Monday, March 23, 2015

TEACHER SPIRIT TUESDAY: GIVE YOURSELF A BREAK


The air’s getting warmer, the days are getting longer and you’re breaking out the short sleeves! Woohoo! Spring has arrived! I always get a little too excited when that first bit of post-winter/pre-spring sunshine peeks out from behind the clouds. (Perhaps it’s because summer vacation suddenly seems within reach? Haha!) Whatever the reason, I thought this would be a great time for my first TEACHER SPIRIT TUESDAY blog post. I’m excited to begin posting these! I’m planning for the TEACHER SPIRIT posts to focus on teacher wellness, health, spirit and all the good things in life!

So here goes…

 

I remember when I was training to be a teacher. My mentor teacher often spoke about how she was always working, even when she wasn’t at school. I can distinctly recall her telling me that she doesn’t even remember what it was like to just watch TV anymore.

“Because,” she told me, looking somewhat sad and drained, “I don’t just watch TV. I watch TV *and* grade papers *and* make resources *and* plan lessons. I can never relax and not do anything because I know I always have something that needs to be done.”

I think I may have smiled at her and not believed that would ever happen to me. Which was equal parts naïve and, in retrospect, wishful thinking… because now I know what my mentor teacher (and every other teacher in the world) knows—

Teaching never ends.

That sounds so ominous, doesn’t it?

Teaching never ends.

I’m not saying that it’s always a bad thing. I mean, I *love* arranging new stickers and putting sheets in binders (ahem). And even though I hate cutting out laminated sheets, I do love feeding the plastic through the machine. (Sorry, TMI). But I have noticed, especially as the years go on, how much more time I spend on work-related stuff – even on the weekends. And, to be honest, I think it’s getting worse.

In conversation with my colleagues, I do think that some of the time it’s due to personality. Many teachers (not all, but many) are perfectionists. I know I am. I mean, I’m quite happy to tilt a picture frame on the wall and leave it like that; but I ABSOLUTELY CANNOT STAND LEAVING MY CLASSROOM WITHOUT MARKING ALL THE DAY’S WORK. And I’m not alone. Many others that I know feel the same way because leaving a stack of marking means that it will be there the next day… along with the next day’s mountain of marking, also!

So what can you do about it?

Only one thing.

GIVE YOURSELF A BREAK.

Truly.

 

Here are some things that I do to give myself a break and get back in the groove when I’m feeling overwhelmed by my workload:

1.       REMOVE MYSELF
I know, I know. I just said that leaving books unmarked stresses me out. And it does. However, I have found that sometimes the best thing to do is actually let the mountain of marking become an Everest. And then to turn off the classroom light and go home. I’m not saying I do this all the time, but it helps me to remember to let things go from time to time. And each time I do it, it proves over and over that the world won’t end if books aren’t marked immediately!

2.       DO SOMETHING PHYSICAL
I find that working up a sweat helps out enormously. Afterward, I just feel different and more positive. My shoulders go back. I choose water over soda. I’m sure the health gurus would say things about endorphins. Which leads me to the conclusion that endorphins + me = lowered stress levels.

3.       CATCH SOME ZZZs
I have the habit of burning the candle at both ends. Often I feel way better the next morning after a good night’s sleep. However, I understand that this is not possible for everyone. I know teachers with young children or teachers who have insomnia. I guess the best thing to realize in this regard is that fatigue can be responsible for amplifying stress. And sometimes you just have to be kind to yourself and take a mental health day.

4.       WATCH SOMETHING MIND-NUMBING ON TV
… or do something mind-numbing. It might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but it works wonders for me!

5.       BE INTERESTED IN SOMEONE ELSE’S DAY
It’s hard to be stressed out when I’m totally engrossed in the details of someone else’s life. Sometimes it’s hard for me to ‘get out of my own head’ at the end of the day, but if I persist in listening to others, I find that I start to distance myself from ‘all the work I have to do’.

6.       DON’T OBSESS OR GOOGLE
I remind myself that this feeling of being overwhelmed will not last forever. In the past I’ve made the mistake of searching for new jobs online and trawling through forums to find out if other teachers feel stressed. And it didn’t help at all. It just prolonged me thinking about work when I could have been using the time away from work to recharge and reframe my thinking. And the truth of it is… EVERYONE feels stressed out with their workload at some stage. In any job. And usually time heals my feelings of being overwhelmed.

7.       BE NICE TO MYSELF
I think to myself, “What would I say to a friend if they were feeling like this?” Chances are, I’d be nice and encouraging. (I hope!) With that in mind, I try and be nice and encouraging to myself – and not beat myself up about feeling low.


We have BRAIN BREAKS for our students!
Teachers need brain breaks, too!

So now it’s your turn. Do you ever feel overwhelmed with your teaching job? How do you revive your spirit again?

Isla Hearts Teaching

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