Exploring “Self-Care” as the “Hardworking” Teacher type

You can listen to the podcast version of this blog post here.

Photo by Expect Best on Pexels.com

Exploring Alexis Shepard’s The Afroeducator resources and taking her Teacher Type quiz confirm some aspects of how my teaching journey has been leading to burnout.

I am not surprised to get the “Hardworking” teacher result.

It is a relatively short quiz that consists of 9 questions that dive into your mindset about teaching. It even asks you to pick out quotes and books that appeal to you and what you would read or share with students.

The question that stood out to me the most was: “You secretly cringe inside when you see/hear another teacher…” and then it lists out four choices to complete this statement. I chose: “Take a mental health day instead of showing up for your students.”

I have previously shared how this was the year I took the most sick days (episode 11), more than the past 4 years combined. The word “cringe” perfectly describes how I feel when I take any kind of sick day off. Fortunately, I am slowly getting used to not cringing when taking a day off. A jaded teacher once told me to not “work too hard” during the year when the pandemic first hit because I am “replaceable.” The school can still function without me.

On the surface, a school technically can function without a teacher or two once or twice a month. Will you get the same quality of education similar an actual teacher with a credential being there? No. But the school can still stay open, with the help with limited subs and pulling other teachers from their conference periods.

This is funny because on this same quiz from The Afroeducator, the last question ask you, “If you could go back and tell your younger self anything about the teaching journey ahead of you, what would it be?” and one of the choices are: “Don’t you ever for a second get to thinking you’re irreplaceable.” I never really explicitly described myself as “irreplaceable” during those years I was slaving away every minute planning and grading lesson plans and assignments. I just told myself, I must, I have to, I can’t just drop everything, I signed up for this. But when my colleague used the word “irreplaceable,” that perfectly described my unintentional attitude towards my job 4 years ago. So, I almost wanted to choose this answer.

However, I ended up going with:

“Prioritize tasks with the most impact and make time for the things that matter most.”

Eisenhower-ing my life

4.5 years ago, I stumbled upon a Youtube Video that changed the course of my first year that led me to pick this choice:

Mr. Hester in this video changed my life as a first year teacher.

Mr. Hester(now Dr. Hester) shared his personal story about crying every night to his mom as a first year teacher, which was something that I did also during my whole first semester. At the same time, he was also a Christian, so I connected with him even more deeply as a teacher. As I dived deeper into his story and resources, I discovered something called the “Eisenhower Organizer.” This organizer taught me how to prioritize my to-do list into 4 categories:

1. Important but not urgent

2. Important and Urgent

3. Not Important but urgent

4. Not important and not urgent

I remember staying up late to almost midnight every day planning and grading everything. Using this organizer saved my life. Here’s a picture of my “Eisenhower Audit” from 4.5 years ago:

Looks like I did not have many “not important but urgent” tasks.

Organizing my to-do list in this format helped me box up my different anxieties and made it manageable for me to survive to the end of June 2018.

Now, I reflect back on “Not important and not urgent,” I find myself slowly slipping back to some of these habits lately. I think it is time for me revisit my priorities.

Revisiting my “Important but not urgent,” also reminds me of self-care.

What is Self-Care?

One lesson really struck a cord with me on Alexis Shepard’s podcast episode: “5 Radical Self-Care Lessons.” Shepard asserts that “self-care is not the same as self-indulgence.” She clarifies that self-indulgence provides “temporary escape or relief,” whereas true self-care is “a mindset that is only developed through reflection, self-awareness, and habit changes that center around the notion of making choices that honor your best self.”

Reading her words reminds me to not fall into a trap of constant self-indulgence of social media and Youtube to temporarily escape from my stress and anxiety. Am I making choices that honor my best self at the moment? If I am being honest, not completely.

I am constantly feeling tired and exhausted because I am not making good choices and taking care of myself properly like not sleeping early enough. Keeping up with my blog is becoming harder and harder as the temptation of summer laziness dances around the corner. However, I know maintaining my blog and podcast is important to me. It has become more than a “temporary escape or relief” from summer boredom and depression. It has become also a space that helps me reflect and become self-aware of my own habits. I would label maintaining my blog and podcast “important but not urgent” on the Eisenhower organizer.

Shepard asserts that one of the five lessons is that “self-care is not the same as self-indulgence.” She clarifies that self-indulgence provides “temporary escape or relief,” whereas true self-care is “a mindset that is only developed through reflection, self-awareness, and habit changes that center around the notion of making choices that honor your best self.”

5 Lessons for Radical Self-Care, Alexis Shepard

Right before revitalizing my blog a couple months back, I decided to stop using social media. Unfortunately, social media is a vital tool to spread my writing and voice to the world right now. So, I have decided to call it a “necessary evil” in my writing journey in this modern society. Social media is no longer a just form of addicting (and a little poisonous) entertainment for me, it is a practical tool to further my writing.

Social media, Writing, Self-Care, Priorities, and Hard Work are now inexplicably linked in my life right now. As I enter into summer break in about a week, I pray to God that I can make choices that will honor my best self in my teaching and personal life.

5 thoughts on “Exploring “Self-Care” as the “Hardworking” Teacher type

Add yours

  1. Hoping you have a relaxing summer and can make the right choices! ❤ Also, just the fact that you said you cringed when you took a sick day shows how much you care about your work – which is wonderful to see!

  2. My problem with social media is that I tell myself I’ll just upload a story just for ‘updates’, then end up falling into a vortex that I didn’t even see coming. Next time I look at the clock, an hour has passed. Like you said, it’s a necessary evil, but a super dangerous one for your time if you’re not careful. Anyway, thanks for this post!

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