Put On Your Own Oxygen Mask Before Assisting Others...
Here it is again…Sunday night. I’m in my 16th year of teaching, and I still don’t sleep as well on Sunday nights as I do later in the week. This is something I don’t think the average person who doesn’t face a classroom of students on a daily basis can comprehend. Teaching really isn’t, “Ready, or not, here I come!” It is more like, “Ready or not, here THEY come!” I’m all prepared with my lessons for this week, but if I let it happen, I can allow my mind to heighten my anxiety about all the mini details that go into each day.
Because of this known phenomenon among teachers, I like to stay in touch with the newer teachers in our building for two reasons:
1. It reminds me of what it used to be like to be a newer teacher.
2. The veteran teachers did that for me when I was a young teacher.
One topic I like to talk about with our newer teachers is what they are doing to manage their stress when it feels like work, students, meetings, and policies make them feel unable to relax. I remember feeling like there was always “something else” I could be doing to make my life easier at work or to somehow feel “caught up.”
People can really lose themselves in the teaching profession and forget about what it is that can help them be a better teacher. That look of wonder and excitement on their faces when they first start out the year begins to look more like bewilderment and exhaustion. When this happens, everything about the job can seem, well, worse than it really is.
So what advice do I give them? The same advice they give you on an airline pre-flight emergency demonstration: “Put on your own oxygen mask before you assist others.”
My best advice for them…take a sick day. Most new teachers are hesitant to do this, but I let them know it will be OK. I tell them to get themselves prepared to take a sick day the next week on a Wednesday. Their prescription for their sick day is easy:
· Sleep in
· Take a long walk
· Eat a healthy breakfast
· Watch a favorite movie or read a favorite book
· Don’t do any work for school
· Go to bed early so they are well-rested for Thursday
· Lastly, let me know how their day off went
This way they mentally know that they will work Monday and Tuesday, be off Wednesday, work Thursday and Friday, and then be off for the weekend. The Tuesday night before their sick day they can work on preparing themselves for the following Monday. That way their Sunday night can be a little more worry-free. Once they get to work on Monday they might have a better idea what would work best for the rest of the week.
When I first started teaching I would get to work at about 6:30 a.m. and be there many nights of the week until after 11:00 p.m. I had a veteran teacher tell me that I was taking a sick day on the Wednesday of the next week. He must have seen the look of bewilderment and exhaustion on my face.
I’m glad he did.