Self-Care, Preservation, Resistance: Dr. Hsieh’s Final Reflection Summer 2019

Shoutout to the amazing Dr. Angela Chen of who makes these amazing & empowering bracelets


It’s the end of an incredibly intense 6-week summer session of my preservice Reading & Writing in Secondary Schools course.  And so, it’s time for my final reflection.

I try to reflect at the end of each semester/ course, in line with what I ask my own students to do, to think about our learning in our time together. However, this time, I haven’t blogged since the end of the spring semester, just over 6 weeks ago, because the last 6 weeks have just been that intense.

In addition to working with 18 amazing teacher candidates from a variety of single-subject specializations (it was a small class because summer school is expensive) in a super-packed 8 hour/ week (broken up into 2 4-hour sessions from 6-10pm on Tu/Th nights) course, during the last 6 weeks, I have wrapped up my spring student teaching placements (yes, during summer school because K-12 & university calendars aren’t aligned), been de facto “mom camp” for my 13 year old, written the bulk of 3 research conference proposals (and contributed to 1-2 others), contributed to 2 co-authored peer reviewed articles, begun work on another co-authored peer reviewed article, reviewed an article and a tenure file, written a letter of support and several letters of recommendation, been to my first 2-day retreat/ board meeting for a state teacher education network, co-facilitated the teacher educator strand of the amazing Institute for Teachers of Color committed to Racial Justice (ITOC), lost my dear uncle and gone to his memorial service, attended the year 2 institute by the Center for Reaching & Teaching the Whole Child and presented (virtually) on a digital equity panel at the International Society for Technology in Education conference. We’ve also been bowling, to the aquarium, and to the dentist twice with my 4-year old (she’s got the bad genes with teeth, sadly).  I’m sure there are other things.  I can’t remember them now because, well, I’m tired.

At ITOC this year, I was inspired to buy another Doctora bracelet. Last year at ITOC, I bought one that simply said, “Be Present,” because my goal last year was to working on being wherever I am.  This year, because I know that I am doing too much, I bought a bracelet that said, “Self-Care, Preservation, Resistance.”  This is such an important symbolic reminder to myself.  I have been doing anything but self-care for the last 6 weeks and have gone into full on, super-mom, survival mode.  It’s not only not good for me emotionally, but it led me to a 2-week cold, with no voice for one of those weeks.

I know it’s too much and I am tired. Actually, I’m exhausted, unmotivated and often on the verge of tears.

I know myself and know that I can’t give less than 100% to everything I do (I’ve tried. It just doesn’t really work) without a feeling of extreme guilt and shame, but I can’t really go on the way I’ve been operating for the last 6 weeks.  I’ve come to this point before and I recommit to taking on less so I have enough room to give more.  But then, things feel freer, I feel better, I take on more, and the cycle starts again.

It’s hard. I never know what to give up. I don’t know how to give myself more time for an extended period of time, for any reason other than exhaustion. I don’t know which hard lines to draw in the sand.  I don’t know when to say enough is enough, so I usually let illness do it for me. This is not self-care, preservation and resistance.

So, I come back to my class this summer.  This summer, I had to be flexible and adaptive.  It was too much to cram a 15-week course into 6 weeks.  Even with relatively similar hours, the cognitive load was too much, with not enough processing time.  I had to be true to myself. I had to cut things out in order for my students to get the most out of this course. In honoring who they are and their life commitments, sometimes, I needed to extend grace.  And, because of many circumstances beyond my own control, sometimes I needed to extend grace to myself. We made it.  Many of them told me they learned a lot.  Some of them told me it was the best class they’d taken in the credential program.  One of them told me it was the best class she’d ever taken.

It was okay to cut some things out. It was hard, but in the end, it was better, because we all need the space to breathe, and we needed compassion to grow.

This is my hardest journey: self-care, preservation & resistance.  It is a journey that, at one point, almost cost me my life. I don’t want to go back to that place or that time.  I want to move forward purposefully. Align my activities with my objectives, just like in the best lesson plans.

It only gets easier with practice, and with each mistake, I learn something new.  I will get it, in community, with the support of those around me.  I will learn because I am committed to learning and practicing until I get better, because it’s important and because I am important.

And I am grateful to be in a profession, and living a life, that encourages constant self-reflection to keep going and keep growing.  I will keep going and keep growing.

Self-care, preservation, resistance.

Breathe in, breathe out.

Keep moving forward.

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