Monday, October 22, 2018

The Dog Days of Fall for Teachers #EdChat

The Fall part of the school year can be tough on teachers for many reasons. It tends to be the longest part of the school year that doesn’t have a break, it gets darker sooner so some teachers get to school in the dark and leave school in the dark, and all of the germs teachers avoided over the Summer are not back with students and sickness often sets in. It is easy to feel stressed, “less than”, and even burned out after the first couple of months of school. I have been there and if it wasn’t for a few things I make sure to do every year, I would never make it to December. Here are my tips to make it through the Dog Days of Fall.

 Get your Flu shot as early as you can

 This is so important. Our physical health has a direct impact on our mental health. If we spend our time battling the flu and other sickness, it can wear on us mentally. Getting the Flu shot, drinking lots of water, having plenty of vitamin C, and other acts of physical self-care can help anyone make it through the first couple of months of the school year in a good place. Another tip to avoid the germ bugs at school is moving more towards a paperless classroom if possible. If students are not handing you germ infested papers, you can avoid sickness at a higher rate. I noticed far fewer times with the sniffles once I utilized Google Docs more fully in my classroom. Keep your physical health strong and your mental health will have a fighting chance.

 Make time for you

 This is probably the hardest item on this list because teachers are so busy. With all of things we have to do at school and family at home, it can feel selfish to take “me” time. This is one of those times where “me” is good for everyone. If you can take some time every week to focus on you, you will be much happier and so will your students and you family. This “me” time can be yoga, gardening, painting, playing video games, running in the park, and so much more. Pick something that will make you feel better about yourself and keep your frame of mind in a happy place. Making time for you will be tough, but it is very important.

 Find a venting buddy

 I have found this one to be super helpful in getting through a stressful school year. Hopefully you have someone at school that you can connect with and share the frustrations you are facing at school. This is important because we need to connect with other teachers that understand what is going on and how stressful the current situation is for us. Having this designated person to vent to also helps you avoid being the person who always complains during lunch in the staff room. You can vent to your buddy and they can vent to you and you can both feel like you have been heard. This is not about solving problems. It is about having a healthy place to vent your frustrations without judgement. If you don’t have someone at school to do this with, connect with other friends who might want to pair up and vent about their job. Not keeping everything pent up will help in the long run. 

Share Awesomeness

 If you are an administrator reading this, I encourage you to get out of the office, visit some classrooms, and share the awesome things you see every week. This can make a huge difference. My current head of school sends out a weekly email that gives shoutouts to staff members and the great things they are doing in the classroom and around the school. Seeing my friends and colleagues mentioned in one of the emails always makes me so happy for them and the first time I was mentions my heart filled with joy. The act of recognition can go along way in supporting teacher wellness. If you are not an administrator, take time out of the day to visit a classroom, see what they are doing, and tell the teacher how awesome it was to be in their classroom for the day. Sometimes it is nice to have a teacher in the room that is not there to evaluate your instruction, but just let you know that you are doing an awesome job. Creating a culture where teachers can observe each other and provide positive feedback can be key in making it through the rough spots of the year.

 Learn to say No

 Learning to say no is a very important skill to learn. As teachers, we want nothing more than to help all of the students and all of our peers. It is why we became teachers. We are helpers. Sadly, we often to agree to help even if it is not good for us. Taking on too much is something that everyone can control and need to control for their own mental wellness. Teacher, while superheroes, are still human and need to only take on what they can handle. I’m super guilty of saying yes too much and finding myself anxious as I try to meet all of my commitments. We can’t take care of ourselves if we are running ourselves into the ground. Say yes to some things and politely decline others. Doing too much does not help anyone in the long run if you are too burned out to help anymore.

These are just a few of things you can do to help prevent the Dog Days of School from taking over and putting you in a low mental health state before the school year has reached mid-point. Try out some of these suggestions and see what works and what doesn’t. I’d love to hear what you do to help fight the burned out feeling during the school year.