Self Care, Don't Care
by Ola Gawlik '15, '16, City Year Milwaukee Team Leader and Future Educators Task Force member
“What did you do for yourself this weekend? How are you taking care of you?” asks one of our partner teachers as a I walk into her room on Monday morning. Even though this conversation has now become a consistent and essential part of our check-ins, the first time she asked it I struggled coming up with an answer. In the education field, stress is normal, as is burnout. There is always more that needs to be done and less and less resources and time to do it. In the midst of the chaos of figuring out my first City Year I ignored self-care. There wasn’t enough time and my to-do list was always filled with other, more important things, or so I thought. Through frustration over simple things, a short temper, and a few breakdowns, I learned the hard way that “self care” shouldn’t be just a buzzword. Not taking care of myself wasn’t helping me and it definitely wasn’t helping my students.
I learned that there is a vital difference between finding ways to disconnect, like a marathon binge on Netflix, and finding ways to recharge. I also learned that recharging doesn’t take nearly as much time as I thought it would. At first I even set a timer, the same way I do for other important tasks that I have been procrastinating. I challenged myself- how much writing and reflecting could I do in 10 minutes? Then I started taking 12 minute reading breaks. I quickly realized that I didn’t need to go far or set aside hours of free time for self care, I just needed to be more mindful and intentional with the time I do have. I've started taking walks around my neighborhood, sitting on my fronts steps with coffee and my journal, getting a library card and reading for pleasure regularly. The benefits have been countless: I have more patience, more positive can-do attitude, I complete tasks more efficiently, I’m more responsive to students’ needs, and I’m overall happier.
As I start planning my transition from City Year to full time teaching, I plan to take the lesson of self care with me. My to do list will definitely get longer next year, but to be the best educator I can be, I have to make time to make sure I’m relighting my own flame, so that I can spark knowledge and excitement in my students and so that flame can burn for many years to come.