Feeling a little worn out? You’re not alone. Planning, going to meetings, talking to parents, scrounging supplies, cleaning up messes, supervising, putting on Band-Aids, reassuring and giving cuddles to students, are only some of the activities that keep teachers busy. No wonder they get worn out.
Many teachers feel tired out because they care so much. Teaching young children requires loads of energy, as well as the ability to put on a happy face, even on the days when they don’t feel so great.
Add to that an abundance of social media posts showcasing amazing projects other teachers and students are involved in. It’s easy for us to look at all the not so exciting things going on in our own classes and feel inadequate.
We forget that most people post only their highlights. Other teachers feel inadequate too. We put crazy expectations on ourselves that we’re supposed to be never-ending wells of wisdom, joy and nurturing when we really just want to go home.
Hopefully, the four tips below gleaned from my years of teaching, may help you continue to enjoy being an educator and experience its many rewarding moments.
1. Take care of yourself FIRST
You’ve heard it often but you have to take care of yourself first. It’s better to use your time to shop for and prepare nutritious meals for yourself, to go to bed earlier, to get some rest and recreation on your weekends, than to grab too many fast foods, stay up late and use all your “off work” time preparing yet another amazing activity for your students. They’ll have a better time with a healthy, relaxed teacher than with one that is worn out and stressed.
2. Hold back from being over dedicated
It’s one thing to enjoy your work and to take pride in it, but it’s another to care too much at the expense of your own health. If your dedication to your job is interfering with your own relationships and impedes you from having a life of your own, you may need to reconsider your zeal. You can’t help every family, every student, and every problem. Sometimes it’s better to make do with a not so awesome curriculum if your school board dictates it than to be troubled about it. The stresses of championing add up and you may miss out on important moments in your life.
3. Give up complaining
Complaining keeps your mind focused on problems and is the opposite of creative problem-solving. Being part of a group of complainers leaves you feeling like a victim. Complaining and its friends, cynicism, fault finding and blaming deplete energy that could be used for more innovative and imaginative ventures.
This isn’t saying, don’t give space to pour out your disappointments and irritations. Write them out or find like-minded friends who are not prone to adding fuel to the fire. Spell out your intentions for the conversations so they don’t spiral into energy depleting dialogues.
One way to do this is to follow this blueprint:
State your intention:
My intention in sharing this is to solve a problem not to find fault with others.
Then tell them what you need:
I need you to help me …
- to see what’s going on from a different perspective
- to reflect on how I’m feeling
- to discover my responsibility in the situation
- to understand what needs to change
- to find fresh ideas to solve the problem
It takes a conscious effort to shift your focus and notice the good things that happen each day. Give it a go and experience the joy of being less anxious.
4. Cultivate a life beyond teaching and looking after children
Cultivate interests that have nothing to do with your career or with children. Take dancing lessons, keep an art journal, garden or join a book club (not educational books!). Create a part of your life that’s just for YOU.
No one else can put you first or create an awesome life for you. They’re too busy living their own lives so learn to appreciate the gift of you and you’ll enjoy teaching and delight in your students more. We, as teachers, are all mucking about doing our best and that’s enough.