Ironically, this is not as complicated as that whole chicken/egg controversy. Most, if not all, teachers can think of a life before teaching; an identity they had before they became Ms./Mrs./Mr. Somebody. A life when they traveled around the world and took casual pictures while leaning on ancient columns...(see featured photo for my former identity ca. 2009)
And when I look around social media on summers, holidays, etc., I see glimpses of that person in all my teacher friends. Woohoo!! It's time to let loose, not shower until noon, use the bathroom when you want to, and enjoy being called solely by your first name ;) In reading those posts, however, I get a twinge of sadness. Because I think, "where is this person the rest of the year??"
During the school year, amid the grades, classroom management, testing, paperwork, after-school activities (I see you coaches, directors, and such!), and surviving on copious amounts of coffee and that cookie someone brought in for their birthday, we tend to lose a little bit of ourselves. We let go of hobbies we enjoy doing (ex: English teachers, when during the school year do you get to read something that isn't an essay to grade, or one of the assigned readings?), the loved ones we enjoy visiting, and the life we enjoy living. For me in my teaching time, that included yoga, healthy cooking, reading, travel, foodie...ing?...You get the point. But #truthbomb, teachers: that's no way to teach.
"Before I am a teacher, I am an artist. And before I am an artist, I am a person."—Kristina Caswell MacMullen, OSU
I heard this piece of advice at a conference two years ago, and it's informed my time in and outside the classroom ever since. As a music educator, I went into my field because I wanted to make art and I wanted to inspire others to want to do the same. How can I do that if I don't walk in and feel inspired on a daily basis? Don't my students deserve a fine arts teacher who is creative and individualistic and kooky and all those things that are different about the wonderful field I work in?
Yes. Yes, they do. And as a teacher, you deserve to be you, not Ms. Somebody every day.
So I urge you, teachers, to take some time and think about all of the things you enjoy doing when you are no longer in the classroom, and make a personal commitment to yourself, your friends, your family, and your students to keep some of those activities in your life. Because you spend your life taking care of others, and that's amazing, but how can you do that if you can't take care of you?