June 2019 Blog

What We Do for Ourselves, Directly Affects Everything: Teacher Self-Care

Guest Author: Sharon Bradley – Director of Family and Social Services/SEL, Plano ISD

Summer break is near for most educators and already here for some!

This is the perfect time for us to revisit our self-care plans and reflect upon the effects of stress on our health and overall well being. Several of you may be thinking that this is a topic to think about when students return next school year. However, that could not be further from the truth. This has to be addressed and planned for BEFORE you return to your schools and classrooms to prevent teacher burnout and to increase your effectiveness as an educator, spouse, parent, friend, etc.  Self-care helps us refocus on what is important and true.

As educators, we focus on the academic, social, emotional, and behavioral needs of our students each and every day.  With high-stakes testing, class sizes, and behavior, this causes high daily stress that quickly causes teachers to shift into survival mode. Teaching is not about surviving while helping our students thrive. This practice is not sustainable or effective. We have to prioritize our own wellbeing in order to continue to transform young lives for years to come.

Educator “self-care” is an intentional practice that preserves wellness and maintains a wholeness of being. Education is our career, but our human responsibility is to keep ourselves “full”. When we are holistically full, we have the capacity to show compassion and care towards our students and loved ones.

Can we put forth the same level of intentional thought into our self-care plans that we invest into our lesson plans? Yes, I believe this is possible. It all begins with self-awareness; listening to our bodies and its needs. The constant headaches, fatigue, insomnia, and high blood pressure are all ways that our bodies send signals for help. Do you have a plan that is ready to activate?  Everyone’s needs are different so it is important to create a self-care ritual that works for you. Begin with small actionable steps towards progress every single day and grow from there. Here are some suggestions:

  • Put yourself of your to-do list
  • Eliminate self-judgment and replace with positive self-talk
  • Journal to process and express emotions and thoughts
  • Leave your teacher bag at school at least two days a week.
  • Talk with a trusted individual (professional or from your support system)
  • Practice mindful breathing to help regulate your brain
  • Drink water to prevent dehydration and exhaustion
  • Exercise/Walk (a 30 min daily walk as the same effects as an antidepressant)
  • Practice gratitude
  • Leave school on time two or three days a week.
  • Listen to music
  • Do something kind for yourself (ex. pedicure)

    What educators do for themselves directly affects decision-making, teacher-student relationships, and the engagement and achievement of students. Outstanding educators are leaving our profession in massive numbers every year due to burnout. This is a reality that needs to be acknowledged through individual and organizational action. Teachers play a vital role in the daily lives of children. If we take care of ourselves, we can model and encourage our students to do the same so they can cultivate the ability to bounce back from the ups and downs of life. We must exhibit healthy behaviors and interactions because students pay attention to what we DO and not always what we say.

    I will leave you with a little nugget of knowledge that I acquired years ago during a restorative practices training here in Texas, “Dysregulated adults do not produce regulated children.” As a result of sustained self-care, we become the change in behavior that we would like to see in our classrooms and schools. Be well, my educator friends.

Summer Wellness Reading Recommendation:

The book, Power of a Teacher by Adam Saenz, is a practical and accessible wellness guide designed specifically for teachers. As you turn the pages, you will find the encouragement through real stories and reflective exercises to live and teach well. Happy planning and have a great summer!

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