Take Back Your Self

Spring has sprung!

And all that comes with it. I’m thinking

  • end-of-year arts performances

  • AP exams

  • finals (for college instructors)

  • piles of grading you haven’t gotten to yet

  • spring fever, meaning either over-the-top squirreliness or bone-deep exhaustion

  • a sense that the school year will never end even as the end draws near

In short, you have been caring for students for months now and might be at the end of your rope. What to do?

Take back your self.

A teacher recently told me a lovely story about a friend of hers way back when. She and this friend were doing a summer internship together. The friend came to dislike the internship. She had the hardest time dragging herself to the office every day.

Except for one morning, with a month to go in the internship, this friend showed up at the office looking like a movie star. She was wearing beautiful clothes (such as an intern could afford!), had her hair up, and smelled like rose water. She just billowed into the office, leaving a waft of rose behind her. When her fellow interns asked her what the heck was going on, she said, “Dressing up is the only way I can get myself in here!”

I love this story! Because it reminds me that a key to managing jobs (or lives) that take a lot out of us is to take loving control of our own personal universes. To take back our selves. By asserting ourselves in ways that bring us joy (of course, I’m referring to Marie Kondo here, but I’m not talking about cleaning out closets). What I’m thinking about here is making tiny moves that remind us of who we are. Not other people’s teachers or caregivers. Ourselves.

Like dressing up and dousing ourselves with rose water.


  • wearing a bow tie every day

  • wearing bling every day (this is what I do, as I LOVE BLING)

  • bringing a peppy playlist to school and playing it between classes

  • making a slideshow on your computer of pictures that remind you of being at your happiest and running it all day long where you can catch a glimpse of it at will

  • packing a gourmet lunch for yourself, complete with real silverware, a cloth napkin, and one of those electric candles that won’t set off the fire alarm

Maybe you already do all these things. If so,

try something a little more off the wall.


  • teaching all your classes in a British accent (assuming you’re not British. If you’re British, teach all your classes in an American accent)

  • turning up the peppy tunes and inviting your students to dance a little before class begins (and dancing yourself) (this would make me very happy, as I love dancing even more than bling)

  • stopping class midway through and having the students try the downward-facing dog yoga pose

  • taking the class outside — but using the outside rather than just changing environs, like asking students find a private spot that feels good to them and having them go to that spot after every question you ask to think of an answer they can then bring back to the group

  • beginning every class by reading out loud a poem that moves you (not a poem that is educational for the students, not a poem that fits the theme of the day’s lesson, but a poem that reminds you of what matters to you)

You get the point. When your will is draining out of you faster than you can replenish it, tighten your focus. To you. To what will make you happy. To what will make you throw your head back and laugh. Because you need that you back. And so do your students.

Betsy BurrisComment