Over the years, certain patterns have developed in the cycle of posts. August has been the time to reflect on teaching and the thoughtful efforts by teachers to set the stage for a positive school year. This pattern continues with a series of posts on self -care, understanding your content and child development, and keeping up with the digital tools that enhance our profession. Whether you’re still at the beach or prepping lesson plans or perhaps already in the classroom, read on.
Despite the myth that teachers get the “summer off,” many teachers take advantage of the lull in the year to dig out from the year, find themselves and/or get away from it all. Once school ends, it can take a few weeks to wind down, then the slower pace kicks in and a heightened level of sanity takes over. For me, that tends to last a couple of weeks and then I get the Itch. I wake up with lesson ideas or memories of teachable moments that weren’t so teachable in the ways I intended. Or I’m up late researching new curriculum, reading new books, sorting through old materials, making lists. The ebb and flow of work and rest throughout the year is something teachers share. Given a choice, most of us would not give up summer, but then again, most of us do not go on a full hiatus all summer.
That heightened sense of sanity we teachers achieve in the summer stems from the time and ability to take better care of ourselves, our loved ones, our living environments. We’re permitted to have some fun, invest in our teaching or other passions, and keep our eye on the upcoming school year. Oh, and sleep and exercise a bit more, too. However, once the school year kicks in, leisurely reading over coffee, long bike rides, extra time with family and taking care of ourself are usually compromised, at least until Thanksgiving break.
Sustaining that feeling of summer sanity while juggling the demands of teaching and life can be challenging, but not impossible. Below are 6 strategies you can employ as the school year approaches and rely upon as the year unfolds all in the name of keeping your sanity!
1. Be proactive about staying balanced.
If you’re not already familiar with Mike Anderson’s book, The Well-Balanced Teacher, rewind to my post A Well-Balanced Read. Better yet, grab a copy of this succinct book (easily read during a rainy evening or sunny afternoon at the beach) and set some goals for taking care of yourself this year.
2.Take care of yourself.
Teachers tend to be the kind of people most likely to skip meals, skip exercises, skimp on sleep. (You know who you are!). As humans, we need to refuel and restore ourselves. This means making smart choices in the food we consume, consuming adequate amounts of food, staying hydrated and sleeping sufficiently so that you can maintain your energy. By starting now to establish or maintain healthy habits, you’re more likely to stay committed as the year unfolds.
3. Be active.
Stay on the move, or add some movement to your school year routine. I know teachers who wear a pedometer and strive to hit 10,000 steps a day (pretty attainable for most teachers!). Others invested in a bike and logged hundreds of miles this summer. Find a yoga or zumba class, go for a swim or a hike. We know what endorphins do for stress and what fresh air and good breathing does for the mind. Find a way to carve just 15-20 minutes a day to move.
4. Pursue your passions.
If the summer allowed for time for rejuvenation and exploration, find ways to continue following your own interests all year or to explore new ones. All work and no play makes Lisa a dull person, a cranky teacher, and a dull girl overall. Make time to read, volunteer, do or watch something for the sheer sake of entertainment or joy. Your plans and students will be there the next day, and they might even thank you for investing the time in what you find relaxing and worthwhile!
5. Let go and de-stress.
Stress is part of life. It can work for good or evil, so find ways to let go of what is not serving you. Activities you enjoy and exercise help minimize stress. Breathwork and meditation are simple stress management techniques that can be used throughout the day and for the most part, are free and easily accessible.
6. Surround yourself with happiness and positivity.
Research has shown that simple strategies like surrounding yourself with positive people and practicing habits of kindness and gratitude build resilience, reduce stress and increase happiness. Find those people. Connect to those people. Offer what you can to those people and accept their help with grace and humility.
Remember that taking care of yourself is just as important as caring for your students.