Growing up I watched my very motivated father work his fingers to the damn bone. If there was a retake needed by a football player, he’d stay until 6 to give it to them. If a parent meeting needed to happen at 5 am or 9 pm, he’d make it happen. If he needed to learn Spanish or trombone to get the information across, he’d do it.
Every evening I watched him get home late and fall asleep minutes after sitting down. And every single school break I watched him get horribly sick and spend his time off recovering.
When I started teaching I promised myself I would find a way to work for my kids, to give them every chance I can, without burning myself out.
I have been blessed with a team of co-workers who are caring and understanding, who always look out for me. My co-teacher tells me often to take care of myself. The beginning of every department meeting is either a self care check-in (where we talk about our specific self care goals and what we are doing to reach them this week) or a self care practice (Tai Chi, guided meditation, etc.) My Assistant Principal meets with me once a week to lesson plan/unit plan/revise curriculum/talk about what’s not working and how to fix it. My in-school mentor meets with me once a week to talk about literally anything I need help with.
I’m supported, much more so than a lot of teachers. I’m lucky and I know it. But still I got caught with a case of ignoring my own needs.
Last Monday I got up at 4 and laid on my couch sobbing because my head was pounding so hard I couldn’t move. I called in sick but by noon the fever, headache and general ick was so bad I couldn’t stop crying.
I went to the clinic in the afternoon (I’ll be honest I went mostly because I wanted to be at work the following day) and found out I had a high fever, a sinus infection, and an ear infection.
My point is: don’t do this. Don’t let it get this bad. I was sick, really obviously sick and tried to push too hard through it and for what?
Americans especially have this notion that if you are not absolutely killing yourself at work, you’re lazy. I can’t say this enough times: that’s bullsh*t.
In Peru, we would work from about 7- or am until lunch, go get lunch and take a nap or spend time with family, and then go back to work from 3 until 5 or 6. Yeah, that’s a three hour lunch. We also took 20-30 minutes breaks throughout the day to sit and talk.
At first I was torn apart by the difference and went to the go-to argument so many others have used (or at least thought in their head): well maybe if they worked more, their country would be more advanced. This, my friends, is also bullsh*t.
The reasons that many countries struggle has more to do with internal structure and corruption than with amount of hours worked. Hard work may be important, but worker bees working their buzzers off with no break will not improve a country or a city or a workplace or a person.
I suppose the moral of the story is: put in the work, do whatever it is you do the best that you possibly can, but remember that half of being your best is treating yourself well. Work hard, self care hard.
Best of luck.