Late October/early November is often said to be one of the most difficult periods of the year for teachers. At this point, you’ve been hard at work for over 2 months and a significant break is still a ways away.
The demands of the job this time of year can have teachers feeling like they’re on a constant treadmill and unable to catch up between conferences, report cards, support meetings … and the list goes on. In the midst of this busy season for all of us, I want to remind you of the importance of taking care of yourself first.
It can be difficult to take the time and steps needed for healthy self-care, but it’s absolutely vital if you want to be the best teacher possible for your students.
So today, I’m sharing 3 practical ways teachers can advocate for themselves and remain healthy, balanced, and encouraged this school year!
1. Record the positives.
Research has shown that creating a gratitude list can be an extremely helpful tool for cultivating a positive mindset amidst challenging circumstances. That’s why I want to I challenge you to write down ONE positive moment or thing you are grateful for in your classroom each day.
Taking time daily to reflect on what is going well – whether it’s a breakthrough moment with a student, a supportive conversation with a co-worker, or even a productive prep time – can actually help you feel more positive and less overwhelmed by your work! It’s crazy, but there is science backing this one up. Give it a try! And extra bonus points if you are grateful for someone you work with, and you actually tell them that! Send a kind email, drop a note in their mailbox, or just tell them in person! It’s a win-win situation for everyone.
2. Take your lunch break (and planning)!
If you are contractually guaranteed a lunch and a planning, you need to take your lunch and planning! So often sped teachers will give this up to make a schedule work out, but the reality is you NEED these times.
Yes, it’s important to be a team player, and there are days you are short-staffed and can cover when needed. But, your typical schedule should include a lunch and a planning for you. If you haven’t figured this out yet, bring it up to your admin and advocate for yourself! Ultimately, your students deserve a teacher who is adequately prepared for class and you deserve your planning time to make that happen!
Also, if you can, try not to work through your lunch break! It can be so tempting to work all the way through lunch, but I find that the days where I resist that urge and take my 20 minutes to just sit, think, and relax for a little bit allow me to feel more recharged and ready to meet whatever the afternoon holds with compassion, patience, and joy!
3. Find a (helpful) support system.
Having a supportive friend you can discuss the challenges, frustrations, and joys of your daily teaching life with is an important part of teacher self-care! BUT, be sure you choose this friend wisely, and that your conversation is one that is productive.
This conversation should leave you feeling better, not worse, about the state of things at your school. Also, I would advise that newer teachers especially try to avoid people who are negative or make less than encouraging comments!
Sharing your teaching struggles with a small, supportive group of people and letting them encourage you and remind you of all the amazing reasons you are in this profession can make all the difference. This support system might be one of your co-workers, or maybe it’s someone totally outside of school. The important thing is that you know who you can go to when you need encouragement.
So, there you have it! Hang in there, fellow teachers. I know this time of year can be tough, but we’ve got this. I’m proud of you and cheering you own!
Leave a comment letting me know your best tips for self-care and we can all learn from each other!
Kelsey Smith is a special education teacher for elementary students on a modified curriculum in Nashville, Tennessee. Prior to her current teaching job, she spent one year teaching in an inclusive Kindergarten classroom. Kelsey completed her bachelor’s degree in special education from Peabody College at Vanderbilt University and is a proud Commodore. Although she is still a newer teacher, she is looking forward to sharing her insights and classroom experiences with the CEC community. She also shares more ideas on her classroom Instagram account, @exceptionalelementary. Outside of work, she enjoys spending time outside and eating Mexican food.