Updated: Jun 17, 2020
Hi, my name is Erin and I am obsessed with all things teaching. Teacher conferences... yes please. Markers on sale... buy them all. New planner... yup, I need that. Teacher book on presale... must have... the thicker the book, the better. I fall asleep mentally planning small groups. I wake up thinking about new seating charts and I genuinely think my best lessons ever have been planned while I'm washing my hair. I am all in. I love it. But IT. IS. EXHAUSTING. For real. At this point of the year, I start the countdown to spring break. When that's over, I'll immediately start the countdown to summer. And I don't really feel bad about it.
I don't know about you, but I honestly think that NOT teaching, makes me a better teacher. Don't get me wrong. I don't mean I dream of leaving my classroom in the dust, never to have a student utter "Mrs. Hansen?!" again... I just think that time away from my classroom allows my brain to refresh and recharge. It allows my mind to open back up to the JOY in teaching. There is something special that happens when you give a teacher a moment's rest. I swear someday I am going to write a "Give a Teacher a Rest" picture book and just like that mouse and the cookie, I'm positive that we as teachers could #doallthethings. Afterall, we're the ultimate life-long learners.
Initially we'll start that ever-so-needed down time by savoring long sips of coffee (or tea... or wine? no judgement.) while we unwind. But then, in those quiet moments, a little mental clarity starts to creep in. It's in that time spent away from the hustle and bustle of the school halls, that we can up our teaching potential though personal self care and self-driven personal development.
Here are a few super simple ways to provide energy and feed your passion for this fabulous yet exhausting career:
I once saw a meme that said "Teachers are solar powered... they recharge during summer." I mean, ain't that the truth?!
Use the time you aren't actively teaching to do whatever you want to do. Whatever fulfills you. If I had it my way, that would mean a nap every afternoon, but alas... kids. So instead, I like to carve mini-rest times into my day. The first moments in the morning always start with a warm cup of coffee and my favorite #instateacher stories. Then there's Netflix with the hubs some evenings, the Great British Baking Show while I'm doing laundry (oh how I hate laundry), or my favorite Monday night yoga class.
I get that some of those don't sound like traditional "rest" activities per-say, but knowing that I have little chunks of time dedicated to things I enjoy, allows me to take on the rest of the day with a fresh attitude. I'm able to walk into my classroom with a better outlook and a little bit of balance.
2. SET A TIMER
I struggle with grading and the never-ending pile of paper that replenishes itself everyday. Throw a set of lab reports or essays in, and they will eternally be in that "I'll get around to them eventually" bin. Question: Do people make those adorable vinyl stickers for classroom bins with "I'll get around to it eventually" on them? Because if not, I'm going into business with them. After 10 years of carrying piles of papers with me everywhere I go, I finally figured out something that works for me. The timer.
When I have a task to do that I could reeeeaaaally see myself pushing off for a later time, I set a timer to 15 or 30 minutes. Then, I turn my phone upside down and relocate to another table in the room. I can do anything for 15 minutes and I consider myself a super-star if I can stay focused longer than that. But seriously, carving out small chunks of time has helped me be more productive. It has also helped me have a more positive mindset about it... throw in a cup of hot coffee and I'm practically on vacation! Oh, and if I'm feeling fancy, I put on "The Piano Guys" station on Pandora. Seriously, check it out... current tunes with classical vibes.
3. LEARN SOMETHING NEW
As teachers, we live for moments when we see lightbulbs go off in our students eyes. They instantly smile and look brighter and they have such a positive outlook when what they've been struggling with finally clicks. We'll if your feeling fried, I encourage you to go learn something new. Get those synapses firing. Whether it be teaching or non-teaching related, diving into a fresh learning experience that you get to choose to take on will undoubtedly brighten up your life. Find a great book, great blog, free online webinars (love those), or my personal favorite, a podcast.
I have to give credit where credit is due here so Kevin, thank you for being an amazing husband, and also, thank you for introducing me to the world of podcasts. You are right Kev, they are such a great way of getting personalized content.
Podcasts are basically professional development at your fingertips... not feeling it? Pause (ever sat in a PD and wish you had that ability?). Love it? Binge! You know when you go to a conference and listen to a fabulous speaker and wish you could just sit with them over coffee and let them fill your spirit with their words of wisdom? With podcasts, you can. I inevitably learn something new every time I press play and there are sooo many quality, content-rich podcasts out there. Here are a few of my current favs:
Have a personal favorite?! I'd love to hear about it. Share in the comments below.
4. HAPPY HOUR
Whether it is a night out on the town with your girls, or a quick coffee break before your staff meeting. Dedicate yourself to spending quality time with people you enjoy. When I was at my last school, my favorite days used to be when we had our PLC meetings because we were lucky enough to work just close enough to a Starbucks that we were able to walk there and back before our meeting started after school. That 15 minute turn around gave us the break we needed to tackle our agenda.
My only tip here is to try to refrain from "unpacking all the negativity of the day" trend that is so so easy to do when you're chatting with coworkers. Yes, these souls will understand your struggles better than anyone, but does dwelling in the negativity ever really make you feel better? Now, what about chatting with your coworker about his or her plans for the weekend or maybe how you recently ran into a former student? How does that change your perspective... probably for the positive, right?
I am lucky to have had seriously amazing coworkers in all of my teaching placements and I'm sure you have someone on your staff too. So whether you are popping out for a quick beverage together, or destroying a bag of Reese's Peanut Butter cups after a particularly challenging day, interacting with your favorite people is bound to boost your energy levels. And if it doesn't... well, my hope is that you are able to find a tribe tribe of people who do.
4. GET OUTSIDE
I guess you could consider this topic synonymous with fitting some activity into your day, but for me, walking out of my four-walled classroom (that has no natural light) instantly lift my spirits. When I was at the middle school and had a prep-period every day, I used to make it a goal to get outside a few times a week. All it took was one lap around the school campus to feel refreshed and when I was dealing with a particularly rough day, I made it two laps.
Getting outside always helps me remember that my classroom is not the only place in the world where I get to operate. We spend what can seem like endless hours there and although we usually put our heart and soul into making our classrooms into a home away from home, there's really nothing more wonderful than a little fresh air. Breathe it all in. If sneaking in a few minutes during school hours doesn't fit your set up, see if you can fit some time outdoors in once you get home or after dinner. Personally, this is what always, always works... how about you?
Now, I know this post is not new or earth-shattering advice and I would be seriously concerned if you hadn't heard it before. But sometimes we all need a little reminder of how much of an impact time away from our profession can provide on our profession. Step away and when you're ready to return, you'll be ready to step up!