September 5, 2012 by

Ten Tips for Building Teacher Resiliency

In July, I wrote “Building Resiliency in Struggling Students: 7 Key Ideas from the Research.” The topic of resiliency got a lot of people talking, and I heard from many of you about the challenges you face when trying to reach your students. In all this talk about resiliency, one important topic sometimes gets left out—teachers.  

As educators, our mission is to take care of students. Our job is to help ensure their success and see to it that they develop the skills, attitudes, and knowledge necessary to lead happy and productive lives. However, sometimes we forget to put the same energy and passion into taking care of ourselves. Here are my top 10 ways to deal with stress and build resiliency for educators:

  1. Maintain perspective. In challenging or stressful times, remind yourself that you make a difference.  In what other profession do you have the chance to daily influence a person’s entire life?
  2. Control your calendar. Create time for family, exercise, and fun activities. Actually place those times on your calendar and promise yourself that you’ll follow through on commitments to yourself.  If you find it difficult to leave school at a reasonable hour, place an alarm on your calendar or phone as a reminder to go home.
  3. Deal with conflict or difficult issues quickly and honestly. Remember what your dentist says: Rarely do problems get better by ignoring them
  4. Take care of your body. Diet, exercise, and sleep are fundamental to dealing with stress and building resiliency. Don’t succumb to the lame excuse that you don’t have the time or money to be healthy. You need to take care of yourself so that you can be healthy enough to take care of other people.
  5. Find a professional passion. It can be a challenge to keep current on education trends, research, and best practices. One of the best ways to stay current is to find and cultivate a professional passion. Find what you love most about teaching and learning and dive in and become an expert.  
  6. Embrace change. In the last 10 years, our profession has had to embrace change like no other time in the past. Rightfully, our communities hold high expectations for us, and our students deserve the very best. If you are teaching the same lessons and using the same materials with the same strategies as you did five years ago, it may be time to shake things up. 
  7. Laugh. Humor is one of the best ways to combat stress, and it helps to place difficult or challenging situations into the proper perspective. Plus, a good laugh makes you feel better and makes you more pleasant to be around.
  8. Avoid complaining. This is true for #6 and complaining about students, parents, coworkers, policy, school leadership, or the profession in general. There is no such thing as a perfect school or a perfect organization. Work to make things better, but remember, the grass is rarely greener on the other side.  Maybe also reread #3.
  9. Develop a professional support network. Because this profession can be lonely, we need to find ways to support one another. Avoid the temptation to stay isolated in your classroom; seek out fellow educators for support and collaboration. 
  10. Take a risk. Stretch yourself beyond your comfort zone and try something new. After all, we ask kids to take risks on a daily basis.  We ask them to learn something new, to try something they’ve never tried, and to be better than they were the day before. So be a model for your kids. If you fail, laugh and learn how to be better next time. If you succeed, celebrate. 

How do you take care of yourself so that you can better care for your students?