What This Teacher Means By Self-Care

Jose Vilson Featured, Jose

Confession: this is the first summer I haven’t thought about my school all summer.

Not once.

It’s been amazing. I love my students and I love my job, and I also gave them almost every ounce of me. Thus, even with all the stress I’ve had making it through July, I still see the benefits of having myself at 100%. I see them on Facebook every so often, and wonder whether they’re enjoying themselves somewhere, reaping the fruits of their youth. I’m hoping that those attending summer programs are taking full advantage of the head start they’ve gotten. I’m praying for my students who stay out too long at night, past the first question asked on the 10 o’clock news.

Do I know where my children are? No? It’ll be OK.

But this also reminds me of this concept of self-care. These days, the term has become more popular in activist circles. It’s a term used to suggest that, in this work of rehumanizing each other, we must take care of ourselves. That’s applicable in any circle where any of us invest too much of our hearts and souls (as if that’s ever enough, right?) into the work we do. In the middle of caring for other people’s children, we would do well to get that extra check-up, get our teeth scrubbed by the dentist, and develop coping mechanisms for the rain of stress we’re often under.

And, because so many of us aren’t islands, we also need to take care of each other.

Wherever I go, whether in my own school or in different organizations, one of the keys to sustaining this work is learning how to balance unapologetic stances with overarching empathy. Why build towards a better future when we can’t make a better present? Universally, we need to accept our flaws and wounds, and, as we get deeper in this work, we need to reach deeper to rehumanize ourselves. 

By rehumanizing, I mean to make whole. So many of us are not whole. In some cases, we critique in others that which we wish to see in ourselves. That keeps us from being our best selves every time.

So with that said, I’m taking a vacation next week. I love teaching. I love learning. I love interacting. I love speaking. I love organizing and activating. I love socializing. I fear I love too deeply. In fact, I need to create a deeper well of love so I can do this work for another year.

What’s interesting is that I almost bailed out on my own vacation too. I’ve been on a hot streak all summer, computer crashes notwithstanding. But, as is usually the case with me, a few of my friends came out of nowhere and told me to get off the Internet. I laughed, but it’s sound advice.

I will be back, but I have a few special guests that are gonna wreck shop. Treat them kindly, as you have with me. Talk soon.