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Self-Care for Teachers: Why It`s Important and 5 Ways to Practice It

 

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Self-Care for Teachers: Why It's Important and 5 Ways to Practice It
by: Bernice Chua ~ 2/4/2022

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There’s nothing that a teacher can’t do for their students. It’s true. Teachers are naturally gifted with big and giving hearts. But what can be your greatest strength can also be your greatest weakness. You always put your students first; sometimes even before your health. While your intentions are in the right place, it may not yield the desired outcome for both you and your students.

So much of classroom behavior is reflected by a teacher’s conduct. When you’re not feeling together, your students can pick it up really quickly. If you’re not in a level mind to discipline your class, tempers can flare and feelings can get hurt. These feelings get in the way of learning and may create even more problems with trust and communication.

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Social Emotional Learning, SEL for short, is taught to children at a very young age with adults as their role models. The CASEL framework highlights 5 core competencies in SEL that both children and adults need to master to be able to learn and interact effectively in a social environment. These key areas are self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision-making.

Students who have healthy relationships with their teachers are more likely to be academically engaged, have stronger social skills and show more positive behavior. When you’re not physically, mentally and emotionally ready, you put your student relationships at risk. There are many resources out there covering SEL for students so in today’s blog we’d like to focus on SEL for teachers. We’re sharing 5 ways you can take care of yourself so you can take care of your class and be the role model they can turn to.

1. Take some quiet time for yourself

Teachers juggle a lot during the day. A typical school day is filled with noisy classrooms to manage, quarrels to mediate and countless things to get done. There is a lot of buzz in a teacher’s head!

There’s a saying that “just a cup of tea can be a deep meditation”. Take a few minutes of quiet time alone to take deep breaths to calm your nervous system. Giving yourself a short break from all the stimulation happening around you can be a simple and accessible way to regain composure in the middle of a chaotic day. It can help clear your mind so you can make sound decisions instead of letting the demands of the day take over you.

2. Know your threshold for stress

Recognize the first signs of stress such as increased heart rate, irritability, sleep issues, change in appetite or fatigue. The warning signs are different for everybody but try to notice when you’re starting to feel pressured or impatient. Identify which events trigger stress for you the most and write down practical action steps you can take to manage your stress effectively. Is it problematic student behavior? Addressing parent concerns or meeting their expectations? Are you given too many extra duties that go beyond your role as classroom teacher? These are only a few of the many causes of stress and burnout for teachers and we’re sure there are many others. The idea is to name the stressor so you can find ways to prevent it or lessen its impact on you in the future.

Say a child is going through learning challenges and none of your strategies are working. In addition to that, you don’t feel supported by the parents. So you hold yourself accountable for the child’s performance at school. By identifying this as a recurring stressor, you can begin to take steps in improving the situation before it takes its toll on you. You might want to try brainstorming with other teachers for new ideas, or seeking the support of your school director in contacting the parents. You can remind yourself that you’re not alone and you’re not solely responsible for the child’s behavior. It takes a village to raise a child and many times teachers forget that.

Or you might be feeling overwhelmed with all the planning you need to get done by next week. Maybe this keeps you awake at night. Remember that it’s not the end of the world when a lesson doesn’t go as planned. How your students respond to a lesson is out of your control. Assure yourself you’ve done your best.

Asking for help and practicing mindfulness are some ways you can manage your stress.

3. Go back to basics

Check if you’re fulfilling your basic needs. Get enough quality sleep and don’t skip meals. It’s all too common for teachers to postpone sleeping or eating in favor of getting things done. After all, there are many lessons to revise, assignments to grade, and materials to prepare with such little time in the day. Sleeping late or skipping meals might seem convenient at the time but eating and sleeping less also means getting less energy during the day, leaving you tired which can affect your ability to concentrate and prevent you from giving your best. Find ways to relax your mind and body when it’s time to sleep or eat because you need a rested mind and body in order to fully support your students.

4. Don’t be afraid to say no

If you say yes to doing more when you’re already doing a lot, you reinforce the idea that it’s okay to keep giving you work. Sometimes It’s hard to say no when there’s no one else who can do the job. Don’t be afraid to say no and advocate for yourself. Teachers often forget that they are the glue that holds it all together. Practice putting your needs first and learn to communicate them effectively. It’s okay to push back if you are being expected to expand your duties while your days are already full.

5. Start your day on a positive note

When you wake up in the morning, do something that can lift your mood. Instead of involuntarily grabbing your phone to check school-related emails or messages, go for a quick run or do what puts you in the right mindset for the day. It’s easier said than done but practice on giving yourself a break because you deserve it. Use the start of your day to refresh your mind, move your body and generate energy and enthusiasm for the day ahead.

Teachers can practice self-care on a daily basis and it need not be complicated - small changes can go a long way. In the same way you make time and adjustments for every child in your classroom, you can make the necessary adjustments in your life to fit in your needs so you can better take care of yourself and everyone that depends on you.

“Taking care of yourself doesn’t mean me first. It means me too.” - L.R. Knost


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