Turning a New Page for a New School Year
For an educator, New Year’s Day is the day after Labour Day. We make a new start when the new school year begins and students return to our lives.
A new school year is a great time to take stock of our well-being. For many staff and students, summer brings relaxation and a more active lifestyle. School-year routines may be a better gauge of how well we are taking care of ourselves.
At HWDSB, we have made positive culture and well-being a top priority. We want staff and students to be the best version of themselves. We want everyone to know how to recharge, reconnect and refocus.
This year, well-being has a new place in my own back-to-school routine.
Growing up in Cambridge, I played sports and had a real love of basketball. Staying in shape was part of the culture when I studied phys-ed at McMaster University. This served me well as I became a teacher and a father of two active kids.
Years passed. As I grew professionally, I also grew several pant sizes. Moving from teaching into administration kept me closer to a desk. Meetings stretched into the evening. Meals weren’t always my own choice.
After becoming director at HWDSB, a friend asked me a sincere question.
“Manny, are you taking care of yourself?”
“Yes, sure I am,” I quipped, not giving it much thought.
My friend knew that being a director was a big challenge in terms of time, energy and lifestyle. I was 30 pounds heavier than usual; my knees and back hurt; somewhere along the way, I ignored my well-being.
That’s when I vowed to make my health a priority.
Every morning, I got up early so I wasn’t interrupted. I did intervals on my elliptical machine. I lifted weights to stay strong. I improved my diet and could almost feel my metabolism pick up speed. I felt like I was becoming a better version of myself.
Within a year, I lost 30 pounds. My joints felt better. My back didn’t hurt.
I shared this with colleagues, hoping we could all make well-being a priority. Taking care of ourselves – physically, socially, emotionally – can start small, with lunch-hour walks, a plate of veggies or time with a loved one.
Self-care is a selfless act, because it helps us help others. As we prepare for a busy school year, I hope our staff and students will make well-being a priority.
Manny Figueiredo is Director of Education at Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board (HWDSB).