As the end of the school year approaches I know many of you are feeling weary. Even though spring break may have provided a brief respite, there is so much to be done between now and summer. If only there were magical tricks and tips for tired teachers.
Demands from every direction, lack of appreciation, not enough hours in the day to accomplish everything that needs to be done- these are just a few of the many factors that leave us feeling depleted and wondering just how much longer we can make it in this overwhelming career.
All of us, no matter what stage of our career we are in, feel this way from time to time. For no more than the simple reason that this is a crazy hard job! Even though people outside of our profession look at teaching and think “cakewalk”, those of us on the front lines know better.
Jam-packed curriculum, standardized testing, behavior and discipline problems, over- or under-involved parents, unhelpful or overbearing administrators, the list goes on and on.
I'm here to remind you: this too shall pass. Yes, your concerns are valid. And if your gut is really telling you it's time for a change, by all means listen. But more than likely what you're feeling is temporary and a totally normal part of the emotional roller coaster that comes with doing a job that really matters. A job that demands you put your heart on the line. Every. Single. Day.
Here are a few tips for tired teachers to help you take a deep breath, come up with a plan and regain your equilibrium.
Tips for Tired Teachers:
If you truly feel yourself approaching the point of no return, it is absolutely essential to take a personal day to replenish your physical and emotional balance. Sleep in. Eat a healthy breakfast. Pamper yourself. Do the things that make you who you are outside of school, away from your teacher role. Rest, nourish and replenish yourself.
Give yourself permission and know that it's okay to take a break. You can pick right back up where you left off when you return. Remember the saying “self care is not selfish”. You can't take care of others and be your best with a half empty cup.
What you do matters. In the most substantial, unquestionable way. Seriously. Teachers are directly responsible for contributing to the intellectual and emotional growth of tiny human beings. What an awesome responsibility and privilege. It's more than likely that you had an inkling of this when you went into the profession.
Think back and try to recapture some of the hopes and dreams you had at the beginning of your journey. Take a moment to turn the telescope around and look at the big picture. Chances are, all the little things won't seem as daunting once they're put into perspective.
The antidote to the mind-racing madness of doubt and overwhelm is being fully present. Do your best each day to focus on your students and the work in front of you. Yes, it's necessary to have a plan to accomplish all you need to accomplish, but you don't need to perseverate on it all the time.
Focus on your students' faces as they speak to you, the words on the page of the read-aloud you're reading, the math lesson that you're teaching. Mindfully proceed through your day and you will get a lot more satisfaction out of the work you are doing. And as a result, your students will love all the extra attention.
For most of us, having things pile up this time of year is inevitable. And sometimes chipping away at it just isn't enough. If you find yourself drowning in to-dos, your only option may be gut it out for one hyper-focused mega-day of catchup.
Whether you come in on a weekend or stay super late, put your head down and plow through. It will be mighty hard work, but when it's over I promise you'll feel a thousand times better. Just be sure to reward yourself afterwards. Grab some take out for dinner, go home and take a bath or give yourself permission to binge on Netflix.
Focus on the good stuff.
Teaching brings with it so many tiny rewarding moments: a sweet drawing left on your desk, the triumph of an aha moment, smiles, laughter, a little hug from one of your students. Really stop and savor these moments, even write them down in a journal if you can, to shift your focus from all the work to all the joy.
End of the year Memory Books are also a great way to pep up when you're feeling drained. Creating these with your students and reflecting on all the great things and growth can really do amazing things for the soul.
Rely on your village.
You've got to lean on your teaching sisters and brothers when you feel yourself slipping down that slippery slope. Reach out to your strongest allies and unload. Then listen carefully as they supply you with advice and words of encouragement. Trust that they see the best in you and when they tell you you can do this- believe them!
Purposefully inject some fun into your day! Plan a fun field trip. Play games with your students. Run around with your kids during recess. Start an end of the year creative project you've always wanted to try. Go outside for read-aloud. Prank your teammates. Start the day with a joke or funny video. Remember that laughter lightens the load and if you plan those elements of fun in advance, you have something to look forward to every day.
Manage your health.
When you're exhausted, it can be easy to make yourself a last priority. That's why this last one to round out the tips for tired teachers, is all about YOU. Eat well and drink more water. Exercise. Meditate. It's so easy to neglect our basic wellness practices when we're feeling overwhelmed. Put yourself first and refuse to let yourself be your last priority. You know what they say about oxygen masks…
Teachers, you are my heroes! Yes the job is difficult. No the pay is not sufficient. Neither is the level of respect we are given. But in the long run I promise you that the rewards outweigh the hassles. Hang in there! Practice these tips for tired teachers to keep you going. You've chosen a beautiful profession, ones with ups and downs and most importantly, one that matters.