“In case of a cabin pressure emergency, put on your own mask first before assisting others.”
If you’ve flown on an airplane with children, you’ve undoubtedly heard this from a flight attendant. In order to help others, you first have to help yourself. This idea carries on into themes of self-care, particularly for teachers in the classroom. In order to know content well for the benefit of your students, you first have to know yourself.
It can be misconstrued that knowing your content really well is all you’ll need to be a great teacher; However, there is so much more to teaching. It’s more than knowing math, it’s knowing how to teach math. Teaching is also much more than mastering ambiguous instructional moves. It’s about knowing how you can teach math to your students. If you don’t understand who you are, you can’t accurately assess the impact you have on your students. In order to impact the learning outcomes of students, educators need to deeply know about themselves.
Knowledge of self is the foundation of engaging your students in content and teaching them well. Without knowing your identity, your weaknesses, and your impact on others, you won’t be able to effectively adapt to meet the needs of your students. Knowing yourself is not only understanding your own ways and tendencies, but also knowing how you show up in a space and the impact you have on others. If you skip over this step as an educator, you won’t make a lasting impact on the outcomes of your students.
Tools for Knowing Yourself
There are a few areas you can tap into as an educator to better understand yourself. Use this list as a guide to highlight strength areas, and identify areas where you might need a boost.
→ Start a daily or weekly review session with yourself: Each day or 1x a week, take 10 minute to review your practices. Spend 5 minutes highlighting what went well and why. Note what moves were successful and how you can increase those practices in your classroom. Spend the next 5 minutes reflecting on what in your classroom could be even better if you made a reflection or edit. Are there any areas of work that you want to improve? Reflection doesn’t mean hours over analyzing, it means being intentional.
→ Incorporate mindful movement: Movement is great for releasing stress. It can also be a great tool for enhancing your own self-awareness. Practices like yoga or pilates generally queue you to be reflective of yourself, but you can also increase your self awareness in small moments. Thirsty? Take a 10 second break to drink water. Feeling tight? Take a moment to stop and stretch before proceeding.
→ Meditate in moments of stress: Any amount of mindfulness is better than none. It can feel daunting, but meditation really can fit into quick bits of time. Try out this 1 minute mindfulness video from headspace.
→ Self-Care Audit: What do you do that fills you up? Maybe it’s reading, drinking a morning cup of coffee and journaling, or running. How often do you do those things? Where could you increase those helpful habits? Then think through: what do you do often? Maybe it’s hitting snooze, scrolling instagram, or reading argument threads on facebook. How are those everyday habits serving you? Knowing what is helpful, and what you’re actually doing on a regular basis will help you actually create a plan and rhythm for yourself.
→ Create self-care rhythms: Self-care is more than doing nice things for yourself. It’s about setting realistic expectations, creating boundaries, and holding yourself accountable to treat yourself well. Not sure where to start? Try following @NedraTawwab or @lgedconsulting or @newstepskc
→ Seek out regular feedback: This could be from your students, from parents, or another teacher in your department. Regular feedback helps us to calibrate our own knowledge and understanding of ourselves. If this feels unnatural or like an awkward process for you, try bringing a specific question to focus the feedback. An example might be asking a parent “Where has communication to you as a parent been helpful? Where has it felt lacking or confusing?” Or maybe it’s asking a student, “what part of today’s lesson made you excited to learn and engage?”
→ Engage in professional development: This doesn’t mean giving up all your weekend freetime. Is there a webinar you could go to? Or an instagram page you could follow that covers a topic you are trying to grow in? If you need support finding professional development opportunities, ask your admin!