Teachers pour their hearts and souls into what they do every single day.
They go above and beyond for their students, always searching for new ways to reach them or connect with them. Teachers are always researching new strategies or lesson ideas, trying to stay current and on top of the newest educational trends. They are always thinking of new ways to approach behavior management and ways to develop a stronger classroom culture. Teachers get to school early, in order to prepare for the day ahead, and then the students arrive. The hustle and bustle of the day begins: teaching, supporting, questioning, exploring, conferencing…it seems to all happen in a non-stop blur. And before they know it, the final bell rings. But a teacher’s day doesn’t end when the last bell rings; it doesn’t even end when he or she eventually gets into the car at the end of the day, even if it’s a few hours after that final bell. Teachers are always living and breathing their profession, inside and outside of the classroom. They take their work home with them. There’s grading to do, data to examine to help drive follow-up instruction, e-mails to respond to, and a mound of additional paperwork to support SGOs, PLCs, PDPs….which sometimes makes teachers start to feel the OMGs. It all starts to feel like it’s becoming too much and that you’re barely keeping your head above water. The whirlwind of the never-ending to-do list feels overwhelming, and even the greatest and strongest educators feel the pressure of the high expectations. Teachers devote their lives to what they do. They give so much of themselves to their profession, their students, and their colleagues and too often they forget to take care of themselves in the process which can lead to that dreaded teacher burnout. So how do we prevent that burnout from happening? What can we do to make sure that we continue to be the educational rock stars that we are while taking care of ourselves in the process? Teachers need to B.R.E.A.T.H.E. (of course I couldn’t resist another acronym to go with our trend).
B – Break time!
Teachers often work 12-14 hour days. It feels like there are a million things to do and not enough hours in the day, and teachers are constantly trying to power through the day to get as much done as possible. But no matter how much needs to be done, teachers need to stop and take breaks. We always make sure that our students get brain breaks, so why wouldn’t we need the same? Teachers need to make a conscious effort to put aside some time throughout the day. Giving yourself even 15-20 minutes in between tasks gives your mind time to rest and recharge. Are you someone who tends to work through your lunch period? Make an effort to at least take half of that time to sit, eat, and reflect. Do you get so caught up in what you’re doing that you lose track of the time? Set an alarm on your phone and “schedule” in some break times. Small breaks throughout the day will re-energize you and in the long run, you will be more productive and actually accomplish more.
R – Rest up!
So many times I hear teachers say, “I’ll sleep more when I’m not as busy” or “I can get by on 4-5 hours of sleep because I need all of the waking hours I can get”. Teachers, we have to stop forgoing sleep in the name of doing more! Getting a good night’s sleep is so important to your health and if we don’t start taking care of ourselves, we won’t be any good to anyone else!
E – Eat healthy…or healthy enough!
When you eat a healthy, balanced diet, you feel better. It’s as simple as that. You have more energy and brain power, which can help you feel more fueled throughout the day. Don’t think you have the time to eat healthy? Always feel like you’re eating on the run or eating at inconsistent times throughout the day? Meal-prepping is key. Put aside some time on the weekend to consciously plan out your meals. Consider your schedule for the week and know when you are going to be eating on the run, and have a plan for those times. Pack what you will need every morning based on your schedule so that when meal times come along, you are prepared and ready instead of scrambling for what to grab on the way to the next item on your to-do list. However, eating healthy doesn’t mean you shouldn’t treat yourself to that ice cream sundae or that double-chocolate brownie every so often, because sweet treats bring us happiness, too. It’s all about moderation.
A – Alone time!
Teachers are around other people all day long. They are with students all day in their classrooms, and they are constantly with their colleagues in meetings or touching base about students, upcoming lessons, or school events. They are constantly networking with other educators on social media and connecting with their PLNs. However, as wonderful as it is to connect with others, it is also really important that teachers have some quiet time to just be alone and reflect. The silence can be refreshing, and the alone time can be calming and soothing especially after a busy day.
T – Take time to do something you love!
Whether it’s reading or going on a walk or catching up on your favorite show, set aside a little time every night for your chosen activity. And every weekend, take a big chunk of time and find something not related to school to do that you love. Explore a new place or check out a new restaurant. So often teachers will say that they do not have time to do what they love. However, you can always find the time to do things if you consciously make the time and prioritize your days. Teachers have to start making themselves a priority!
H – Hobbies…and school-related hobbies don’t count!
Developing a hobby is a great way to give your mind a rest and focus on something different that doesn’t have to do with school. Redirecting your focus can help to re-energize and rejuvenate you!
E – Exercise!
Getting exercise can not only help with your physical health, but it can also help with your mental and emotional health, too. Exercise is a great stress reliever, and it can give you the boost of energy that you need. It can help prevent anxiety, too, making you feel more calm, balanced, and positive. It can even help improve your sleep patterns!
Teachers, be proud of the amazing work that you do and of the incredible impact that you have on your students and colleagues. Just please make sure that you always take some time to BREATHE.
Brittany Murro received a BA in Education and a BA in Writing Arts from Rowan University. She currently teaches in Tabernacle, NJ and was named Tabernacle Elementary School’s Governor’s Educator of the Year in 2014-2015. She enjoys serving on various committees and writing curriculum for her district.