, be kind, offer a hug, pause, breathe, teach, solve problems, love.
Of course it’s all going to affect us. We take it to heart because that’s who we are and a big part about why we teach. Hence the necessity for some self care. If we don’t think about our own wellbeing, we’ll run ourselves into the ground. And that’s why Smile Teachers is going to be so important for us, right?
This week I had a little reminder to put my self care first. There’s nothing like lying on the Emergency Department trolley connected to the beep beep machine, for bringing home the need to stop and reprioritise. Now, I am fine, honestly, and I’m not writing about it for the Woe is Me effect, I’m merely pointing out that it often takes a reality check like this for us to pay attention to what our body and mind has probably been trying to tell us for some time.
You fell asleep on the couch at 3:30pm. Well, obviously I was up too late last night.
You have numbness in your fingers. Well, obviously I must have bumped my elbow somehow.
You have had a headache for ten days straight. Well, obviously I need to get more fresh air.
You have had two full blown migraines in two weeks. Time to adjust my medication, clearly.
So today’s blog is going to be shorter than usual, and it is coming to you from the comfort of my own bed; I’m under my cosy doona with the sun coming through the window. I have a bucket of my favourite tea next to me and Spotify is playing some relaxing Spa music. I’m in my happy place.
I am making a promise to myself here and now – I am going to find my wellness. I am going to focus more on my mental and physical wellbeing. I am going to prioritise myself and put it right up there on the To Do list.
I will eat well. I will get back to the gym. I will go out in the beautiful Spring sunshine and drink in the fresh air. I will spend time with people who make me happy. I will listen to my body and mind. I will be well.
Please join me in doing something like this; make your own promise. I’d love to read about what you are doing for your own wellbeing in the comments following this blog.
How do you, or will you, find your own wellness?
Maybe it’s time that you too, prioritise? Find your happy place. Teaching is a wonderful job, but it takes such a bloody toll on our mental wellness and the wellbeing of our soul.
Do what you need to do in order to be well.
We all need to take time out to look after our well-being, attending the Smile Teachers Bali Retreat this January would be the perfect chance for you to start putting your well-being first.