And now that you don’t have to be perfect, you can be good.
– John Steinbeck
As I continue the journey through Leading with L.E.S.S., I have come to the last, and most important part. YOU!
The last S in the acronym L.E.S.S. stands for SELF. As educators, our role is not just to impart knowledge upon our students. Educators are so much more than peddlers of the academics that fill our day. We also take on numerous other roles daily including emotional and physical support for our students. In doing so, we have to remember — You cannot keep giving out what you do not receive.
I have spent the previous three parts describing how we must Love, Equip, and Serve others, but none of these can happen unless we take care of ourselves. Selfcare for teachers is a hot topic right now, which is not surprising to those in education. The demands that are put on current educators and the students they teach in today’s society make the work more and more time consuming and more emotionally draining than it has ever been. So, to provide our students the support that is needed, we must find ways to support ourselves.
As educators, we can sometimes become so focused on helping others, we forget to focus inwardly. You can liken this 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 to help others. Because, if you’re not breathing anymore, you’re not going to be all that helpful!
We need to remember this in our role as educators- daily. 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 that we cannot contribute our gifts, our talents, our compassions or our creativity, our love or intelligence, and most importantly our mission to our students and our school if we are gasping for air ourselves.
If you are pretending to be perfect you are lying, which in turn, causes more damage than admitting your fallibility. It is okay to make mistakes, and to be yourself – both human and fallible. Taking care of yourself is not about mental health days, or summer breaks. If you are burnt out, an extra day here or there isn’t going to make much of a difference. It is about building in a routine to do less and be better at it, while still finding ways to do the things we love. Because we, just like everyone else, are people first. We have to take care of ourselves before we can fully invest in others.
As I go forward in this section of Leading with L.E.S.S., this will be the focus. You cannot give what you do not receive — find ways to take care of yourself, so you can Love, Equip, and Serve others.