“Do teachers have to love all of their students? No, but they have to care about every single student.” – Dr. Carol Dweck
I believe that every teacher has to care about every student. I don’t think we should be in the classroom if we find ourselves not caring about a student. However, I would content that we will be unable to care of students if we do not take care of ourselves first. Listen, it CAN BE DIFFICULT when the days are long and the students are climbing the walls and the grades are due. I know that I have used several resources to help me get through times when I felt like I just wasn’t meeting the mark with my students and I was out of ideas. A part of teacher self care is to be willing to admit when help is needed. We do not have to have all of the answers and in fact, we never will. Fortunately the education community is VAST and filled with people who have walked in our shoes and are able to provide mentorship, guidance, and a safe space to fail.
This past week, I was reminded of just how important being a part of a supportive community is to teacher self care. I attended Lean Lab Education’s LaunchED day at Plexpod. I have been a part of Lean Lab Education for a few years. As a classroom teacher, I attended their events where I met many of the friends who eventually made up my teacher tribe. I could take any classroom issue there and they helped me to see it in a new way, gave me resources, and taught me to think outside of the box. I cannot tell you enough how helpful that was for me when I felt most ineffective. To take it a step further, this same organization came to my school, met with my administrator, and wanted to focus on supporting initiatives that would directly impact my classroom practice. I don’t often run into a teacher partner like that. When I go to Lean Lab Education for a little self care and a recharge, I understand that at some point the organization will call on me to help with something that is important to them; and that is just fine. Self care works in a circle. As teachers, if we are connected to a support community of any kind, we are essentially a part of a village. If I don’t give back to the spaces that give to me the village cannot continue to function. This means that if your school sends you to PD, pay it forward by teaching anyone who will listen what you learned. If you have found a place that helped you to grow as a professional, share that place and help other teachers to get there as well. If you have found a great way to make learning meaningful to children, share that method and help your fellow teachers to grow.
“I used to believe that hard work was the key to being successful. I now know that there is more to the story.” – Zain Asher
Teaching is a profession that takes more than hard work. In fact, teachers need a “village” too in order to last in our profession. We call them “mentors” or even “tribes” but the word that always comes to my mind is village. I know that education as a profession has a reputation for teachers operating “in silos” meaning that they work alone and keep everything they learn to themselves. I don’t think this is entirely true. I haven’t met a teacher yet who didn’t have a group of teacher friends that made up their village. While many of us have a “personal” village, I would push us to also develop a professional one. This would be a network of people and organizations that help sharpen our practice, provide resources for our families, or push our thinking. Just as we are careful to nurture students as they grow into learners, we have to be sure to nurture ourselves. We have development needs too. We need to reach out for support too. There is no “super teacher”. We are all just folks showing up everyday and giving classroom instruction all that we have. Let’s choose to embrace a growth mindset as we continue on this journey together. Our practice may not be perfect, but it is heartfelt.
Listen to Episode 5 of the podcast to hear more about how to REALLY take care of yourself as a teacher!