Teacher Talk: December and Self-Care
I think this will just be a continuing theme for a little bit: in this season when you are continually caring for everyone else, what are you doing to care for yourself? You're busier than ever. Your schedule is overwhelmed with special events, parties, family gatherings in your classroom. The children are sticky with holiday candy and out of sorts with visitors in their homes and at school. Parents seem tense and anxious and, oh yeah, you haven't finished preparing for your own family's holiday yet.
As classroom teachers, we are prepared to offer ourselves as tools and resources to the children we serve. As Montessori teachers, we strive to create communities that exist as though we were not there. It's hard, from this perspective, to realize that the best way that we can be sure we're prepared to care for others is by taking care of ourselves first. It feels selfish, or we feel pulled by too many other people and needs. We promise we'll get to it later, after we've taken care of everyone else first.
Remember: the best self care plan is the one you'll actually follow through on. It doesn't matter if you buy yourself new sneakers if you never make time to take those walks you'd planned. It doesn't matter if you have the loveliest journal if you never make the time to write in it. It doesn't matter if what tea is on your shelf, or bubbles are in your bath, or what scent the candle is if you don't take the time to follow through.
Remember: the best self care plan is the one you can do while you're doing the rest of it. Caring for yourself after everyone else is repair care. It's like the massage you get after running a marathon. It doesn't help you get through the race. It just helps you recover from the work you've done. The healthiest self-care is like along the way, like the runner who knows when to slow down her pace or when she needs more electrolytes.
Remember: the best self care plan is the one that works for you. Take ideas from other people (ideally, from people who seem to actually take care of themselves) but don't presume that what another person finds restorative will work for you. Extroverts may need time with friends. Introverts may need time alone. Maybe you can't stand the way it feels when someone else touches your feet. Maybe you're restored when you're in the kitchen baking delicious foods.
In this, the busiest, most demanding, most chaotic of seasons, start small. Try five for five for five: Five minutes, five times a day, five days a week. Five minutes in the morning, five in the middle of your morning work cycle, five at lunch, five in the afternoon work cycle, five at the end of the day. You can do whatever you choose to do in those windows : five minutes to pray, five minutes to breathe intentionally, five minutes to observe silently, five minutes to stretch and touch your toes, five minutes to walk outdoors... whatever works for you. You can find five minutes to do it, and you can support the teachers you work with as they take their five, too. And you can introduce your five minutes to the children as well, as a Practical Life exercise that they could choose as well.
Self care is like breathing: you can't wait until Saturday to address it. You need to do it a little bit at a time, all the time, to make sure you are constantly refilling the cup from which you so generously pour. Don't wait until New Year's to start this resolution: at this pace, you might not make it that long without falling down from exhaustion! Integrate small steps for your continued well-being. You'll be better equipped to care for the children, and you'll be modeling the self-awareness and compassion you hope to protect in the children.