Dr. Elias of the Rutgers SEL Learning Laboratory and the Academic for SEL in Schools recently published a blog on Edutopia describing 5 vital signs of fulfillment: contentment/joy, hope, awe, meaning/purpose, and deep connection. I must confess that I’ve struggled to experience contentment, joy, hope, or connection this entire school year – the vitriol of the election descended upon my well-being like a dementor on a hapless muggle. Along came fatigue and nagging little illnesses to sap away life’s glow. There were days when I, self-pityingly, felt like Cinderella facing down impossibly never-ending obligations. The school year is a marathon of multi-tasking, and I started to think, “Well, I can sleep/exercise/eat vegetables in July.” But that’s ridiculous! You can’t cram a year’s worth of self-care into 5 weeks of summer break!

So what did I do? I went into a windowless room with a dozen other women and jumped up and down to really loud music for an hour. Twice a week. For 5 months and counting. I’m starting to feel better.

To understand why, I suppose we could do an analysis of the psychology of Zumba, but I don’t think it’s that much of a mystery: jumping up and down with a dozen other women to really loud music is just fun. It’s fun while it’s happening and it’s fun for the subsequent two hours, as I bask in a naturally happy cocktail of endorphin hormones.

No matter the why, here’s the what: I am much better equipped to help my students feel contentment, joy, hope, and deep connection now that I am doing something to take care of myself. To teach social and emotional learning effectively, we need to experience social and emotional care. Whatever makes you happy and well – hammocking in the park, going to bed early to read a good book (totally loving Sharon Shinn right now!), training for one of those crazy 5Ks where everyone throws the paint, synthesizing a rainbow salad – do it for yourself. You are a teacher. You deserve to be cared for.

Self-Care for SEL Teachers: How Zumba Saved Me

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