For many school leaders, the approaching of the end of the year means a long to-do list that is not limited to: analyzing data, planning next year’s schedules, hiring for next year, completing evaluations, monitoring RTI, running after school or Saturday camps, monitoring collaborative planning, and keeping morale high for staff, to name a few.
We love our students and staff! We are serving in our purpose. However, even working with the best team of professionals, the job can be challenging and all consuming if you don’t consciously and purposefully make time to take care of yourself. How do you practice self care? How do you encourage self-care for your staff? Do you have a culture that encourages self-care? Here a few tips that have worked for my school or I plan to use to improve my own culture of self-care.
When you value people’s time, this shows that you value them. I know that most leaders have their own ideas and beliefs on when and how often staff meetings should occur. Some prefer to meet face to face, flip their meetings or believe that meetings should not occur after a long day at work. Well… I have done a combination of both and depending on the demands for that year and even the make up of my staff needs, I’ve had to adjust. Try reducing the number of after school meetings, limit emails outside of the work day (except when sending information that is needed for the following week), and provide duty free, uninterrupted lunch without students. Your staff will thank you!
Acknowledge The Importance of Physical Health
Physical exhaustion can take a toll on our bodies, and may manifest in different ways such as colds, mood swings, high blood pressure and even unprofessional behaviors that are typically not exhibited by the individual. As a leader, it is necessary to monitor these signs in the adults that are responsible for educating our students. It may be necessary to send staff members home who are clearly sick, but do not want to take a leave of absence in fear of letting down their students. Most organizations also offer Employee Assistance Programs with free short-term counseling services for their employees. Conducting check-ins with staff shows that you care about your students, and the adults who rise to the challenge of filling the cup of their students even if it means pouring a little from their own to do so.
Incorporate Self-Care Into Your Staff Meetings
I recently pitched to my leadership team the idea of utilizing our Department of Psychological Services. Services will include training on self care strategies that will enable teachers to feel empowered to manage behaviors and the burnout typically experienced by educators during the testing season. You may also consider contacting outside providers who may be willing to volunteer their time in showing staff how to navigate their physical health through nutrition and exercise. Creating a weight loss challenge with offerings of workouts after school (exercise and yoga) to encourage healthy habits could impact your self-care culture.
Model Self-Care at the Top
I shared my story in a previous post regarding my journey in practicing balance in my personal life. A commitment to wellness and self-care begins with the culture an organization’s leader creates and the behaviors they model. If a principal doesn’t practice self-care, employees are unlikely to prioritize it for themselves. They’ll simply believe overwork is the only way and what you expect. By modeling healthy practices, you are more likely to retain your best teachers because they will feel valued as professionals in your organization. As a leader we should want to empower others to make healthy choices. I recently read somewhere that as leaders we cannot expect to bear the entire responsibility in creating a culture of success. As important as your role is in creating change, monitoring change and encouraging change, you cannot be the change alone. You are one piece to the puzzle. It must be a shared responsibility of everyone to create a healthy climate for all stakeholders. Taking this burden off of you as the leader, leaves more room to fill your own cup.
- Write 2-3 things you will do this month to nurture your personal self-care.
- Write 1-2 things you will do to nurture self-care with your staff during the months of March, April and May (Testing season).
- Set reminders in your personal and work calendars. Keep personal and work separate.