Self-care for teachers is an essential part of being a successful teacher. If we don’t practice self-care, how are we supposed to teach our students to care for themselves and learn what they need to learn? Why is it so hard for teachers to take care of themselves?
It’s because we work in a job where we take care of others. We are the rock for our students. We are the ones that are there when they are sad or need help. But we also need to remember, it’s not just about our students, it’s also about ourselves and to be the very best teacher we want to be, we have to be able to take care of ourselves.
I noticed with the last school year was very, very hard. We learned really quickly how to adapt to a difficult situation when we were fully virtual all year with our students. We had to do something that was really hard. And I noticed very quickly, not only was I starting to become depressed because I wasn’t doing what I love, standing in front of my students, sharing my passion for teaching. Yes, I was doing it on a screen, but it wasn’t the same. I wasn’t getting my bucket filled, getting the hugs and the smiles from my students like I do every single day. And because I wasn’t getting that bucket filled every single day, I felt like my own mental and emotional well-being was getting worse and worse. And so during that second quarter of school, I decided I had to do something to take care of myself, not just my teacher self, my whole self. I just had to do something so that I could make it through what was going to be a very difficult school year ahead.
So because I love reaching out to the teachers and my friends through social media, I decided to come up with a way for teachers to do a few things to take care of their teacher self. I started this countdown for a month of 30 days of teacher self-care, and it helped teachers become motivated, focus on some things that they could do instead of focusing on the negativity in the world, or the difficult times that we were all going through. So that’s where I started feeling like, okay, I love teacher self-care, I love motivating, and I love giving teachers the tools and ideas for them to take care of themselves because if we don’t take care of ourselves, we are going to end up in a very, very difficult situation that sometimes is hard for us to get out of and that’s not what’s best for us when we go to school each day. We want to make sure each morning that we are giving our students the best self and they deserve that.
How NOT to Improve Self-Care for Teachers
Don’t stay late at school every single day.
You are a teacher, you are going to have a to-do list every single day. You’re not going to get everything done, so why make yourself stressed? Why create that uncomfortable feeling of anxiety when it’s not needed?
I forced myself to leave my school at the end of contract time four out of five days a week if it is possible. Now I said four out of five because what I do is I like to schedule one evening that I can stay late and get stuff done. By scheduling the one evening, I know ahead of time, Wednesdays are my late nights, I’m going to get things off my to-do list accomplished. If you’re looking for more information about only working contract hours, check out this blog post: Only Work Contract Hours.
Don’t Engage in Negative Relationships or Negative Talk
We sometimes work in toxic situations and we are around a lot of toxic conversations comparing one another or putting other teachers down that we work alongside. Do not engage in those conversations. Not only do they not help you, but they also don’t help others as well. Surround yourself with positivity.
Don’t Do a Lot of Schoolwork at Home
When you go home, your home should be the things that you like to do at home. You should be focusing on hobbies, spending time with your friends and family. It shouldn’t be you spending hours and hours every single evening after you get home from work doing schoolwork. Those papers can wait until tomorrow, you don’t need to grade them right then. Give your family and your loved ones your attention when you’re home.
How to Improve Self-Care for Teachers
We don’t know what’s ahead of us for the 2021-2022 school year. We were blindsided in March 2020 and unfortunately, it continued through the 2020-2021 school year. Since we have another unknown ahead, I want to make sure that this summer, we’re taking care of our teacher self, filling up our buckets, our mental and emotional states, and making sure that we’re ready for day one, because you never know what’s going to happen. So, instead of worrying about that to-do list, put yourself at the top of that to-do list. For once, I want you to be selfish, I want you to stop thinking about your students, stop thinking about anything else, I want you to put yourself at the top of your to-do list because you matter. To give your students your best self, you have to put yourself at the top and take care of your well-being.
10 Tips for Teacher Self-Care
Keep a Teacher Gratitude Journal
One thing I have found is every school year, I always get a notebook and it is my teacher gratitude journal. I’ll be honest, I don’t do it every single day, but the days where I’m feeling a little down or sad, maybe I had a difficult conversation with a parent or maybe something just didn’t go right in a lesson and I’m just feeling kind of defeated, I pull out that gratitude journal and I write one thing that I’m grateful for. Just shifting my mindset from that negativity to something positive, helps me be able to move forward and not focus on that negativity.
