It is both rewarding and challenging to be a teacher. For every frustrating moment, there are ten positive moments. And as teachers, we give our all every single day.
But let’s be honest… teaching is exhausting! In a very life-fulfilling, meant-to-do-this, exhausting way.
Burnout is a real thing in the teaching world, regardless of the subject or age group a teacher is teaching. Not only do we need to manage lesson plans and daily activities, but we also need to take care of parent meetings, IEP paperwork, classroom preparation and more. It can be hard to keep up with everything!
Burnout is common in education, especially among Special Education teachers. And nothing is more true than the saying “you can’t pour from an empty cup“!
As a special education teacher too, I am one of your biggest advocates when it comes to taking time for you and self care. It took me too long to figure it out for myself, but now I will never look back.
You can’t possibly give your students 100% every single day and be the best you, without also taking time for you and making you a priority. You will burn out faster than a lit match.
Here are 6 self care tips for teachers that will help you recharge, relax, and be the best you that you can be for your health and wellness, and your students!
Simplify your teacher life. Work smarter, not harder.
It is easy to get caught up in the Pinterest-worthy activities and classroom expectations. But most people don’t have that much time to spend on extra frivolous tasks. Instead of feeling like you need to turn everything into a big project, look for ways to focus on the essentials and “cut the fluff.”
For example, there is no need to design a substitute binder or book companions when there are plenty of resources online. Finding resources that match your needs will eliminate time that you would be spending at a computer working on the details. Instead, you can spend a few dollars to get a great resource that you will use over and over again.
Keep work at work. Stop taking it home with you. Or put a limit on your time spent working at home.
There will always be more tasks to add to your to-do list, and there will always be more paper in your inbox. But know that you can handle those tasks tomorrow instead of bringing the stress home every night.
Many teachers get caught in a cycle of thinking about students and classroom responsibilities 24/7… and I will be the first to admit that it is a continuous struggle for me too. It’s like an integral part of who we are, and it’s normal! But if your brain is always turning to your work tasks, it is harder to relax so that you can recover from a busy day.
If you can’t leave work at work, then tell yourself “no school work after 8pm”… or set a specific time where you can enjoy your life at home too. You need to make self-care a priority to ensure that you have the stamina and motivation to keep up with the necessary tasks at work.
Schedule at least one day per month that is a you day. Or more frequently if needed.
One of the best things that you can do is set specific blocks of time on the calendar for self-care. If you dedicate time to getting a massage, a mani-pedi, or even going to Target by yourself for two hours, then you will be able to take care of yourself so that you are ready to care for others.
A few ideas might include exercise, eating a healthy breakfast, reading a book, spending time in meditation, sitting outside in the sun, running or yoga, watching a movie, a relaxing bath, or going to dinner with friends… whatever will make you happy mentally and physically.
Find your tribe of people.
At school. As special ed teachers, we so often feel like we are on our own island. It makes finding our tribe at school just that much more important. It can be one person, one team, a grade level. Look beyond your school itself, too, and see if your tribe may be another teacher in the district… and it may take time to truly find your tribe, but they’re there. I promise; they’re looking for you too.
At home. Having a support system outside of a school-related tribe is important and essential to your mental and physical health and wellness. Find that tribe where you can be you, the non-teacher you and enjoy life outside of the classroom.
In the community. Facebook groups are THE thing right now, and they are an amazing way to collaborate with other educators in your niche from around the world. You can join my Facebook group – Mrs. D’s VIPs – by clicking here.
Ask for help when you need it.
It doesn’t make you a bad teacher to reach out for help when you need it. It’s normal… and it actually makes you a good teacher. Ask admin for help, that’s what they’re there for. To help you and guide you in the best interest of the students.
Your teammates are also a great wealth of information!
Room moms and volunteers are great help in the classroom as well. Have them help you with laminating, copying, bulletin boards, sorting things… you can also ask parents if they’d like to help from home. Send items home with a student that need cut out and the parents send it back cut out for you.
Use all of the resources available to you! All you need to do is ask!
At home, hire people. I know this isn’t a feasible option for everyone and it really depends on your budget, but if you are able you can find help. Lawn services, maid services… I mean, they even have grocery stores to bring your groceries to the car for you. Try it!
All of the little tasks that you can enlist help for add up to a larger amount of time… the time that you can now use to take care of YOU.
Train your staff.
To take data. It can often be easier said than done, and managing other adults within your classroom can be tough, but they are there for the child as well. Take time once a month (or week) to sit down with staff and discuss the schedule, how things are going, any concerns or praises… become a team. You are a team!
You can find more tips about taking data in my data training over at The Intentional IEP, which is included in membership.
To be independent. You don’t need staff to ask you what they should be doing every hour, or even at all. Provide a schedule for your staff, with specific expectations of what they should be doing throughout the day.
Look for options to take care of yourself, so that you feel good and have more energy to offer to your students. Pay attention to the way that you feel when you make self-care a priority. Because YOU MATTER and you ARE important too!