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Fill Your Own Bucket: How to Refill Our Teacher Leader Buckets

Self Care.jpeg

I love spring. I love when the trees are green and the flowers are beginning to bloom. I love the sounds of lawn mowers and the smell of freshly cut grass. I love soft rains and walks in the sunshine. It's the season of renewal.

Also, I hate spring. It's the season of state testing, end-of-year conferences, final grades, graduation planning, and senioritis. I hate when every item crossed off of my to-do list is replaced by three more. It's the season when my teacher-spirit droops lowest, when I'm sure that the next thing I'm asked to do is the one that will empty the last drops from my bucket.

At my school, I serve in a number of leadership roles and I usually love it. I love elevating my teacher voice for the betterment of my department, my school, and my profession. But, in the spring, I find myself wondering how I can work toward appreciating, recognizing, and rewarding others when I feel so low—when my bucket is empty. Since I can't give away what I don't have, I have to take time to refill myself.

Unplug

This is probably the hardest way for me to refill my bucket, but it's also one of the most effective. Though it's difficult, especially this time of year, it can be done!  

  • Start small: Leave your phone, tablet, and laptop in another room for an hour or two.

  • Let your mind focus on nonschool-related items. Listen to music, watch a show, sit in complete silence, or walk in your yard without worrying about emails, lesson plans, or papers to grade.

Admittedly, this won't help your growing to-do list, but sometimes a clear head makes the list seem a little less daunting.

Family and Friends

Spend time with your family and friends. As a mom with a son in elementary school, I feel it's important for him to see me working hard for my students and modeling the type of work ethic I want him to have. But it's equally as important that he see me make him and his dad a priority. Going to the park, seeing a movie, or even going for a drive with them refills my bucket.

I also joined a book club that meets monthly. For one evening each month, I talk to other adults about our lives. We eat, we tell stories, we laugh, and then we talk about our book selection (at least for a few minutes). There are times when my calendar is so full that I think of 10 different excuses as to why I should skip book club, but my husband always encourages me to go and take some "me" time. On the nights I listen, I'm always amazed at how good I feel when I leave those book club meetings; I leave recharged and refilled.  

Give It Away

Though this may seem counterintuitive during the busiest season of the school year, I find presenting at conferences to be one of the fastest ways to fill my own bucket. When I have an opportunity to present to a group of like-minded educators, my bucket is quick to fill to overflowing. Though I realize that many of them are in that room to fill themselves on whatever topic I'm presenting, I always find that I take away so much more than I feel I was able to give.

The bottom line is that we all need to acknowledge that sometimes our buckets are running low. Sometimes they even feel empty. It's at those times that we need to find a way to fill our own buckets, take some time for ourselves so that we can get back to being the types of teacher leaders our schools and our professions need us to be.

 

Toni M. Poling is an English teacher and department chair in Fairmont, W.Va., and a proud member of The National Network of State Teachers of the Year  (NNSTOY). In 2017 she was named West Virginia Teacher of the Year. She currently teaches AP English Language and Composition and AP English Literature and Composition and is a contributing writer to the West Virginia Council of Teachers of English Best Practices blog.
Photo Credits: Africa Studio via Adobe Stock

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