Self Care Isn’t Selfish

I get it. I totally get it. There have been nights when I wanted to cry in my classroom after school, and there have been nights that I do. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE my job. 96% of the time I wake up excited to go to work, I roam the halls looking for students to engage with, and I thank God that I get to call what I love to do, “work.”

The other 4% of the time, I want to cry, yell, eat, or all of the above. It’s not pretty. But I am absolutely unapologetic about it. I am a passionate person. I pour my guts into teaching. I’ve got a lot of skin in the game so when something goes wrong, I take it pretty personally.

If you are sitting at your desk after school in a fury or awaiting your doomsday class during your prep, then you and I could have something in common. Again, for the majority of the time, this is not me; but the moments that it is, stinks.

Whether it’s parents, faculty, lesson plans, kiddos, or funding, we all feel the teacher burnout sometimes. Remember, it’s okay not to be okay, it’s not okay to stay that way.

Our school is big on cura personalis, care for the entire person. “You can’t pour from an empty cup” type of idea. There are two tell tale signs I am not taking care of myself.

 

I don’t workout.

I don’t spend time with Jesus journaling / reading the Bible.

 

When I see those things go away, I know I am not taking care of myself. Why is that such a big deal? I love what one extremely busy revivalist (I can’t remember who) proclaimed, “I am way too busy to not spend time with God.” As frustrated and impatient as I get when I don’t spend time with God, it is imperative that I make time to align myself with God’s heart.

Here are some tips that I have picked up when I am feeling burnt out or frustrated. I don’t know what your situation is, and frankly, our profession carries a lot of luggage. My guess, or hope, is that you are an amazing person that hit a rock. Being a teacher is sacrifice, and hard work, grit, and energy. Let’s see if one of these strategies, for lack of a better term, can bring back your light.

Before we start, remember, you can only control your attitude and your effort. Everything else is out of your hands. Tough love.

Spend time with God

1st things first. Are you running on your own energy, your own creative ideas, and your own patience? Oh good, me too. But let’s not stay this way. Let’s plug into what God has for us, I know it is far better than what I can do on my own.

Start simple, 10 minutes a day. That will add up to 70 minutes a week! That is a good place to start.

There are no bad days, just bad moments

Totally cannot take credit for this. I love reading anything from Jon Gordon, author of The Energy Bus.

I used to let one bad period ruin a whole day. Or if practice (at the end of the day) went poorly, then the whole day was down the drain. That is a lot of day to waste! Not any more!

I wear my emotions on my sleeve so when I come into the staff room after a rough period they will ask, “Huh, bad day?” “Nope, just a bad moment.”

Take whatever alone time you can get, breathe, and move on and whatever you do. Do. not. bring. anyone. else. down. Deal with it at the end of the day. Definitely write a note so you can process later, because that is important. But move on.

Remember the age of the kids

This is a personal one. Do you want to know a secret? Sometimes, after class. I sit down at my desk and repeat, “They are 13 years old. They are 13 years old. They are 13 years old.” About 30 times.

One of my biggest prayers is that I would see my kiddos as God does: not a finished product, but a work in progress. As a teacher, we are called to help prune our children into amazing people; we do not always get to see the fruits of our labors.

Write down 10 things (or as many as it takes) that you are grateful for

This is super practical.

Here are a few things that cannot stay when thankfulness is present: anger, disappointment, resentment, impatience, being irritable.

Get perspective. Do not get drawn into the awful. Rather, make an intentional stance to move your heart into a place of peace.

When you are done writing, you may need to speak it into life. Yes, say it out loud.

Misery loves company

Do not surround yourself with enablers. I am serious. Is there a difference between ranting and venting? Sure. I might grab a coworker to let off some steam during lunch BUT:

  • It is in private.
  • I give them a time cap to keep me accountable on.
  • I find a solution.

Breathe

Too cliche? Maybe. You could look up a bunch of intelligent facts on how breathing physically relaxes you but I am telling you to take 10 deep breaths right now.

Selfcare

Leave work. This is totally a “calling the kettle black” scenario, but I’m getting better at it. I don’t know what the best number is, but I would say, you need to leave the classroom 2 hours after school ends. This varies of course with after school clubs, meetings, coaching, etc. All that aside, you need healthy boundaries! You need to have a life outside of the school. Join a fitness group, have a game night, do something productive!

Find like-minded people

Or people that are minded like you want to be. Careful, because this next piece of advice can be a rabbit hole.

Find your Instagram / Facebook / Twitter / podcast teacher community. I follow numerous AMAZING teachers that inspire me with their classroom set up, engaging activities, fun classroom games, etc. This is not a place for comparison, (although many of them are very real by sharing how imperfect their classrooms are). This is a place to remind you why you started teaching in the first place. 

In conclusion

I used to think that it didn’t matter what profession I chose as long as I made money. I would be an engineer just like my parents and if I didn’t like my job, I could cry it out in my Lamborghini. After my first year of college (in engineering) I realized I would rather live loving what I do in my 2008 Kia Sportage than have all the cars in the world. And I do, I love my job.

When you are having one of those days, pray for strength, take a 2 minute vent session, then breathe, and move on.

If you don’t make education an adventure, who will?

Desk Boxes

Why I have duck tape on my floors

People ask me ALL the time why I have duck tape on my floors! It is not the traditional grey duck tape you get at a hardware store. This is bright, eye catching, flamboyant hot pink!

