We are almost to the end of the school year, some of us with a mere 5-6 weeks left of teaching and we are excited. We are allowed to be excited also. I remember the first day of school and how energetic and excited we all were to greet the students and learn all about them and their families. That excitement didn’t go away, and I know that many teachers still love teaching by the end of the year. I am one of those teachers! However I do have to admit – and I know that I am not alone – summer break is nice but not a long term solution for how teachers can cope with stress.
The stress that teachers face everyday is climbing to an all time high. When I chat with colleagues and co workers we often say how exhausted we are, or how we just do not feel rested. Again, that is not to say that we do not enjoy our jobs, because we do. It simply means that we are not taking are of ourselves properly and what is expected of us is often times a level that can not be attained. I truly believe that teacher burnout is something that exists and that it is also something that needs to be taken seriously. Many times teachers are not able to cope with the demands that are placed on them and they can not successfully manage their stress.
Self care is a life skill that can be used with anyone. Whether it be the teacher or the students in the classroom, everyone will benefit. When teachers take care of themselves they can also take care of their students. Remember that self care is NOT selfish. All to often people think that it is. With the end of the year coming up we all want some easy ways to practice self care in the classroom. Here are 7 different (and easy) ideas for self care in your classroom.
Self Care Tip #1 : Eat lunch with your Colleagues
We have all been there. We have so much to do and we are just going to work through lunch “today.” Then we fall into the routine of working through lunch every day, and we do not get a break outside of our classroom. There have been tomes where I do not see colleagues for weeks at a time because I also work through lunch. Stop this sister. Stop it right now. Go to the lounge, or call another teacher over to have lunch with you. Getting contact with other teachers is a great way to reset for the remainder of your day.
Self Care Tip #2 : Treat yourself sometimes
You are allowed to have things that only belong to you in the classroom. I know that as a TK teacher I am always telling students to share their items but you know what? You are the teacher and you deserve to treat yourself! Have some items in your desk that are just for you. These treats are not meant to be an everyday item but rather something for you to indulge in when you need that pick me up. Sometimes we are having a tough day and need it, sometimes we had a great day and want a treat! It is up to you when you get it!
Self Care Tip #3 : Go for the water
I am the queen of diet coke and coffee, I really am. I love them so much and I often will choose those over water. What I have noticed when I am stressed or the school year is overwhelming is that I am really tired. If i drink water instead of caffeine I am actually more alert. I don’t have that crash that I get with the caffeine. Reach for the water and see if you feel more alert and awake throughout the day.
Self Care Tip #4 : Do your work, at work
This one isn’t all that fun, but it is one that is crucial to your mental health. I do have a confession: rarely do I bring work home. I try my best to not take work with me because when I leave the classroom I want my time to be just that, my time. I know that with older grades you need to grade papers and such and as a teacher I know that we all feel like we do not have enough time. But if you try to get as much done as you can at work, your mental state can often times be more clear.
Self Care Tip #5 : Make the space your own
When I walk into a classroom I love to see that teachers have a space that is all their own. Some teachers have a wall with photos on it, others have frames on their desks and some have furniture that they love from their homes. Whatever you choose, try to bring in elements that make you feel good. I know that I like to keep a pair of my favorite slippers at school so when the kids leave, I slip into those and get some work done. It can be the small things that help you calm yourself after a long day.
Self Care Tip #6 : Mindfulness
When we are at work all day we can often forget that we need to stretch our bodies and rejuvenate ourselves. This one can also benefit your class as well. There are plenty of yoga videos that are appropriate for the classroom on YouTube and GoNoodle. I especially love Cosmic Kids for the younger ones. Yoga can be calm and quiet but it can also be calming and silly. We all need a mental break and so this is a great way to get one. Take a few minutes to get in touch with your breathing, do some stretching and reset yourself before students come back. I like to also say some positive affirmations to myself when I am doing this.
Self Care Tip #7 : Closed for Business
As teachers we love to keep working. I truly believe that our work is never really done. We are always doing something, calling someone or planning another day with the students. I bet that we could work 24 hours a day for the rest of our lives and still feel like we did not accomplish everything that we want to. We need to accept this fact. I say that I never bring work home (and I don’t) but I used to LOVE saying I would leave at 3:30, and then at 4:15 I would promise myself I would be gone at 4:45 and then the only thing getting me to leave at 5:15 was the dog needed to be fed. I would be so upset that I had to leave. You know what? I don’t do that anymore and my classroom still functions and the students still love what we do. This one was a hard one to let goof but once I set a time for myself to leave, I leave!
I know that it takes time as a teacher to accept that we can be exceptional without pouring 110% of ourselves into everything that we do. I love when Rachel Hollis said that we can not keep pouring ourselves out for everyone else. There will be nothing left. Instead we need to stand tall and accept ALL the goodness that comes our way and then we can give others goodness as well. I hope that as the year comes to an end we can all use these tips and over the summer really evaluate where we want to be at the end of next school year.
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