Taking the teacher self-care challenge
Practicing Self-Care While Caring For Students
Whew! Teaching is hard work! And the work begins weeks before that infamous first day of school. As a former educator, memories of prepping for my own 32 “First Days of School” remain clearly etched in my mind. Hmmm…let’s see. By now, I am sure you have visited Teacher Stores, Target Dollar Bins (they are not all the same), scoured the Back to School flyers for the best bargains on extra classroom supplies, spent countless hours preparing your classroom, curriculum, organizational strategies, and attending training meetings. In addition to the solitary prep work, it takes to begin a new school year, educators do much for others- community, students, families, administrators, and teaching teams. By nature, you as a teacher are a caring helper, excellent encourager, and an overall go-getter. Yet, with all those strengths along with strong cognitive abilities, chances are implementing self-care practices (purposeful and sustainable actions that support physical, mental, spiritual, and or emotional health) plummets to the bottom of your never-ending “To Do” list.
The following are tips I learned through my years in the classroom (some purposefully, some by trial and error, and some from desperation) combined with concepts I support as a Professional Counselor. Let’s jump in and maybe you can implement an idea or two as you begin your new school year.
#1 Accept grace, patience and spaciousness offered BY others and extend that grace to yourself.
#2 Embrace and accept that perfection is a myth, unattainable, and shame’s best friend.
#3 Interrupt negativity. It creates a mental momentum that spills over to your physical world. Learning to redirect your thoughts can help you regain your mind- and, for a teacher during a nonstop day, can come in handy!
#4 Plan and Prioritize for your Planning Time. Instead of doing 875 things (out of 10,000) which will leave you feeling deflated…make a short list of 2-3 things to be accomplished on specific days, while always allowing time to hydrate, grab protein, take a no rush bathroom break, take a no noise break, and connect in a positive way with a colleague.
#5 Set a reasonable time to leave school and here is the challenge…STICK to it! Establishing boundaries for your personal life is a big stress reliever. Choosing 1 day a week to stay after school signals to your brain that on the other days, when you have left the parking lot…your home life begins.
#6 Leave the Teacher Bag at school. Realistically, many nights the “Bag” won’t get touched and when you see it in the morning, you may experience a sense of defeat before your new school day has even started.
#7 Schedule sleep and exercise. Having a plan to unplug sends a message you are prioritizing life beyond and outside the classroom. This helps define your existence other than “teacher.”
#8 Do at least 1 thing each week with your students that reminds you why you chose to teach! In addition, make a point during the week to place a sticky note in your lesson plan book that lists a personal accomplishment, a student(s) victory, and or something that made you smile and let this be a source of joy as you begin a new week.
#9 Finally, bring the love you extend to your students as whole beings, along with their amazing struggles and successes… to yourself!
If you or your school district would like to explore concepts and strategies that support freedom from personal and workplace stress, please reach out. I can be reached at 940-390-9777 (cell) or 940-222-8552 X 104 or find me at www.redeemedlifecounseling.com/team/sherry-allen/
Clinical Director and Co-Owner at Redeemed Life Counseling