Be Active Every Single Day
Now I know we’re all different and our ability levels are different for the activities that we do and our exercise, but I can tell you how important and what a difference it can make when you are getting out and moving every single day. We’re teachers, we’re up on our feet all the time. But you also need to do a little bit more than just being up teaching. When we first started virtual learning, I made it a goal to work out for my own mental state. To make sure I continued with a scheduled routine of getting up in the morning, I set my alarm for 6 am, doesn’t matter if I’m going to school. I set it at 6 am, I got outside and I can’t tell you how much of a difference that has made in my personal life, but just getting my workouts done early in the morning has set the stage for my entire day. So getting active, moving, whether that’s an evening walk, maybe it’s a workout class that you’re taking. Whatever it is, find something that you enjoy that gets you moving because you get that blood flowing. It’s going to help with your mental state as well. Being active can be a simple way to practice self-care for teachers.
This is one of those things that I’m continuously trying and working on. It’s not something that I’m an expert on, I’m not an expert on any of this. But it is one of those areas that I would like to improve. My mindfulness and being aware of my own self, but taking time to really calm, take deep breaths, meditate, whatever it might be, to just tone down those feelings. Take deep breaths and be in the moment and that is what mindfulness is.
I know I would get frustrated with my computer and Google Classroom over the last school year. Sometimes when I just turn it off and restart it, unplug it, it worked. I didn’t do anything except for that, but it still worked and you are the same way. By turning off and unplugging for a while, you can reset your mind and be better.
Become Comfortable Saying No
This is one that teachers have a really hard time with. If our principal comes and asks us to lead a committee, if our secretary asks us to do some more paperwork on something or help her with something, we always say yes. If our colleague says they need help with inputting grades into the system, we drop everything and just do it. We need to remember to say no sometimes, and we need to be comfortable saying no. We don’t, we worry so much about what others are going to think about us if we say no to that, and we have to remember that it’s okay to say no.
I oftentimes put myself into so many situations or schedule myself too many places, and when I’m in the middle of it, I’m just like why? Why did I say I would do these things?
Be comfortable saying no, it’s okay to say no, you don’t have to do everything at school. Do one or two things, but take care of yourself. There are lots of other teachers at your school that can also do those things as well.
Connect Yourself with Uplifting Colleagues
I mentioned this one earlier, of not surrounding yourself with negativity. This is very important. I have noticed the people with who I usually connect best are the ones that are motivating and uplifting to other people. If they are gossiping or talking negatively about any individual at my school, I don’t want any part of that. I do not want to put myself in those situations. Not only is that hurtful to those people that they are talking bad about, but it just doesn’t uplift me. I want to make sure that the people that I have in my circle are not only uplifting me but others as well because if they’re talking negatively about another person, they’re most likely going to be talking negatively about you, too. So make sure that you are connecting yourself with people that you want to be surrounded by, that uplift you and bring the best of you out.
Read and Learn
I love to read. Oftentimes I say I don’t have enough time to read, but it’s’ important that we make sure that we are lifetime learners. Teachers can learn every single day and we want to make sure that we are doing that. Find amazing books about strategies for the classroom, listen to a podcast, whatever it might be, you can do it as a teacher. Make sure that you take time for your own learning and education, it’ll make you a better teacher, it’ll make you relax and learn a little bit at the same time.
Treat Yourself with Something That You Love
I love Dr. Pepper. When I’m stressed or I’ve had a bad day, or I just need a way to pick myself up, I go get myself a Dr. Pepper. I choose a fountain drink and I love that. I also enjoy shopping by myself. I like to walk aimlessly down the aisles of Target by myself, look and pick up everything. So treat yourself with something like that once in a while. Make sure that you have something to look forward to and a treat for yourself to encourage yourself and reward yourself for all that you are going through.
I don’t know about you, but the moment I go outside, take a deep breath and enjoy just being outdoors, it makes a world of difference. If I have been stuck in school all day long, and when I go pick up my students and I just take that in and let that sun just hit my body, it makes me so happy. Go outside, take your learning outside, why not take your class outside and teach a math lesson out there? Do it, because being outside, and just changing your environment quickly like that for 10 minutes can shift that mindset and make you a happier teacher.
Plan Something You Can Look Forward To
I mentioned this a little bit earlier, it is important that you plan things. So for me, I like to plan vacations, and they might be a year away, but at least it’s something that I can plan and I can save money for because then it just gives me something else to remember and focus my efforts on. So plan something, it can be something with your class, it can be anything, but just do that planning and I like to count down on a calendar. Whatever it might be, but it just gives us something positive to uplift us, encourage and keep us moving day to day.
Smile and Remember to Have Fun
We are all stressed. We are, we all have a lot do to. We need to remember to make light and be happy with what we do. We are teachers, we have an amazing career, we get to do things that a lot of people don’t get to do and we want to remember that. So the next time when you have a difficult student in your class and you’ve just hit the end of your road and you’re just discouraged and feeling defeated, smile. Remember why you are there, have fun. Do things you enjoy. It’s going to make a huge difference for the teacher that’s in that classroom for your students. Enjoy where you are. You’ve made this choice to be a teacher, enjoy it.