If you have Montessori training for the 0-6 year old levels, then you are familiar with the section in your Practical Life Album called “Care of Self”. This section covers all kinds of exercises to help young children learn to take care of themselves such as dressing, blowing their nose, preparing a snack for themselves, and so on.
As a teacher, you know how important these activities are. They not only help the child gain independence, but they lay a neurological foundation for advanced skills involving coordination, concentration, abstract thinking, and overall executive function.
It doesn’t stop there. These activities make the child happy. They demonstrate balance in life, that taking care of yourself is a good and important thing.
But does taking care of yourself end outside the classroom? Does it end at age 6, or 12, or 18? Should it not be a lifelong thing?
So, dear teacher, what do you do take care of yourself? This applies to you, too. You are important. Your happiness matters.
A few year ago, my friend Souzzann Zink conducted a research study for her Master’s thesis about exhaustion in Montessori teachers. You can read the whole paper here: Rejecting Exhaustion: Montessori Strategies to Be Effective and Have a Life.
Souzzann’s research covered many areas, but she also asked these specific questions:
- What self-managed strategies* have you used to create more satisfaction in your personal life while staying effective in your classroom? *Actions you were able to do without approval from or cooperation from your school administration.
- What actions or habits have you used to reduce your stress and/or give you more time and energy to devote to your family, friends, and self-care?
- What activities (including professional development) have you done to reduce your workload or work-related stress?
Be sure to read Souzzann’s paper for a detailed look at the responses and her analysis. As you would expect, there were some strategies specific to Montessori professionals (finding systems for record keeping and admin tasks, having proper training on how to handle behavior issues, mentoring and support from other professionals etc.) but overall, the most effective strategies boiled down to “care of self”. Eating right, exercising, time with loved ones, mindfulness, being in nature, resting, etc.
The thing is, we intuitively know these things are important. But we sometimes don’t recognize that we are important. Or at least, that we are important enough to be a priority in our own lives.
I have certainly struggled with making time for healthy living and “care of self”. When I’m stressed and overwhelmed, my needs are the first things I sacrifice. In reality, it should be the opposite. In times of stress, self care should move to the top of the list. Without that, we become less and less effective at managing everything else.
I’d encourage you to take some time to watch this video with Andy Lulka of Integrating Montessori to get some insight into why we find it difficult to allow ourselves to take care of ourselves.
Are you committed to “care of self”? If you’re new to this, then make a decision to start with something small. The small things I started with were
- doing something that gave me a sense of closure and satisfaction every day
- consuming less sugar
Once you get the ball rolling on taking care of yourself regularly, it will get easier. And the better you get at taking care of yourself, the more effective you will be in the classroom. I can guarantee that. A stressed and unhappy teacher is not a prepared Montessori adult.