10 Lessons From My 1st Year Teaching

She hides her smile behind her coffee cup as she waves goodbye to her husband as he heads off to work. She couldn’t tell you the month let alone what day of the week it is. To top it off, she wears jeans or leggings every day. She is, the teacher on summer break.

We’ve all been there right!? Well, I am enjoying my first “teacher summer” in Alaska, and it is amazing.

Before the next school year started, I wanted to reflect on my journal from last year. As I read, I remember so many lessons learned. Some are practical lessons, many are desperate prayers, and some make me shake my head and laugh. Through my reading, I have compiled a list of the top 10 entries I could find from my 1st year teaching. You might read these and think, “Duh!” And that’s okay! My hope is that you would either learn something valuable, or, be able to shake your head and laugh like I did!

I thought it was appropriate to start with the most “duh” moment I had.

1.Have a seating chart!

I had this great idea that I was going to teach my kiddos self discipline and ownership by allowing them to sit where ever they would like. Bad idea. Not because I want my class to be “pen drop” silent, but because I was not setting my kiddos up for success against my previously made, not so clear, expectations.

When I could feel students wandering from the lesson, I would threaten, “Do I need to make a seating chart?” And though that usually got the class to quiet down for a few moments, I realized, yes, I do need to make a seating chart! My classroom desperately needed structure and consistency.

It took me until the 2nd week of school, but I made a seating chart for all my classes. There were zero complaints. I even found that some students got excited to sit by people they did not know, but were afraid to initiate conversation with. When I made the seating chart, I was in control of my classroom and we could dive into the adventure of learning!

BONUS: Free seating is a great FREE reward for awesome class behavior.

2. “Dislike or resentment toward a student will sabotage my ability to love them, help them, or manage my classroom.”

I am sure I wrote this after giving an impatient, sarcastic answer back to a kid that soon afterwards, shut down.

The difference between using sarcasm to uplift and to hurt is heart posture. (To be honest, I don’t like the word sarcasm, because it insinuates rudeness, I prefer to think I have sassiness. To each his own).

Everything I want to speak on this I learned from Rita Pierson’s, Every kid Needs a Champion, if you haven’t seen it, take the time to watch it. This video brought a defining shift in my teaching pedagogy.

3. Get finals done 3 weeks early!

Enough said right?

4. Give more feedback on assignments.

ESPECIALLY ON WRITING! I don’t want to reach 3rd quarter and wonder why student’s can write a solid paragraph, that’s on ME! My mentor had a great recommendation, time consuming but VALUABLE to create fundamental foundations!

Have a simple/fun argument writing assignment at the beginning of the year. (Example: I gave my students a great list of This vs. That topics that they could choose from. I included simple ideas such as: Dog vs. Cat, Pepsi vs. Coke, Batman vs. Superman). After going through brain storming and outlining, I have my student’s write their first draft, here is where the time consuming piece comes in..

Sit down with every student and read their piece out loud to them, making corrections out loud. I told you, it’s going to be time consuming. But now I know, without a shadow of a doubt, that my students know my expectations for their writing. I of course, have them turn in their rough draft with the final draft to ensure proper edits were made

This foundation establishes a base on which everything is built.

5. “I determine the energy of the class.”

“Your positive energy must be greater than anyone and everyone’s negativity (Jon Gordon, The Energy Bus).” That is powerful! Read it again if you have to! As a teacher, I fight negativity, apathy, doubt, complaining, and this list goes on. It is my job to IGNITE and AWAKEN creativity in learning, this is no easy task but I sure as heck can’t do that if I act like I don’t want to be there!

I will not sit in my desk as students walk in, it makes me feel apathetic and gives me a slow start. I get so excited for class to start that I will walk outside and talk to a few teachers, say hello to kids walking in the halls, or greet kiddos as they are coming into class. Once that bell rings I am racing to the front of the room clapping and yelling something along the lines of, “LET’S GET LEARNING!”

Get the ‘buy in’ of your students by setting up expectations of energetic learning at the door. Whew, I am getting excited just thinking about it, anyone else?

6. “I surrender, I surrender, I surrender, I surrender, I surrender, I surrender, I surrender, I surrender, I surrender.”

A prayer I use not when I give up, but when I stop trying to do things on my own and align with God’s plan. 

7. “Worrying is just a cute little word I use when I refuse to trust you.”

See above 🙂

8. “Follow me one step at a time. That is ALL I require of you.”

I got this from my Jesus Calling by Sarah Young. They are 1-2 minute devotionals written from the perspective of God to you, the reader. It is encouraging and life giving; gets me every time.

9. Keep journals IN classroom next year.

Another practical. How many times can I tell my kiddos, “You should have 1 notebook for THIS CLASS ONLY!” and see 8 other class notes, a personal diary, and photo album!? Lord help me.

10. Hang up more student art!

In the beginning of the year, do a project where students create something or bring something in and hang it on the walls. This shows students they have ownership of the classroom AND you are proud of their work. I would like to think this also creates accountability to make projects AWESOME if they think they are going to be hung up.

11. Start a journal

Yep! That’s right a bonus!

When I started my student-teaching, my mentor got me a cute pocket agenda. For every day of the week, she encouraged me to write 1 thing down that happened that day. It could be:

  • A lesson learned
  • Something funny that a student said
  • A massive success
  • A massive failure
  • A quote from a reading we did
  • Anything I wanted

I will once again challenge myself to write down 1 thing that happened in the day, so that I can look back on all the lessons, all the prayers, and all the laughs.

Thanks for reading!