“I can’t do this anymore.”
“I think I’m going to quit.”
It’s not uncommon for teachers to experience this type of fatigue at some point in your teaching career. From first-year teachers to 20+ year veterans, discouragement and burnout are all too often part of the deal. Long hours both in and out of the classroom, ever-shifting standards and expectations, the court of public opinion… all of these can combine to make even the toughest individual wonder if it’s all worth it. Luckily, there is a way to combat these feelings: teacher self-care.
Often, we encounter situations which are out of our control. The school setting is no exception. While the general public may view the school as a safe haven from the slings and arrows of life, teachers know better. After all, they must cope with several stressors, including a lack of resources, increasing classroom numbers, and unhealthy school climate. So, how can we encourage ourselves and others to face these issues?
Practicing basic self-care strategies as a teacher can be a game-changer for those times when the going gets tough.
Self-Care for Teachers
One of the biggest steps toward self-care for teachers is developing the ability to reframe our thoughts and emotions in the face of stressful situations. Identifying and learning to be accepting about our situation is one of the first acts in recognizing our stressors. Next, we can ask ourselves why events are stressors and acknowledge the emotions which we are experiencing. Finally, we can ask ourselves if the emotion is valid and how we might reframe the situation, if so. Some situations we have no control over and developing this emotional resilience is an important strategy for managing stress.
We’ve all had the experience of cramming for a monster final exam in college. Deadlines, lack of sleep, and poor nutrition were part of the package, and certainly added up to stress on the big day. Even many years removed from our college days, you’d think we would be wiser. And yet, we push ourselves to grade more papers, revamp our lesson plans, or send just 10 more emails. Wellness tips for teachers and simple practices of prioritizing exercise, eating well, and getting enough rest aren’t just important; they are critical. The best way for us to be present in our fullest capacity to teach kids is for us to be at our best personally.
One of the cornerstones of a teacher’s mental state is the relationship they have with their students. A focus on positive reinforcement in the classroom and schoolwide can not only affect relationships but also impact job performance and teacher effectiveness. Additionally, school climate is certainly not exclusive to the environment students experience. Study after study shows two of the greatest contributors to someone’s job satisfaction are peer and immediate supervisor recognition. Excellent schools find a consistent way to acknowledge the efforts of their teachers. In fact, many teachers consider positive recognition at least as important as a pay raise in terms of job satisfaction and a sense of value.
Wellness Tips for Teachers
You may have heard the saying, “you can’t pour from an empty vessel.” There is more than a grain of truth in that statement. Individuals who continually give without taking time to refuel soon find themselves exhausted, burned out, and ready to quit. It’s easy for teachers to become an empty vessel because, by nature, they are compassionate and giving individuals. In fact, many teachers feel guilty when they take the time to care for themselves.
Teacher self-care is not selfish. Prioritizing a healthy mindset, physical wellbeing, and a positive school climate will give individuals and schools the best chance to have happy, healthy teachers leading their students.