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Lessons Learned on a Self Care CoP Journey

love, hope, self-care are not canceled

Lessons Learned on a Self Care CoP Journey

By Michelle Parces, MHP

As I have gone through this journey, planning a CoP(Community of Practice) and having one, it has led me to really think about the concept and practice of self care. Although this journey didn’t go as I expected, I believe it has been a valuable experience nonetheless. I have grown as a teacher, a parent, colleague, and learned some valuable lessons along the way. I have expanded my views on self-care, why I believe it’s important, and how I see that it can be. I see a CoP based on self care expanding itself into a support groups for teachers on self care, to bolster each other, long past the end of the actual CoP.

I started this journey missing a mentor that passed away. This mentor continually reminded me of the importance of self-care for my health, both as a mother and as a teacher. She brought me into TREC, and is a big reason why I was drawn to self care as a topic for CoP.

I had definite ideas for how I envisioned this CoP going. Yet, from the beginning, things did not go as I had expected. I had times when I felt dejected, defeated, and as if I would not be successful. Being in TREC, in Cohort 3, helped me, as I continually saw that I was not alone in the issues that I was having. I am not sure that without a community of support, that I would have finished this journey. I think this was my first lesson, find your community from those who support you.

As I got ready to start my CoP, I expected to find that lots of teachers would be interested and want to join a CoP centered on self-care, which I intended to become a type of support group at the same time. That wasn’t what happened. Originally, there was only 1 teacher that signed up. I never managed to connect with this teacher to bring them into the CoP. This was for me, a disappointing start. Lesson #2 was to not let that get me down, or stop me.

I reminded two colleagues of mine, who had shown interest in the idea of my CoP to sign up for it. We already would get together often, to vent, prop each other up, etc. I thought I could easily add a monthly meeting for these get-togethers. That was easier said than done. We would have had to meet after our working hours when everyone was tired, or on weekends. That proved more difficult than I thought to set up.

I did manage to plan our first meeting for the CoP. It was very informal, but this seemed to work for us. Then, I encountered difficulties nailing down other set times. So, I worked in the discussion about self-care and supporting each other into the times that we got together. Lesson #3, sometimes set dates are not needed, or don’t work… work with what you have.

I feel that I have gotten as much out of my CoP as I have put into, if not more. This has been a hard year for a lot of us. I have noticed that the more I take care of myself, the better mother, teacher, and friend I am able to be. So, for me, self care works.

I have noticed how this year has affected my colleagues and our students alike, both positively and negatively. I have seen stress lead to meltdowns in both the adults and students at school. I have seen how sick everyone has been this year, and how often, which definitely seems worse than years past. This has led me to be more committed to the idea of self-care for myself and my colleagues and friends.

How can we expect to be our best for our students with everything that we and they have to deal with, if our candle is burnt out? I know I have not had a perfect year. Stress has definitely gotten to me. I have also been sicker than I have been in previous years. The one constant has been that when I have practiced self-care, I have been able to handle situations better, without getting overly negative, or losing my cool. I have seen this contrasted with other colleagues whom I have seen react negatively, when stress and other factors have become too much. I have seen less of these negative reactions in my colleagues that have been on this self-care journey with me. Lesson #4, take your wins where you can.

Self-care helps us weather the storms that come along in our life. It has helped me get through this wild ride that has been running a CoP this year, along with the support from my friends and colleagues in TREC Cohort 3. We all need to practice self-care, yet what self-care is and what will work, depends on the individual. The support of my friends and colleagues, a good book, time with my family, these are all things that work as self-care for me. Therefore, I intend to find a way to keep riding this ride with whoever wants to ride it with me, since I believe that self-care is so important. Do you want to ride on a self-care path of your own?

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