When the Going Gets Tough: Exercising Self Care Is a Must

It’s hard to ignore how fast the school year is flying by. I vividly remember the week before school started. There were teachers everywhere rushing to Target to take advantage of the sales on markers, pencils, erasers, notebooks, etc. The excitement  was in the air as teachers pinned posters on the walls, wrote names on seating charts and prepared the final materials to welcome students to a new school year. The anticipation for the first day of school was easily felt throughout the entire school building. As I walked through the hallways, teachers checked in with one another about seating arrangements, first day lesson plans and overall feelings about the year. At this point in the semester, we are beginning final plans to wrap up the first half of the school year!

For first year teachers, like myself, this excitement is coupled with the anxiety and jitters of entering an environment we have never explored. Having to enter a classroom environment for the first time has been the most nerve-wrecking experience of my life. Will I connect with my students? Will I be an effective teacher? Did I make the right decision? These were among many questions that flooded my mind as the first day of school approached in August.

October is generally referred to as the hardest month of teaching amongst educators. For first year teachers, this can be especially true as we experience the school year cycle. During this month, your body is getting used to working long hours during the day, the grading workload is getting real and there is a general disillusionment  that can overpower and rescind the excitement that was felt at the beginning of the school year. The weeks get tougher and the advice begins to pour in from all sources around you.

“Prioritize self care” is a phrase that teachers hear often. While to do lists can seem never ending, sleep and time alone really should be a priority for those who serve in the classroom. There will always be something else to do and we need to make an active choice to give our bodies and brains what we need at the moment. Teaching is a job that has very little off time during the day. You are constantly responding to student needs and presenting material,and  it can be hard to have a moment to breathe. In order to be present and show up the way our students need us to, we must first take care of ourselves.

It’s important to set time aside during the week to spend solely on taking care of ourselves. This doesn’t necessarily mean a lavish massage or expensive spa day, it can be as simple as going out for a hike or allowing ourselves to sleep in. A seemingly small choice can go a long way for the needs our bodies have while being in such a stressful profession. The most important factor however, is making the decision to do something to invest in our mental and physical well being.

Throughout my time in the classroom, especially on the hardest of days, I remind myself of the reason I chose to enter the classroom. I am fortunate enough to teach English to 150 amazing sophomore students at my alma mater high school, Leadership Public Schools Richmond. It is the deep love for my community and respect for the people within it that motivate and inspire me to push through as the going gets rough. I know that in order to be my best self for my students, I need to prioritize my mental health throughout the year.  I lead with gratitude and remind myself every single day to focus on the positives of the day and embrace my students for their whole selves. This is the only way to lead with my heart and remain my authentic self in the classroom.

What do you think?

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Daniela Felix

Daniela Felix

Daniela is a first generation college student who is heavily involved in education in her home district, West Contra Costa Unified. After becoming a mother at a young age, Daniela’s passion for education justice only intensified and she began to fight for an equitable education for all children, regardless of background or zip code. Daniela played a key role in organizing parents with the California Charter Schools Association and is a firm believer in school choice for all families. She is currently a Lead Organizer with Students for Education Reform, organizing college students around education justice issues in her home district. She was recently accepted into Teach for America and plans to continue impacting the lives of children in her hometown of Richmond, CA as a high school social studies teacher. Daniela is a UC Berkeley senior pursuing her B.A. in Legal Studies and Education along with her 4 year old daughter and husband. Daniela is a firm believer in that every single child is capable of meeting high expectations if given the correct support. Daniela hopes to be a provider of that support.

2 thoughts on “When the Going Gets Tough: Exercising Self Care Is a Must

  1. Vickie

    Thank you for sharing Your wonderful experience!! It does serve as an inspiration to every young person who decides to start a family before completely finishing up a college degree! It gives hope to those who think they can’t get a degree after any kind of circumstances. What Daniella says about thinking about oneself is so true! You will never achieve your goal if you do not help yourself first! No one can help you if you do not want to help yourself. Congratulations on all your accomplishments! I wish you & your family all the best! Please continue all your great work!

  2. Vickie

    Thank you for sharing Your wonderful experience!! It does serve as an inspiration to every young person who decides to start a family or do anything else before completely finishing up or starting a college degree! It gives hope to those who think they can’t get a degree after any kind of circumstances. You are the only one who can help yourself, no one can help you until you decide to help yourself! There are so many grants, scholarships, endorsements & financial aid for students & those who want to be educators, one just needs to search & ask. Congratulations on all your accomplishments Daniella! I wish you & your family all the best! Please continue all your great work!

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