Self-care can be tough to practice regularly in a “lots-to-do-but-not-never-enough-time-to-do-it” profession. In the past two years, setting boundaries has been extremely useful to my social-emotional and mental health.
What kinds of boundaries, you may ask?
Well, let me start with my first year of teaching and what that looked like: I was still living in my college town, teaching in a nearby suburb. I taught high school, so I had 3 preps. Oh, and no classroom – I was on a cart. In addition to this, two of my classes were small-group reading interventions… so essentially, I was the school’s reading specialist. Yet I had no reading specialist certification, nor any of the pedagogical background I do now. Suffice it to say, I was scrambling for what to teach every day. My partner was still in college at the time, so I’d come home, watch Scrubs until dinnertime, get together with my partner, then head to the library to have a joint study-and-lesson-plan session until midnight. That was my life.
Flash forward to now: Teaching middle school with ONE prep is a blessing. Having spent three years learning the procedures and pace of my current school has helped me prioritize and build a schedule outside of my teaching. Some of those teaching lines I do not cross anymore are:
- No checking email on nights and weekends
- Only sharing war stories with my partner for about five minutes before we filter to only positive/constructive stories
- Only grading at coffee shops, school, or public libraries – never at home.
And while I do lesson plan at all hours of the night, that’s the part of teaching I enjoy the most. Finding resources, reading up on pedagogy, putting together lessons that include movement and talking breaks to best engage my students – that work lifts me up. That work enriches my own life, as well as that of my students.
I also follow many Twitter and Instagram accounts that inspire me, and teach me new things every day. While these accounts keep me in touch with important movements in teaching, I have to filter who and what I follow. There are a lot of people using social media as their side-hustle to make money, and I don’t believe in sharing resources for the sole purpose of making money off other underpaid teachers. So… I unfollow. Many Instagram teachers also use the platform to share picture-perfect images of their classrooms, adorably well-behaved students, and cute uber-coordinated outfits. That stresses me out so much! I know these teachers aren’t always that perfect, but the fact that they don’t share their ups AND downs makes them unrelatable AND unattainable for me. I’ve had to unfollow those “perfect” accounts.
I prefer pedagogy accounts, ones who share anchor charts and news stories, who uplift marginalized voices in teaching, and who keep it real with problem-solving posts.
The accounts I follow remind me of what I love about this profession, and how I need to set boundaries for myself in order to have a full life outside of teaching. Because, while being a lifelong learner is a lifestyle, teaching is just a job. And I often need to remind myself to treat it as such and allow my lifelong learning influence my job, and not have my job stint my life.
To finish, here are some of those posts I’m talking about! Teach and Transform, Growing with Mrs. T, Read Like a Rockstar, and The Conscious Kidare some of my favorites.