Mental Health Matters, Especially For Educators and Writers
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As Mental Health Month wraps, I feel like it’s a good time to discuss how much we need to focus on mental health throughout the year. It something that really is valuable for writers (as well as other artists and art workers) and educators. Before I start, I also want to bring forward the importance that we should also provide necessary funding to support the Arts, and education (including Arts education). It might seem minor for others, but this kind of funding will benefit with growth in these areas, but support for those involved.
It isn’t all about concern with finances, even though that is important. It’s also working towards providing the tools and support we need to make and do things that matter. We can’t pour from an empty cup. We can’t write on the empty page if we don’t take care of ourselves. As an educator and a writer, it’s something that impacts me every day. These are the words I constantly want to say.
Let’s focus on education first. Especially since that’s where everything starts. So shouldn’t education have more priority and more support? Teachers are struggling to get by financially, and they still put everything they can to help their students succeed in school for their lives, including their careers. Arts, in many cases, get cut when they inspire students to be creative and succeed in school and beyond, including impacting our economy.
The hardest part is that teachers are taught before they step into the classroom that they are suppose to expect that they will have the hardest first year ever. Instead of focusing on the skills, tools, and supports they could use to make the first year better. The community matters too. You have to have a good set of administration and fellow teachers that understand that we should empower beginning teachers. I was given everything to deal with my classroom management, except how to deal with my mental health relating to it.
It took being forced to leave my first teaching job and eventually find my current teaching job to realize that I was meant to be an educator. I needed a different environment. Somewhere where I have more time to grow, but also receive the support that I need in the classroom and beyond. I hope new teachers to know that there’s another option. One could be teaching adult literacy education, and/or we can all work towards improving the culture and support for educators. Retention and mental health should go beyond the students. We can’t teach our students and support them without caring for our own and ourselves.
Next, let’s focus on the main things can we do. Provide educators the training that goes beyond teaching students about mental health and noticing the vital signs for those who need support with our students. If we get continued training and counseling to help ourselves and our students, we will be able to retain more educators as well as students. The training and counseling should also focus on our work as educators. We should have opportunities for self-care throughout the day, week, and monthly. Including journaling that helps us express our feelings about work. Finally, we should create a culture from top to down with understanding and support for each other. We can learn the tools on our own, but it can take more time. Valuable time that we need.
Now let’s move towards writers. In many cases, we argue if writer’s block exists or not. We need to move pass the idea that we’re all procrastinating because we can’t put the words onto the page. As I’ve discussed before, I’ve read recently Shana Ronayne’s book, Writing Through The Fog: Techniques for Outwitting Brain Fog and Reclaiming Our Writing Lives. I can’t stop recommending it. In the past year, I kept hearing about brain fog (relating to COVID-19) and it led me to wonder more about it, especially with writers. In searching, I found this book. When I read it, not only did it help me understand my re-occurring health struggles, but strategies how to move forward. As well as realizing that many throw “writer’s block” around, suggesting that many are just procrastinating, when there are many writers that want to produce work, but struggle to do so.
I’m the kind of person that likes a schedule and a plan most of time, while I can be spontaneous in some cases. So it can be frustrating when I have lots of expectations on myself as a teacher and as a writer. I want to do my best, and that can lead to me being a bit hard on myself. It’s something that I’ve had to learn, but also that I can’t always be productive, even when there’s so much that I need and want to do. I’ve been working on it, and other things as well, but if I didn’t have the support that I have now, along with this book, I think it would be like when I first started teaching or when I struggle to write for periods of time. I still struggle, but it’s a bit easier. As always, we have to be life-long learners, not only for our craft, but also with our mental health. It won’t always be easy, and that’s okay. We have to accept that, but we can make things better.
We all have to find our way to do self-care, therapy, and learn what works best for us to produce and be more productive. It’s just like when we have to learn our craft. Each of us have our own process and it always continues through out our journeys. Shana Ronayne suggests that too. Not all of her advice will work, but she hopes most of it will. Just as I hope to do so here. We got to make changes in different ways through education and the writing community (including publishing). We all have our ways to make waves that will make impact. Some can be small. It might not be seen right away, but it will.
Why does it matter as writers? Our mind needs to be at its best for us to produce our creativity. We have to be inspired by living our lives and exploring our communities’ work. It might be that we have busy lives, and/or struggling with our health, and it affects our work. We need energy and inspiration, and many cases planning, to make progress. We have to understand that for others, and especially for ourselves. We have to have self-compassion as well as self-confidence when needed. That has to be taught to us. Notice that? Everything is connected. Although there are times when a deadline or a challenge can push us to do what we never though we could. Don’t let everything be on deadline.
I hope by the end of this you feel that mental health matters. Especially for educators and writers. It’s important for everyone. I don’t mind talking about mental health and my journey. I hope you will share yours when you’re ready. Take care everyone. We can do this.