A year ago today, my family and I made the difficult decision to leave our host country of Thailand to return to our home country. Our son, who is profoundly affected by autism and intellectual developmental delay (IDD) was not coping well with lockdown. It made sense to remove him from that stressful environment and into one where he felt most at peace. We thought it would “just be for the summer,” but it turned out that COVID had other plans and we were unable to get back. We are now in the US and call ourselves “COVID refugees.”

As you can imagine, it ‘s been very stressful. But we are not alone in our stress. All of us, all of you, have experienced so much in the last 14 months. You ‘ve experienced quarantine, virtual teaching, hybrid teaching, back to in-person, then increases in cases, so back to virtual. You ‘ve learned new ways of teaching through Zoom using all the many tools that are available. You thought you had it all down and something changed again, and you had to start from scratch. You ‘re expected to teach all day, plan in the evenings, email families at all hours of the day and night. You ‘re exhausted but you can ‘t sleep. And your eyes are so tired from looking at the screen all day you could cry. And now many of you are being told you may not be able to return to your home countries for the summer months. This is stress!

So what do we do? We are told often that we need to practice self-care; get enough sleep, exercise, eat well, and have some fun. This is easier for some than others. We all saw our friends on Facebook who took on new challenges and projects and seemed to shine through all of this. Others of us forgot to shower and get dressed each day. Wherever you are on this far-reaching spectrum, it ‘s okay. Just know one thing: You are not alone.

Self care can be difficult when we ‘re stressed and feeling unsupported in our workplace. Dr. Lorea Martinez Perez, the author Teaching with the HEART in Mind addressed this in her recent article entitled “Educator Wellbeing is NOT an Individual Responsibility.” She states:

“In order to create better schools not only for students, but also for teachers, schools need to be relationship-driven, where educators ‘ social and emotional needs are acknowledged and supported through professional development and trauma-informed self-care tools. School administrators need to examine how the work conditions impact educators ‘ ability to do their best work, and support them in ways that are meaningful to them.”

Are you feeling supported? Is your school or workplace helping you with self care? If not, I would like to encourage you to advocate for yourself. We, as educators encourage our students to advocate for themselves on a daily basis. So why aren ‘t we doing this for ourselves? Some ways you can do this is to clearly tell your administrator what you need. “I need to turn off my computer at 4:00 p.m. and not be expected to answer emails until the next morning.” or “I am feeling uncomfortable with the interactions I ‘m having with this family. Please come to my next Zoom meeting with them.” Chances are, your administrator doesn ‘t know what you ‘re experiencing and would like to support you. It seems so simple, but it can be very hard to do. My guess is that your administrator will want to help you in any way they can, so why not ask?

One thing you can know for sure. You are supported by your SENIA community worldwide. Pop on over to our Facebook group and share some ways you have advocated for yourself and practiced self-care this year. And if it ‘s 4 p.m. and you ‘re still in your pajamas, snap a selfie and share it with us. We are here for you. We support you.

PS. Check your email the 2nd week of May for all the information you need for #SENIA2021!