Let’s Talk ESP Blog: Taking Care of Ourselves
By Gail Kablau
Looks like I’m only averaging a blog every other month this year. Chalk it up to a sign of the difficult times we are experiencing working in public education through the continued pandemic. No matter how much I get done each day, it never seems to be enough – that’s true when I get home, as well. I know I’m not the only one who comes home every day drained and exhausted. I hear from many of you – we’re all in the same place.
We continue to hear, from all sides, how important it is to take care of ourselves, but what does that look like? And is it enough? So many support staff find themselves in a position where the expectations of the work that needs to be done are too high with additional pandemic related work piled on top of our already full plates, and the health risks for those who work hands-on with students are too great. If we take care of ourselves outside of work – wearing a mask, distancing, vaccinating – but we are not able to do what is needed to stay safe or have a manageable workload at school, self-care isn’t enough. Employers have a responsibility to take care of their employees, as well.
If your school District is not mandating COVID protocols, then taking care of yourself includes fighting back and demanding that they do. Organize around it – go to District admin, go to the School Board, wherever you need to in order to get action. If your first attempt yields no results, keep talking until you are heard. Make sure you are including all voices in your Union’s Local.
If your school District is forcing you to work in unsafe conditions, then taking care of yourself includes bringing it to the attention of those who need to know about and can change it (District admin, school board, health dept.), and following through as many times as you have to for change to occur.
If your District is keeping kids in school, but half the classes are empty and half the staff is sick or quarantined, then taking care of yourself includes taking your personal, vacation or sick days when you are feeling unsafe or too stressed to work on any given day. I am hearing people say they don’t feel right taking time off, with no replacements or substitutes in sight, but if we are to truly take care of ourselves, we must take the necessary steps to protect ourselves.
We are seeing a record number of people quitting because appropriate protocols are not being mandated or followed. This doubles our workloads and the amount of stress that it creates. Take the time you need to take care of yourself.
I’m sure you have more ways to share about how we can take care of ourselves. Let’s Talk!
- WEAC ESP webpage
- Join the NEA ESP Facebook Group
- Follow @NEArESPect on Twitter
- Key Facts About ESPs
- Helping ESPs Cope Through SEL
- Education Support Professional Organizing Toolkit
Gail Kablau is the WEAC Education Support Professional (ESP)-at-Large Board Representative. Contact her at: firstname.lastname@example.org.