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Being an educator has never been easy. Educators are called to serve, so they instinctively put the needs of others ahead of their own. They spend countless hours designing lessons, grading work, coaching individual children, completing endless paperwork, dealing with attentive and inattentive parents, and managing the pressures of a high stakes accountability culture that permeates our nation.

As a first-year teacher in 1991, I well remember feeling that every lesson, every moment, every action and interaction had to be perfect for my students — so perfect that I decided to sacrifice sleep so that I could prepare. About six weeks into my first year, I physically collapsed and was put on bed rest for four days by my doctor. My pace was simply not sustainable, and I had to change my expectations about what was possible. I came to realize, with notable lapses throughout my career, that if I really wanted to help my students, I also needed to take care of myself physically, emotionally, and spiritually.

Being an educator today is exponentially more difficult than in 1991. Back then, we didn’t have a global pandemic and all that comes with it; we didn’t have the extreme divisions in our society that have percolated into our local communities; we didn’t have social media, which is possibly the bane of human existence; and the accountability system was not nearly as high stakes as it is today. We didn’t have it easy back then, but little did we know it would ever get this hard.

The sad fact is that taking care of yourself is more important now than ever. When I was a superintendent, I thought of my own health like that of a prize fighter who was preparing to enter the ring. Exercise, sleep, nutrition, mindfulness, prayer and meditation, family life, stress management — all of these are critical to educators and educational leaders if they are to make the impact our young people deserve.

In the spring issue of INSIGHT, we highlighted the first cohort of our Breakaway Leadership program, where nearly 100 leaders are separating themselves by modeling wellness as a critical aspect of leadership. We also highlighted our new partnership with Wondr Health to provide a digital wellness program for everyone in your district. Read about those programs here.

And if you’re a Texas school leader, consider joining us June 21-23 for TASA txedFest — our summer conference. We’ve changed things up for 2022 to offer three days of retreat-style learning that kicks off with a poolside welcome reception and provides built-in time for personal wellness, team-building, and family at the Kalahari Resort & Convention Center in Round Rock. The conference will focus on four themes: positively leading, connecting to others, and inspiring others (that’s just the first one!); redefining the politics of leadership; the resiliency to lead; and telling our story. The agenda even includes some “txedFest Talks” from some of our most Inspiring Leaders. After yet another tough school year, TASA txedFest is just what we all need to recharge our batteries among friends and family, as we learn how to better equip ourselves as leaders. Reserve your spot at txedFest today.

Yes, it’s an incredibly challenging time, but taking care of yourself is key to preparing yourself like the prize fighter that you are. Take the first step now!

-TASA Executive Director Kevin Brown, Ed.D.