Last Monday, Patrice introduced a discussion on why teachers need to care about self-care. This Monday’s blog continues that discussion.
The implementation of self-care requires a mindset change and the belief that we deserve time and attention for our own needs. This is difficult for many teachers to do since caring seems to be part of our DNA. I strongly believe that self-care should be easy to follow, of little to no cost, and should not add time or stress to an already busy career. I incorporated “new tiny habits” such as daily walks, setting reasonable marking expectations and boundaries (such as no emails at night or weekends), spending time doing things I enjoy, connecting with people important to me, and setting Sunday as a no-work/re-set day.
Webinar participants were asked to list a self-care activity (no/low cost and take little time) that they could start doing next week. Here are some of the ideas provided: relax, meditate, swim, yoga, walk a dog, listen to music, meet friends, play with my kids, watch funny videos, and go to bed earlier.
When asked to list an activity or habit that they could stop, they suggested stop pleasing everyone, stop trying to be perfect, stop going to work early and staying late, stop using my phone so much, and drink less coffee.
Self-care is thought to be the sole responsibility of teachers; however, as Cherkowski & Walker (2018) argue, it is a personal, interpersonal and organizational responsibility. For new teachers, stress levels are extremely high, so a buddy system is a good way to provide support. Spurgeon & Thompson (2018) argue that well-being should be part of teacher education programs. TESL training programs could do this.
Teachers must also be provided proper workspaces. A friend of mine who is a college faculty member indicated that personal desks were replaced by open concept shared computer stations (personal communication). A webinar participant commented that she came to work and her computer was gone. Another participant mentioned that small, crowded workspaces in noisy rooms contributed to a stressful work environment. Participants said that a good positive work environment includes feeling valued, respected and appreciated which are at no cost to a school or organization.
“Self-care is not selfish. You cannot serve from an empty vessel” Eleanor Brown
Teachers derive high levels of job satisfaction because of the close connection to others and the opportunity to help. Students most often describe their teachers as caring which is an essential quality in our work as teachers; however Skovholt & D’Rozario (2000) suggest that in order to be maintained, it must be strongly guarded. Self-care is needed in the work that we do.
One webinar participant said that “the care we give to our students is so often lost on our family and friends.” A poll conducted during the webinar indicated that 55% of the participants know a teacher who has left the profession due to workload, exhaustion and/or burn-out and 80% said that they know someone (including themselves) who has talked about leaving the profession due to the above issues. The profession has lost valuable teachers and may continue to do so if individuals and schools/organizations don’t make changes to improve teacher self-care. It is natural for teachers to put others first, but we must find ways to maintain our vitality, health and wellbeing in order to be our best for others. Teachers need to be empowered and encouraged to take care of themselves and others.
How are you, or how is your organization, creating spaces and opportunity for teacher self-care?
Cherkowski, S., & Walker, K. (2018). Teacher Wellbeing. Noticing, Nurturing, Sustaining and Flourishing in Schools. Word & Deed Publishing, ON
Skovholt, T.M., & D’Rozario, V. (2000). Portraits of outstanding and inadequate teachers in Singapore: The impact of emotional intelligence. Teaching & Learning, 40(1), 9-17
Spurgeon, J., & Thompson, L. (2018). Rooted in Resilience: A Framework for the Integration of Well-Being in Teacher Education Programs. University of Pennsylvania
If you are a TESL ON member you can access Patrice’s webinar on Tutela: https://tutela.ca/GroupEvent?organicgroup=8594&itemId=29601
Patrice Palmer, M.Ed., M.A., OCELT, TESL has 20 years’ experience as an ESL Teacher, TESL Trainer, and Curriculum Writer in Canada, including 7 years in Hong Kong. Patrice has taught students from age 8 to 80 years in ESP, EAP, LINC, ELT, and OSLT.