A Message to Fellow Educators As We Embark on a New School Year

Stacey Roshan
5 min readSep 19, 2023

As the new school year gets underway, I want to open up and share something deeply personal — the topic of burnout. This post comes from a place of vulnerability as I reflect on the experiences that led to my own burnout and the lessons I’ve learned along the way. While I can’t turn back time, I can use my journey to heal and grow. More than anything, this blog post is a letter to my younger self, written with the hope that it might resonate and offer guidance to fellow educators who may be treading the same path.

Embracing the Back-to-School Frenzy

As teachers, we pour our hearts and souls into our work, driven by a genuine desire to support our students and collaborate with our colleagues. We wholeheartedly want to always be there for our students and peers, particularly as we kick off a fresh academic year. The start of school is an exhilarating whirlwind of meetings, new information, relationships to build, physical and digital classrooms to set up, and many prayers to the Xerox machine gods for just one jam-free session. It’s a blend of anticipation, chaos, hope, and sheer determination — a bit like trying to juggle a dozen spinning plates while walking a tightrope.

Don’t get me wrong — the start of a new school year is magical, brimming with ideas and offering a chance for a fresh start. There’s a special buzz in the air as we prepare to engage with new groups of students and collectively seek to create a nurturing environment that fosters their growth and learning.

What I Wish I Understood

Here’s what I wish I had better understood earlier: while it’s amazing to prioritize the feelings and needs of others, we often overlook the importance of our own well-being. It’s like the analogy of the oxygen mask on an airplane — the reminder to secure your own mask before assisting others. As cliché as it might sound, the message could not be more on-point.

I thought that saying yes to every opportunity and challenge was synonymous with being a dedicated team player. My passion for teaching left my mind spinning with ideas, and I mistakenly believed that this ceaseless buzz was a testament to my commitment. What I failed to grasp was that this incessant mental chatter was stifling my genuine creative potential. As someone who thrives on creativity, these ideas should have flowed freely; however, my failure to allow my mind the necessary breathing space meant I had to continually force the process. Since I wasn’t one to accept stagnation, I continued to push myself past the point of exhaustion. Though I wasn’t even aware of it at the time, this relentless pushing of boundaries left me drained and running on empty.

The “Always On” Trap

Adding fuel to the fire, I fell into the trap of the “always on” culture, convinced that providing immediate responses to colleagues and students showed care and dedication. In reality, it left me in a state of hypervigilance, always reacting and never fully present. This took a toll not only on my well-being but also conveyed a message I hadn’t intended to those around me. The realization hit me hard: teaching respect for healthy boundaries is just as crucial as any lesson plan. After all, our students look up to us as role models as they learn to interact with others and navigate the intricacies of life and relationships.

Burnout, I discovered, is real; it’s a reality that can sneak up without you realizing it’s coming. Running on fumes might be sustainable for a while, but sooner or later, it catches up with you. Stress mounts, patience wanes, and the vibrant teacher who once lit up the room begins to fade.

A Fresh Take on Selflessness

I’m not saying that we shouldn’t pour our heart and soul into teaching — far from it. What I am saying is this: self-care is your superpower. It’s not selfish; it’s essential. It’s recharging your batteries so you can be the best version of yourself — not just for your students but for everyone around you. Through my own journey, I’ve come to understand that self-care isn’t a luxury; it’s a necessity.

We’ve all heard that saying no can be the kindest thing you can do. That was a difficult concept for me to embrace, but I now understand its wisdom. Every time you say yes to someone, you’re entering a negotiation. Taking on additional commitments implicitly means that you will be saying no to something else. Often, what you’re sacrificing is time for yourself and your own priorities. This depletes fuel from your tank. While it’s wonderful to assist others whenever possible — remember, we experience a significant boost of serotonin when we help others — it’s crucial to assess your current commitments before automatically saying yes. If you lack the capacity for anything extra, saying no is genuinely the most considerate response we can offer.

Self-care is not just about bubble baths and spa days (though those are great, too!), but more so about setting healthy boundaries, seeking support when needed, and knowing that it’s okay to take a step back when the pace gets too frantic. It’s also critical to nurture our passions outside of the classroom.

Welcoming a New Beginning

As we dive headfirst into the whirlwind of the school year, let’s look out for one another and make self-care a non-negotiable part of our routine rather than an afterthought. Let’s not wait until we’re running on empty to realize the importance of refueling. Let’s give ourselves permission to step back, recharge, and find that crucial whitespace for true creativity to flourish. After all, by taking care of ourselves, we’re showing up as the best, most energized, and compassionate versions of ourselves — not just for our students but for everyone who’s lucky enough to be a part of our journey.

Here’s to a new school year filled with inspiration, growth, and a whole lot of self-love — for ourselves and for the incredible individuals we have the privilege to teach!

--

--

Stacey Roshan

Educator | Keynote speaker | Consultant | Author: Tech with Heart | #EdTech Enthusiast | NAIS Teacher of the Future | linktr.ee/StaceyRoshan