I know what you’re thinking. This article is going to be about either one of two things. It’s going to be about ways to teach and must-have lessons *or* it’s going to be about classroom and behavior management that will make your classroom the talk of the school (in a good way of course).
In fact, this article isn’t about doing more at all. It’s about doing less and taking care of your Most Valuable Teaching Resource (we’ll call it our MVTR). And that resource is you.
If you want to be a great teacher this school year, it all starts with taking care of yourself.
Are You a Great Teacher?
Yes, of course, you’re a great teacher. You show up for your students, for your co-workers, for your admins…you are the queen/king of reliability and creativity.
But, as every great teacher knows, there are limits to how much you can do. Or at least there should be. Here are seven ways to be a great teacher this school year while taking care of your MVTR.
Being a Great Teachers Means…
1 – Scheduling Mental Health Days Throughout the Year
You know those personal days you have? They were meant to be used. At the beginning of the school year, sit down and plan out at least one mental health day every 4-6 weeks – more if you have them available. That’s right, taking time away from your classroom makes you a great teacher.
There’s the saying that you can’t fill up others’ buckets when your own is empty and it’s true. If you’re burned out, that stress is going to show in everything you do – including how you interact with your students and co-workers. To be the best teacher you can be, you have to take a break.
2 – Leaving at Your Contract Time
You took a teaching job to do something you love (teach) so that you can live your life and take care of your family. You didn’t become a teacher to forgo everything else in your life and live in your classroom.
If your contract day ends at 4 pm, be in your car by 4:01. There’s nothing heroic about staying until 7 pm and having no time to do the things you want to do.
3 – Eat Lunch
Great teachers understand that food is fuel and what you put into your body matters. A Snickers and soda grabbed between making photocopies and laminating is not a lunch of champions. To be a great teacher this year, you need to fuel your body with healthy foods that nourish you and keep you healthy. Pack a salad, eat a sandwich or munch on some fruit and cheese (save the wine until you get home!) during your lunch break.
If sitting in the break room makes you feel relaxed, go for it. If sitting in your classroom with the door shut, lights turned off, and piano music playing is what helps you recharge, do that. Just take the time to breathe deep, fuel your body, and prepare yourself for the rest of the school day.
4 – Leave Work at Work
Great teachers know that work needs to be done, but they also know that their personal lives are most important. Leave work at work and enjoy the evenings with your loved ones.
If you’re worried about all of the papers to be graded, consider changing the types of assignments you’re giving to students. There are many ways to reduce the amount of paperwork that you need to do while making sure that your students are getting the feedback that they need to continue learning and growing.
5 – Keep a Secret Stash of Goodies
What’s your favorite school-appropriate snack? Are you a fan of Fritos? Maybe candy is your weakness? Whatever snacks feel like goodness and sunshine to you, keep on hand in your classroom. They’re a great pick-me-up on a tough day and make you feel a little less overwhelmed by all that needs to get done.
A word of advice though, make sure that all of your snacks are in critter-free tins. Mice love to nibble through foil-wrapped packages and there’s nothing fun about opening a twist-tied back of trail mix to find that some creepy critters have snuck inside. Those holiday tins at the dollar store are perfect for keeping unwanted visitors out and your snacks safe and fresh.
6 – Surround Yourself with Positivity
There is enough negativity in the world that you don’t have to invite it into your life or your classroom. Steer clear of toxic co-workers and admins who sap your energy and enthusiasm. Surround yourself with those people who lift you up and make you smile.
7 – Let It All Out
Great teachers understand that teaching is hard. They recognize when they’re overwhelmed, burned out, or simply need a break. Sometimes that means crying in the classroom at the end of the day to release the emotions before going home. Sometimes that means taking a spin class after work to get rid of built-up tension. And sometimes that means talking with a therapist to help get back on track.
Bottling up emotions only lasts so long before they burst. Great teachers find ways to release them and are unapologetic about taking the time to do so. So, if you need to shut your door after your students leave and cry for five minutes, do that. It’s better to get things out than to hold them in.
Being a great teacher means making sure your MVTR is healthy physically, mentally, and emotionally. It’s not selfish or weak to take care of yourself, so make this year the best one yet.
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