By Paula Lorimer
After a few well-deserved months off over the summer to rest and recharge, teachers prepare to return to school. One high school teacher I know said that “August is like a month of Sundays”, anticipating the stress of return to school preparations, collaborating with colleagues, and ensuring curriculums are interesting and meet ministry standards.
Teachers have a tough job being an educator, and also role model, mediator and at times surrogate parent. The profession requires not only an expertise, but also providing personal energy and involvement. A teacher has to ‘show up’ and perform everyday. All the teachers I work with are dedicated, truly care about their students, and love what they do. Some also struggle with how to get everything done, not always feeling effective, and managing stress that can accumulate throughout the year.
Between back to school preparations, classes and students, teaching to many levels of academic needs, grading, committees, and parent-teacher interviews, it can be easy to miss the signs of fatigue and stress. Self-care is required at the beginning of and throughout the year to avoid gradual depletion and to stay in the best teaching form.
Here are some ways that teachers can best take care of themselves to have a successful start to and finish of the school year:
What are the signs when you are getting tired, overwhelmed, or trying to do too much? This can be fatigue, lack of concentration or motivation, anxiety, muscle tension, irritability, and avoiding
important aspects of the job (like grading or meetings). Listen to your body’s way of saying ‘I need a break’.
I would proffer that generally teachers are an organized group. However, I often see teachers organize their class schedules but not plan to take care of themselves. Schedule regular breaks, have down time, get a massage, see friends, go for walks, talk to someone, and book time for stress management activities.
Avoid Comparing with Fellow Teachers
It can be easy to compare how you are doing in your class or grading to another teacher. This creates competition and unnecessary pressure. This is a variation of ‘keeping up with the Jones’. Do what works best for you and stay the course.
You don’t have to be Perfect
I know many teachers who work really hard and put a lot of pressure on themselves. To have their entire curriculum ready on the first day, extra time for parents and students, to have an exciting and thorough class – every class, and to engage every student. These are impossible standards. As a role model, show your students how to set and achieve reasonable expectations.
Play and have fun with your students as you both learn and grow. Have a social life outside of school. Spend time with loved ones who lift you up and join activities you enjoy doing.
Teaching is a rewarding and noble profession, that educates, guides, and inspires. Taking care of yourself will help you breeze through Back to School preparations and maintain low stress levels throughout the year. Self-care also ensures you continue to inspire your students.