Inside: How do you get a teacher/life balance? How do you take care of yourself as a teacher? How do you avoid teacher burnout? Teacher self care is the answer.
With a new year comes a fresh start. For many teachers their resolutions and one words revolve around finding a work/life balance. This means taking care of yourself as a human, to help avoid burnout. This means we need to take care of ourselves.
Unfortunately, teacher self care is harder than it seems. Cult of Pedagogy’s great post Why It’s So Hard for Teachers to Take Care of Themselves nails it. We think busy is normal, we do not realize how dire our situation is, and it is hard to say no to those we care about. Also, she defines self care as something that has a meaningful impact on well being and is something to maintain permanently. This means that our quick fixes over break like one time massages, face masks, bubble baths and Netflix binges in our PJs over our to short break (while awesome) are not enough. Teacher self care needs permanent solutions that focus on well being. Here are my top three suggestions that I am focusing on this year.
I think the number one long term solution as a teacher is to not take school work home. Here is a post from a couple years ago about how I do not take school work home. For me the keys have been setting boundaries, planning ahead, getting organized, prioritizing precious prep time, enlisting help, and not reinventing the wheel. (I do understand that all situations are different and we all have our own unique challenges). Leave school work at school. It sounds revolutionary to some people, but I dare you to try it this year. If it would be impossible, set one day that you stay late at school to get extra things done without distractions, but then leave the grading at school.
Teacher Self Care – Set Routines that prioritize your health
Figure out how you can be proactive to fix the habits that send you down an unhealthy path. This may mean seeking counseling for mental health, making better recreational choices, prioritizing spiritual well being, eating better or getting yourself moving. The key is long term routines that can be maintained.
For me, the key for healthier eating is making my breakfasts and lunches on Sunday for the week. On Sunday I go to Aldi to get the family groceries for the week. I cook a large dinner for us, that includes enough leftovers for me for lunches for the week. In the winter this is often a large pot or soup or chili. I portion these into the perfect lunch size pyrex leftover containers and then each morning just grab one to take for lunch. Other warmer weather favorites for me are stir fry or paella. I also make a big egg and spinach casserole for breakfasts for the week. (Scramble a dozen eggs with milk and cooked spinach. Bake at 400 for about 35-40 minutes. Cut in 6 and microwave a single serving each morning).
To be honest I suck at prioritizing working out. Like most people I will rock January, then come back to working out in the summer when I have time, and maybe do a stint in the fall around October. I know that it is a great stress reliever for me for well being, but I struggle at to maintain it permanently. I think the key is finding something that is manageable and enjoyable. If you do not like it, you will not keep with it. For example the 21 day fix is just that, a quick fix. It is seven days a week, which is not something that I can maintain year round. I finish it, feel accomplished, and then quit. Instead I need a manageable and realistic goal like 20-30 minutes 3-4 times per week of something I enjoy. It also needs to be in my schedule, and I have to stop feeling bad for taking time for myself away from my family. As a teacher this could be taking a short walk during your prep, and another to clear you head after school.
Teacher Self Care – Put down the phone
Like most people, teachers get sucked into the social media teacher world. We can spend hours after school scrolling teacher Insta, hunting ideas for the perfect bulletin board on Pinterest, get lost in the feeds of teacher Facebook groups and check work emails at home. The comparison game makes us feel inadequate and we spend hours a night absorbing the lives of other people instead of creating a life of our own. The screen time app really brought it into perspective for me. The weekly updates on Sunday made me sick to my stomach and I realized how much of my precious time I am wasting being absorbed in the lives of others online. Where you spend your time, shows what you value.
I set a social media time limit each day. Then once you hit it, to open an app you have the chance to say ignore for 15 minutes if you really need to do something. Do I go past this limit? Yes, but now I am much more aware. Putting down the phone gives time for real conversations with partners, children, friends and family members. It also give time to hobbies like reading, crafting, actually watching your favorite show, and other things you listed that you enjoyed in middle school before smartphones took over the world. If you want to get really crazy, have hobbies that do not involve teaching, which means read books for fun and not just PD and craft something for yourself, not just cutting out bulletin board letters for your classroom.
Bonus Check out the book – Fewer Things Better
If you leave the school work at school, prioritize your health and put the phone down, this year could be the year that you do not burn out as a teacher. Self care is not selfish and we need to put ourselves first so we can better serve our needs and then our students.
What are you doing this year to prioritize yourself?
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