At the beginning of a new school year we start out with the best of intentions. We’re ready to put everything into our lesson plans, grab every opportunity for professional development that comes our way, and make sure our kids are happy to be in our classrooms - achieving their highest potential every. single. day.
We roll in like lions in September, in the proverbial spring of our lives as educators. But when October rolls around, we suddenly feel more like lambs—maybe a bit more sheepish about our goals; perhaps doubting if we can really do it all.
You read the articles, you plan the lessons, you dress for success, and yet somehow, the wind in your sails starts to die down before you’ve even hit the middle of the semester. But don’t worry. You’re not alone, you are entirely capable of achieving your goals for the year, and we will tell you exactly how to do it.
Read on for five great tips to help you avoid burnout this school year and continue being the amazing teacher that you are.
Start With the Basics: Hydrate, Nourish, Rest
Making yourself a priority is an absolute must when you’re welcoming so many young minds into your classroom each day. Physical health, sleep, and nutrition are non-negotiables for the everyday superhero teacher.
- Get yourself that new sought-after water bottle to stay hydrated throughout the day (and no, coffee doesn’t count when it comes to hydration).
- Make sure you remember to eat! If you’re pressed for time pack a banana, apple, a cup of yogurt, a granola bar, a mozzarella stick and some crackers. While not ideal, you can at least snack while you’re working through your lunch.
- Fit in some kind of exercise throughout the week, even if it’s just a daily walk with a good friend, family member, or pet - get moving! Yoga with Adriene is a personal fave, and a great place to start for a new yogi.
- While it can be hard to do at times, step away from the lesson planning and get to bed. Your well-rested self is more important than filling in those boxes. Besides, if you’re running on less sleep than you need, it will be much harder to carry out that amazing plan you envisioned for your students.
Take a Break
We know. When? No matter how chaotic the day, week, or month may be for you - making time for yourself, even if only five minutes here and there, is absolutely critical. Here are three quick ways to tackle the hurdle to fill your own cup:
- Take three mindful breaths. This is surprisingly effective in a moment of stress, and can prevent a reaction you may later regret. When you have more than a moment, find a quiet place - if this is a challenge, try the nurse’s office, the school library, or even your car during your prep. Find a comfortable seat - close your eyes, and as you inhale, feel your breath fill your belly. As you exhale feel your breath as it leaves through your nostrils. Repeat at least three times.
- Incorporate mindful movement. Mindful movement is a way of moving while bringing awareness to the physical sensations in your body. Try a few stretches, take a walk and feel each step, or just shake it out. In fact, you may find a health benefit or two from what experts refer to as a controlled shake.
- Scan your body. A body scan is another practice that will help you build awareness of the body and keep you going all day long. A body scan can allow you to release some stress and tension. Here’s a link to a free guided body scan meditation to help get you started.
Learn to Set Healthy Boundaries
Sometimes, as teachers, we feel as though we need to do it all. But there is so much freedom in realizing that actually, we don’t. For many, we struggle with the idea that we’re not enough - or that we need to please those around us. We put others first, just about all of the time. However, if we truly want to avoid a sense of burnout, we need to step back and realize that we are enough - we’re more than enough. We don’t have to do it all, and yes, we can say ‘no.’ If you find that you struggle with this, here are a few ways you can say no in a firm but polite way:
- “I’d really love to help out, I just have so much on my plate right now and I won’t have the time to offer the help you need.”
- “I’d love to, but I need some time to think about it.” If they return with the same request: “I’ve given it a lot of thought and right now, I just won’t be able to do it.”
- “I won’t be able to do that right now, but I may have time next week.”
Acknowledge Your Strengths
Many of us have grown up focusing on our shortcomings. Take a moment to notice the negative self-talk and begin to practice shifting your focus to all the wonderful things you do everyday. You show up every single day for your students. You get to work on time (almost) every day. You’ve successfully made it to this point in your career, despite all the challenges. If you get stuck coming up with reasons why you’re such a treasure, ask someone you love and trust who will surely be able to come up with a never-ending list of your all-star qualities.
Never underestimate the power of personal connections. Sometimes, we get stuck, we get discouraged, and we feel like we can’t do the hard things. A sign of strength is knowing when to ask for help; so ask a friend. In a building full of educators, it will be hard to find someone who is not willing to help. And if you find that help isn’t readily available, well, consider finding a new school.
With a new school year underway, we have every opportunity to be the best we can be. Remember to start small with self-care, and be kind to yourself during challenging times. Even if you can only do one of the things on this list, it is a step in the right direction. You can totally do this, and the best part is - you’re not alone.
We’d love to hear from you! How do you make time for self-care during the school day? What are your biggest challenges when you get discouraged? Tweet us @getselectedco.
And to interact with the author, check out One Mindful Teacher for more helpful tips.
Selected helps teachers find jobs at schools they love. We offer a free school matching and career support platform for teachers that connects them with 1,200+ PK-12 public and independent schools in urban metro areas in the Northeast and West Coast, including New York City, NJ, CT, Philadelphia, Washington DC, Boston, and Los Angeles. Create a FREE teacher profile in 5 minutes and connect with hiring schools immediately!