Teachers: It’s OK to ‘Choose You,’ Especially During Pandemic

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May 26, 2020

This is the ninth in a series of guest blogs by the 2019-20 Michigan Regional Teachers of the Year. Michele Pizzo is an English language arts teacher at Davison Elementary-Middle School in Detroit Public Schools Community District.
These past few months have been some of the most trying of our lives. We are inundated with information every day; we are worried about illness; and students, parents and teachers are feeling more stressed than ever. We’re struggling to find a routine that makes us feel safe, but let’s face it: There is nothing normal about how we are functioning right now. This feeling of fear has made us lose our confidence and even our identities. What can we do to stop this and take control of our lives back?
Teachers, it’s time to take a step back, stop focusing on everyone else and “choose you!” Taking care of our health is very important, but it’s also very hard to do in the midst of a pandemic.  We are so worried about distance learning, getting tasks done, and about the future of our students and our own children, that we are ignoring the fact that we are becoming exhausted and on the verge of breaking down physically and mentally. If we get to that point, we will be useless to everyone.
I have good news for you. Taking care of yourself is not being selfish! It’s actually smart and extremely important in managing stress and becoming rejuvenated. If you have too much on your plate, please remember it’s OK to say no to additional tasks. It’s hard to break the cycle of feeling like you have to do everything and be everything all the time, but now it’s a matter of your health and well-being.
It’s OK if you don’t want to check assignments after work hours. It’s OK if you miss a call from a parent while you’re preparing dinner for your family. It’s OK if you can’t help your child with their math assignment. It’s OK if you don’t have it in you to volunteer at your school. It’s OK to care for yourself first; you’ll be far more productive if you are rested, refreshed and nourished — mind and body.
Are you are getting enough sleep and exercising regularly? Establish a workout routine and focus on things you love to do. Dance, sing, paint, run and definitely make sure you stay connected with your friends. Don’t forget to have fun and enjoy the love and support you get from those friends, family and colleagues. Find reasons to laugh and play. The world won’t stop because you took an hour to enjoy the sunshine, fingerpaint with your kids or reread your favorite novel.
Most importantly, be OK with yourself. We are role models for our students and our own children. Use this as a real life learning lesson and set the example now of how to cope with stress and how to make time for self care and self love.
Talk to yourself as if you were talking to your best friend, the way you would support, encourage and lift up that friend. Give yourself the same grace. You are important and deserve time to work on your physical and mental wellness. Take that time to choose happiness, choose good health, choose peace of mind. Make it a point to choose you!
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