“If you had oxygen masks come down and you had 2 of your students sitting next to you, whose oxygen mask would you put on first?“
Maybe you gave the correct answer and said “MY OWN”, but often times our impulses to help others takes over and we ignore reason and instead focus on what seems logical and immediately answer on behalf of helping the other person, in this case the students and give them the oxygen mask.
I think this becomes our weakness sometimes as teacher (even though it is a strength) and often leads to us becoming completely drained and left on empty when it comes to teaching.
If you’ve ever flown on a airplane you are probably familiar with the safety video or demonstrations that airlines are required to show you every time before you take off. They talk about what to do in the case of an emergency, where the exits are, and what to do when the oxygen masks come down in the plane. The oxygen mask directions can seem odd if you are prone to protective instincts or wanting to always help others, but when you really think about the directions “Place the oxygen mask on YOURSELF BEFORE helping children or others who may need your assistance” it makes perfect since and is something we should pay more attention to as teachers.
Many of us as teachers are so focused on our students success 24/7, helping them deal with a situation at school, making sure they are okay, or dealing with any number of things that come up when our students walk through our door (or even if they just stop by before or after school) that WE OFTEN FORGET ABOUT OURSELVES!
Going back to the oxygen warning on airplanes, the airlines know that passengers will be completely useless to help others around them if they do not first take care of themselves and put on their oxygen mask before yielding assistance. What good would our selfless actions do to help others on a plane if we are passed out or are struggling without oxygen? We need oxygen to survive and function at our highest level……it’s an essential part of life!
Why then as teachers are we so often prone to wander why we are completely exhausted, drained, and maybe for some feel like we are suffocating in our jobs on some days? It is because we often forget that we must first put on our oxygen mask before helping students…..when we cut off our air supply it’s no wonder that we struggle with the side affects and find it hard to function.
I’m not saying that we must change our mindset as teachers to be that of selfishness, because often being a teacher is about being selfless and putting students needs first. However, we will never be able to help students and be who they need if we don’t first take care of ourselves! We will never be able to teach a lesson with enthusiasm if we are completely exhausted. We will never be able to listen to a student and help them figure out a solution to a problem if we are stressed. We will never be able to calmly address a situation in class if we are drained and devoid of energy!
When we cut off our own oxygen we deprive students of OUR BEST and we ourselves are then left to deal with exhaustion, anxiety, stress, and other health problems.
Part of being a teacher is knowing not only how to manage our time, but also most importantly, how to manage our emotions and mental states.
I will be the first to admit that when I have been going full speed all week I am not my best self for students. When I allow my desire to fix every situation and make everything perfect I am often left stressed and drained….I know that in order to be my BEST for students and also feel energized and excited for each of my classes every day I have to take care of myself and make sure I am not only rested and not stressed, but also that I have made sure I am in a positive mental state.
This all comes down to SELF CARE!
One of the things I remember my college education professor constantly telling us was “make sure you focus on self care”. One week she even gave us an assignment to actually make time for self care and report back to her. Up until that point I hadn’t really thought about the intentional need for “Self Care,” but after she explained it and I found myself getting drained from my work, I started making it an active part of my week.
Self Care looks different for everyone, but it is vital to our success as teachers! Self-Care is our OXYGEN MASK!! Without it we wouldn’t be able to function & our students would be left with a helpless seat neighbor on their plane to learning.
Checkout the awesome sketch not below to get ideas on how you can implement SELF CARE into your life every week: