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Self-Care for the School Year

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I'm not good at this whole self-care thing. Honestly, I'm probably the last person who should be talking about it. But this morning something happened, so instead of doing what I planned to do today, I'm writing this.  

Today I made time to do a 30 minute yoga practice before heading to work. This in itself is a big deal -I took time for myself. During that practice, the instructor suggested using a pillow or blanket “if you’d like to make this even more restorative,” and I took her suggestion, wrapping my arms around a blanket, sinking into a deep child’s pose.   

Then I burst into tears. 

It was immediate, primal, unabashed. And it was accompanied by the thought: What the hell??? Why was the invitation to restore myself -an invitation from a stranger on a video- causing such a visceral response? 

I continued the practice, and at each new invitation to let go or love myself, new tears fell to my mat. Clearly, some processing was in order. 

The best -and only- explanation I came up with was this: for some reason, I needed permission to let go. I needed permission to take the time to restore, to take care of myself. Why do we as teachers struggle to give ourselves permission to take care of ourselves? By extending that simple invitation, this yoga instructor gave me the opportunity and the permission to do something I didn’t realize I so desperately needed.   

So I’m extending the same invitation to you. As you start the school year, know two things:

  1. When you need time, you have permission to keep it.  This is NOT permission to ‘take’ time; the time is yours to begin with. You GIVE it away all day, every day. You have permission to KEEP your own time.
  2. If you'd like to make that time more restorative, feel free to _______ .

I don’t know what goes in your blank.  Today I thought I needed to do yoga, but apparently what I really needed was to just grab a blanket, curl up and cry. Perhaps you need to exercise.  Or have a chat with another teacher who gets it; one who won’t crap on your ideas or tell you how to fix things, but one who listens and supports. Maybe you need to meditate, eat a fancy piece of chocolate, go to Target (by yourself!), or take time for a date night (alone or with someone special).  To me, what goes in the blank is less important that giving yourself permission to fill the blank.

Teaching is exhausting.  It’s exciting and wonderful and challenging and frustrating and beautiful. And exhausting.  As teachers, we naturally give our heart, our energy, and our spirit to others. You can’t expect to GIVE all day without needing to recharge, to restore.  You need to keep some time so you are able to give your time to others. 

I’m not saying for a second that that's easy. As I said, I’m the last person who should be writing about taking care of yourself. (Notice how many times above I said I 'took' time for myself today?) For the past decade as a teacher, my work-life balance has basically been non-existent: My partner lamented that my students were more important to me than he was, my family commented that despite me living in the same town as them they never saw me, and the idea of being social was a non-starter. (Processing the guilt I feel for not giving enough to my students, my partner, my family, let alone myself is a whole other conversation…)

But today I was reminded of just how important taking -no- KEEPING time for myself is. It’s important that sometimes “all you need to do right now is release and relax and enjoy these few moments in peace and calm.” Cause when we do, we're able to be more present for those around us. 

To you and to your restoration throughout the school year: keep your time and fill in your blank. 

Darcy Bakkegard

Darcy Bakkegard Teacher Ambassador Twitter: @DBakkegard

Darcy Bakkegard is the Teacher Ambassador for Prairie Public Broadcasting in Fargo, ND where she leads professional development workshops, webinars, and 1:1 training for teachers across the state. With 10 years of experience teaching English and Theatre in public and private, rural and suburban, and international schools, she has taught every type of learner.  Building from a BA in Theatre and years in educational theatre, Darcy specializes in interactive strategies for the classroom, meaningful technology integration, and how to build meaningful relationships with students. Along with a Master’s Degree in Secondary English Education, Darcy is a Level 1 Certified Google Educator and EdPuzzle Certified Teacher. She has presented workshops at the National Council of Teacher of English National Convention, the International School Conference of Turkey, the International Rural Education Symposium, and the Fargo-Moorhead Metro Area Tech Camp.

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