Last week, I was talking to some colleagues we were talking over some things and the conversation turned and made me think of the activity I am about to ask you to do. This is something I often try and do with new/newer teachers. So, before I go on in the post, I want you to do this activity. Grab a piece of paper and make a list of the ten things you care about most in this world. Make that list now before reading further… don’t cheat…
Now, examine the list you just created and answer this very important question: Is your name anywhere on the list? Did you write down that you care about yourself? I am not making this point from a spot of vanity, but out of a place of caring. I believe in humility; I pride myself in being a servant leader. But, I have also come to understand that if I do not take care of myself, my thoughts, my attitudes, I cannot and will not be able to serve at the highest level. This in turn will not allow me therefore to take care of the other 9 or 10 other things listed above.
As educators, we can sometimes become so focused on helping others, we forget to focus on our own needs. This was part of the conversation I mentioned at the start of the post. One particular teacher that I was speaking with likened my activity to the safety warning all airplanes give you before taking off. In case of an emergency, put the oxygen mask on yourself first – then feel free help others. Because, if you’re not breathing anymore, you’re not going to be all that helpful!
We need to remember this as educators. We have a great deal to offer and mean a great deal to the students put in our care. Our daily decisions directly impact the course of many students lives. But we also need to understand, we cannot contribute our gifts, our talents, our compassions or creativity, our love or intelligence, and most importantly our mission to our students and our school if we are gasping for air ourselves.
I have written past posts, that I feel many times (if not all the time), I am writing these posts to myself. This post is no exception. I will admit, I am awful at putting the mask on myself first. I go and go and go, until I am completely wiped-out. Then when I do have some time away from school, I have no energy to spend with my family or doing things I personally enjoy. I need this reminder as much as anyone. We must take time to make ourselves a priority. We must make sure we are breathing, we must make sure we make our own top ten list, before we can offer any true love and support to others in our lives.
In my school district we have just ended our first quarter and are coming up on Fall Break. I think this is an important message for all educators anytime of year, but especially an important reminder before a break. Breaks are a great time to rest and recharge so we can be our best for our students and the families we serve. The amazing thing about taking care of yourself is this: when you do it, everybody around you also wins!
So, take some time this break, this weekend, this evening…whatever may be coming and take some time to put on the oxygen mask. Take a moment for yourself in the upcoming days. I will try to do the same.