Ten Ways for Teachers to Practice Self-Care
Remember to Stop and Reassess Periodically!
- Drink Lots and Lots of Water. The downside, of course, is running to the restroom at school between classes. The upside...more energy, enhanced digestion, better skin, reduced appetite, better immunity...convinced yet? Get yourself a cool (big) container and keep it on your desk with the goal of emptying it by the time you get home.
- Exercise. As a student teacher, I did laps around the track during lunch with my mentor. Now, I walk with my co-worker once a week, my husband once a week, and take the long walk to town with just my dog Smalls once a week. In between, I have been a runner, a roller-blader, a skateboarder, a biker, and a swimmer. Although motivation ebbs and flows, keeping things at least moving is a miracle stress reducer and mood enhancer.
- Eat Right. Teachers tend to stress and binge on unhealthy foods. Where I live and work, it is practically rude to not accept food that is offered, and it is rude to not bring something to share. Unfortunately, much of it is not healthy and results in low energy, depression, weight gain, and compromised immunity while your body tries to deal with the toxic load you just dumped in it. My constant challenge is to be the good example and set the bar higher.
- Maintain a Positive Attitude. Sometimes students and staff both can wear you down. It is easy to fall into the negativity that seems prevalent in the school environment. There are student challenges, teacher and administrative differences, a poor economy stressing classroom resources, and overwhelming teacher duties. Something that has been of incredible value to me is the simple intention of starting each day fresh and positive. This means ill-feelings or judgements don't get carried over from one day to the next.
- Continue to Grow and Learn. Remember to be a student yourself. Most people do not start off as great teachers, but if they continue to learn about teaching, self-reflect, and make a conscientious effort to implement new best practices, the sky is the limit. As we improve, our students learn more, and all of a sudden our jobs are less stressful and more gratifying. The added bonus is that completing courses may also equal a pay raise.
- Get a Grip on your Financial Future. Teachers are lucky to have consistent, reliable paychecks. This is a bonus when trying to make financial goals. In my state, only 6% is transferred into the state retirement system, but we have other opportunities to save more pre-tax dollars for retirement. Once you set it up, it is automatic, and you get used to working with the balance to budget monthly expenses. It is very worth learning more about budgeting and gaining control of what could be a very stressful subject.
- Be Vice-Free. You may think I'm kidding here, but I am not. The first twenty years of my teaching career, stress was relieved at a happy hour somewhere. The problem is that along with relieving stress, I was creating a really bad habit called binge drinking. Now, I know that some people can drink alcohol without a problem, but I am thankful to have finally realized that I am not one of them. My life seems like one excessive behavior is quickly replaced with another. Last month, after a week of insomnia, I finally decided to give up the quart of iced coffee that I was bringing to work (see number one, above).
- Be Solution Oriented. One thing that is hard to put up with is a complainer. Some teachers complain about the students, the administration, each other, the parents and public, the union, and the government. The answer to this is obvious...work on a solution. If you are upset about the students, tweak your teaching to address the issue. If you are upset with administration, meet with them to suggest improvements and offer assistance. Take on a volunteer position on your campus for the union. The power that comes from a proactive stance goes a long way towards relieving the stress of perceived helplessness.
- Detach and Go Home. Endless hours at work (or working on work at home) do not benefit either teachers or students. We need to be complete, well rounded human beings outside of our careers. Set limits to your time, and respect them. We deserve to prioritize our own self-care. Our loved ones will be thankful, and we also will be refreshed and rejuvenated. That said...
- Be Prepared! The most recent tangible improvement in my teaching practice has been the direct result of setting aside a five hour block over the weekend to prepare for the following week. I teach all subjects to behaviorally challenged high school students, and the time I have set aside to lesson plan, print out work, color code, get lab supplies together, and generally get my game on has paid off in increased student learning and fewer classroom disturbances.
It's a Balancing Act!
planning for retirement
quitting bad habits
manging my time
preparing for next week
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