Dear Teachers and School Admin,
We know you’re exhausted at the start this time. We know you probably aren’t exactly excited to be at the beginning of another school year. Maybe you are just plain tired (you have PLENTY of reasons to be), maybe you are nervous, maybe you are angry. Maybe you’re dealing with deeper scars from the grief and trauma of the past couple school years.
It probably feels like you carry the weight of the world on your shoulders, and that makes perfect sense. You are the essential worker that is underappreciated, underpaid, and under-equipped in normal times and it’s never been truer or more obvious than now. But hear this part again: YOU ARE ESSENTIAL.
Thank you for being creative, for learning new technologies, and for doing your absolute best to teach in impossible situations. Our kids are learning more from you right now than a curriculum could ever teach. On days when things don’t go to plan, know that they are still learning. They are learning to be adaptive, to persevere, show empathy, to take care of each other, be flexible, and to think creatively. They are learning all that from YOU.
Parents everywhere are more aware now than ever before of the impact you have on our kids. You are everything to them, and we know that isn’t something that happens by mistake. You are amazing.
To help get you started on the right foot, here are some ideas for how to take care of yourself as you begin the new year. You can’t help others if your cup is empty. And, as always, if what you are feeling or dealing with feels too big or is disrupting your ability to cope, we are always here to help.
We know you love the kids you teach, and you are dedicated to helping them at any cost, but it is important to protect yourself with some boundaries. If you set limits on your energy and attention toward your students, you will be more able to maintain a healthy teaching experience long-term. (For the whole school year? We hope so!)
Boundaries are not selfish. In fact, they help you to be more generous within your bounds, day to day, than you’d be able to be if you were to give it all the first month and run on fumes the rest of the year.
Take the time every day to pause, feel, name, and reflect on how the day made you feel, and what you need in the moment to begin again the next day. Write it down so you can really internalize it, and you can track the way you are feeling throughout the year. Remember, it’s all about keeping that cup full.
It’s super easy to get hung up on things that are completely out of your control. Things like the way kids may behave particularly unruly this year after distance learning, the rules in your particular school, the politics within the districts, and the opinions and arguments among parents. It’s a lot, especially right now.
The things you can control (how you react and discipline your kids, the way you build relationships with your students, the curriculum you bring each day, and making sure you are following guidelines that make you feel comfortable) deserve your undivided attention. Limiting the time you spend thinking about uncontrollable things will help you maintain your peace and happiness.
This can exist both in and outside of school. Identify your go-to teacher friends or administrators that you can lean on when you need help. At home, keep your family and other friends in the know about what you are dealing with at work so they can offer you encouragement and support in more personal ways. Feeling supported by your “team” in and out of the classroom can help alleviate the burnout that so many school staff are feeling already.
Again, write this down! Truly, keep a calendar and each day write something that you are grateful for or something that brought you (or someone in your room) joy. Gratitude is the best way to fight against burnout, negative thoughts, and stress.
Everyone says this, but it’s so true. Need a huge coffee in your favorite mug to start off on the right foot? Buy a couple extra just in case it goes missing. Need a workout after school lets out? Set yourself up with a gym membership (if you feel comfortable with it) that’s on the way home and get yourself a new cute gym bag to keep in the car. Or, set up a little home gym and make yourself the best playlist ever that will get you pumped up. Whatever it is you need to refuel and refresh, protect it.
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