It’s mid-October. In public education in the United States, this is the time of year where many school staff wonder what they have gotten themselves into. Teachers are typically 6-10 weeks into the school year, and the honeymoon phase has worn away. This week I have heard from many friends, colleagues, and staff about the stress they are experiencing and the wonder if they are good enough to be in the classroom.
This afternoon a dear friend called me on the phone to ask my advice about taking her first sick day. She was mentally and physically exhausted, but wondered about the integrity of taking a day off. This is someone who works seven days a week for 12-14 hours per day to ensure her classroom is a great place to be. I thought to myself: “Why is she asking me this? Of course she should take a day.” And then I remembered that this morning I had been trying to decide how much work I should bring with me on my upcoming vacation to Palm Springs. “Should I take a laptop? What about just an iPad? Is one hour per day for email checking reasonable? Should I schedule more? What will people think of me going on vacation? Do people know I am a 52-week employee, so I have to take vacations during the school year? And on, and on, and on…”
Talking with my friend and my own experience today reminded me that my life is not measured by the work I produce. It is measured by the way I treat people and how I make them feel. This especially includes my husband, family, and close friends who have frequently gotten the short shrift in my recovering workaholic life.
My wish for my fellow educators this month is that we all take some time to put on our oxygen mask first. Let’s break free from the cult of productivity and busy-ness and embrace that we are enough. Let’s model showing our students and staff that they are more than just their test scores or grades and consider how we can show the strength of our character to them by practicing kindness and care.
Candace Burckhardt is an international education consultant with an emphasis on special education, English learners, and social-emotional learning.