Self-care for teachers with high-stakes deadlines

Depending on where you are reading this from, you might not be aware that right now it’s the biggest weekend of the Queensland High School Teacher calendar. Year 12 teachers around the state are busily finishing their marking and reporting and putting together a Verification package to send away as part of the moderation process for OP students. If you aren’t a Qld Year 12 teacher, chances are you are still in the midst of marking and reporting as we are in the pointy end of Term 3.
Hands up who’s feeling stressed and run down and, dare I say it, a bit burnt out? 
Hands up if you have been cursing yourself all week for not being more organised and proactive earlier in the term/year leading to this week being even more stressful than it could have been?
Hands up if you are feeling resentful of your job, your students, the workload, your tired body, the deadlines, your family, the paperwork and the whole world? 
Sound familiar? It sure does to me!
Even though I advocate for prioritising yourself and fitting your own oxygen mask before helping others, I’m still a mere mortal and I am still learning how to do that. I’m not perfect and sometimes that makes me want to shrink away and hide the rough edges, instead of contribute to the self-care and wellbeing conversation that I believe is so vital for us as educators.
Especially in a week like this one, where I really don’t feel like I’ve been a good enough example (whatever that means), I want to pretend like everything is going smoothly. It’s so easy to post only the good things, the wellbeing practices I’ve gotten down pat and the highlight reel of my self-care journey. But one of my biggest values is honesty, and as tired as I am at this end of term I also really can’t be bothered to ‘fake it’! Perfection is BS anyway and as a recovering perfectionist I abhor the idea of glossing over the real, human parts of life.
So here are the biggest challenges I’m facing in my teacher self-care journey right now: 
  1. The last month or so, I allowed myself to relax a couple of vital self-care practices such as meditation and yoga. Because these help me reduce physical and mental stress, the lack of them has meant more stress in my life. In particular, it’s also resulted in the recurrence of a knee/hip problem as well as a couple of migraines that I really could have done without. I don’t have the time to waste a day in bed due to illness, but that’s happened twice in the last few weeks. All in all, I stopped doing two vital preventative practices, and I’m regretting that right now because it makes this stressful, busy time even harder.
  2. I am finding myself completing my Verification package at the last minute. AGAIN! There are always some parts of it that have to be done at the final hour once the final assessment has been submitted. But some of it, some of the niggly little paperwork tasks could have been done earlier in the term and year. Every year I say to myself ‘I’ll do those bits of paperwork as I go throughout the year so that the next Verification isn’t so last minute’. And yet, here I am again…
  3. I live 100km away from my school. So today, because I need to get something from school to complete my Verification package, I need to drive for over an hour just to get there. Had I been more organised (see point 2) I probably could have avoided this trip. But alas, that is not the case today. So into the car I get…
I want to point out that this post is not a humble brag and nor am I using it as a way to gain strokes for my ego through a ‘poor me’ story. This is just where I’m at right now. My guess is, it’s also where an awful lot of other teachers are right now. It’s one of the busiest, most stressful times of year with some very high-stakes deadlines. It is what it is. I’m not going to pretend that just because I’m all about prioritising my wellbeing I don’t still fall into the same traps as everyone else.
So, what am I going to do about it?
Well, for starters I am taking full responsibility for where I’m at. I’m not wasting any more time wishing things were different or beating myself up for not preventing these completely preventable challenges. I have accepted where I’m at and forgiven myself.
And then I dig in and get on with the work to be done. I have taken care of myself as much as I can to keep my head above water, and then I just keep swimming, swimming, swimming as Dory would say.
Or to quote Yoda: do or do not, there is no try.
Carry on, fellow Verificationers, we’re nearly there!

P.S. You might have noticed that I fell off the weekly blog bandwagon a few weeks ago too! Well, I’m getting back into it by doing a 10 day blogging challenge. This blog post is in response to Natalie’s 10 Day Freedom Plan Blog Challenge Day 1