The Fund asked a group of City Schools’ educators to share their experience of teaching during this time of school closures due to the COVID-19 crisis. In our fourth blog post of this series, LaQuisha Hall, 2018 Baltimore City Schools Teacher of the Year, emphasizes the importance of practicing self-care especially during these unprecedented times:
I have spent years sharing an essential message with teachers in Baltimore City and beyond: you cannot pour from an empty cup; take care of yourself physically, mentally and emotionally so that you can take care of our scholars.
This message surfaced as I encountered teachers who shared with me that they were weary for a variety of reasons and feeling overwhelmed. While many would be frustrated with the educational system, I would often also hear another commonality. I asked teachers, “What do you do for fun?” or “What are you passionate about?” Many would share interesting pastime activities but also note that they had not actively participated in it in a while or they would just bluntly reply, “How can I find time for anything other than school work?” After hearing similar stories from novice and seasoned teachers, the common denominators were the same: they dedicated every piece of a moment they had to things or people other than themselves.
I had to drive the message of self-care in my own life as well. I participate and lead in so many roles that require me to offer some form of empowerment to other individuals or groups. I found myself constantly pondering, “How can I help?” and fully implementing that help when an idea came to mind.
When COVID-19 caused us to go into quarantine, my “how can I help?” thinking went full throttle. I immediately began reaching out to scholars about how they were doing and some of the messages I received were not expected. From the death of a scholar to some being removed from their home in the middle of this catastrophe to all of digital deadlines expected of me so suddenly, I found myself thinking heavily about these things; I became angry. I was angry that I could not help the way I envisioned. I had to step away and recreate my new normal. How could I do this when the “work” had to be done in my home, the space I considered my escape?
My new normal began with a routine for myself. Instead of sleeping in every day, on weekdays I would still get up early in the mornings. At 6:30 a.m., I would begin my meditation, journal my gratitude and practice basic yoga stretches (especially needed after days of just sitting behind my computer). This changed my mood as I started in a positive mental space versus waking up with the worries of the day before on my mind.
After a successful week and a half of this routine, I added to it. I put a hard stop on all school work and scheduled myself on my own calendar. Literally, I would look at my planner and see agenda items like “Read (3:00-4:30)” and “Be creative! (7:00-9:00). The hours in between would be spent chatting with family and friends or working on other non-school related activities.
While some may say that teachers are not doing enough–this is true for many because they often are not doing enough for themselves. Self-care is not the final solution to teachers feeling valued, supported and stress-free, however it is one thing that is in their control that can bring them peace and opportunities to look forward to each day.