I wrote a post recently with ideas for creating school environments that are supportive and help students "show up well" and ready to learn. A positive school and classroom culture can help overcome some of the negatives in a student's life that may be impacting their emotional and educational well-being.
In the post, I also mentioned that adults who work in schools must also work at "showing up well." We have to take care of ourselves and each other to have the type of supportive environment that we all need.
Teaching is stressful. In fact, teaching seems to be among the most stressful professions in America. A 2014 Gallup Poll found that nearly half of all teachers reported high levels of stress from the previous day. It was the most stressful profession in the study, slightly ahead of doctors and nurses in terms of reported stress.
So why are teachers feeling so stressed? There are a variety of factors. Heavy workloads, challenging student behaviors, lack of autonomy and voice, and high stakes assessments might be a few reasons. Some of the factors are completely out of the control of educators. And some of the factors are just inherent in working with kids. It's awesome to work with kids, but stressful at the same time.
There is an important truth in this quote from Salome Thomas-El. We can't always control the weight of our load. We have to look for ways to find the strength we need to show up well and be our very best. Our #KidsDeserveIt!!!Everything we do is about making life better for others! Never leading scorers...we love the ASSISTS! #KidsDeserveIt pic.twitter.com/WdV5s5Thmi— Salome Thomas-EL (@Principal_EL) August 6, 2016
If you are struggling to show up well in your classroom, it can result in anger, resentment, frustration, depression, and other hurtful emotions. Actually, these emotions will probably show up from your students, too. As educators, what we model is typically what we get.
Here are some ideas on resilience for teachers and taking care of your own mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being. I'm not great at all of these, that's for sure. But I recognize their importance and how they help me to be my best when I do have success in these areas.
1. Focus on your purpose and the meaning in your work.
A recent Edutopia article explained how stress in itself is not necessarily bad. Stress tends to be negative when it doesn't seem like it is meaningful. I'm reminded of the pain mothers endure in child birth, and yet it is worth it (so I am told) because of the miraculous value of bringing a child into the world and being a mother. In fact, moms often willingly do it all over again. The deep meaning of the experience must make it worth the pain.
2. Recognize you are making a difference.
This letter posted by Danny Steele on his blog really captures the commitment and dedication of teachers. You are making a difference.
3. Build a support system at work.
We need people at work who believe in us and who inspire us. Surround yourself with people who energize you. Stay away from energy vampires, who might suck the life out of your day.
4. Develop a support system away from work.
Beyond work, we also need healthy relationships that strengthen us. It's tough to do life alone, and we all need to rely on others. If you are struggling to find your support system, try to be that person for someone else. Giving to others is a great way to find people who can also lift you up.
5. Learn to say no.
Focus on the things that are most essential to your mission and purpose. Being busy isn't a happiness killer in itself. But when you are too busy doing things that you aren't even passionate about, that's a sure recipe for burnout.
6. Make spiritual wellness a top priority.
My spiritual life is important to me. I need to nurture my relationship with God and rely on him for guidance if I'm going to show up well and be my best for my students.
7. Relieve stress by exercising.
When I feel stress or anxiety building throughout the week, a long run does wonders to help me relax. There are so many bad habits we can turn to as a stress reliever. But exercise is good for you and helps ease the stress.
8. Eat well.
I really struggle to eat well. I love fast food, pizza, and ice cream. But when I am eating too much of the wrong stuff, I can tell it impacts my ability to be my best overall.
9. Set boundaries.
Healthy people don't let others run over them. They set boundaries and they communicate their thoughts and feelings to others. A lack of boundaries will eventually lead to simmering resentment or angry outbursts. Ask for what you want. But also listen to others and respect their boundaries.
10. Practice being grateful.
Gratitude is one of the most powerful things you can do for your emotional health. Be honest with yourself about your struggles, but also be always grateful. There are blessings in each day and even our difficult circumstances have the power to make us better if we choose to grow.
11. Forgive yourself and others.
Let go of things that are in the past. Sometimes the hardest person to forgive is ourselves. As educators, we have to be willing to forgive. Bitterness is a heavy burden to carry.
12. Remain always hopeful.
If you're like me, you don't want anything to feel like it's out of your control. You desire a sense of security and predictability. But life doesn't work that way, and the only way to have peace is to give up on worry and live in the present moment. Our worries tend to live in the past or in the future. Hope is believing good things are possible and headed our way. In the mean time, we must live in the current moment.
13. Have fun!!! Enjoy the journey.
Last Friday, I had a lip sync battle at lunch with one of our other teachers. It was for a good cause. We were raising money for Care to Learn, a charity that helps students in need. But it also helps me to not take myself too seriously. I like to joke around and make laughter a part of each day.
14. Keep learning and growing.
Whatever problem you may be facing, you have the power to do something if you are willing to learn and keep growing. I don't feel as stressed when I feel like I can learn from my difficulties. I view challenges as opportunities for growth, instead of stress inducing burdens.
15. Take risks.
One of the biggest regrets people have is playing it too safe. If you really want to get the most out of life you have to be bold and take risks.
Question: How are you working to "show up well" for your students? How are you managing stress as an educator? I want to hear from you. Leave a comment below or respond on Facebook or Twitter.