Special EDition: Ten Ways to Practice Self-Care


So PARCC testing is in full swing, and you’ve started daydreaming about Spring break. You may feel drained, and you’re wondering how you can possibly stay motivated for the next few weeks. You know your kiddos deserve high-quality instruction, but you’re JUST. SO. TIRED.

We’re often told that we must take care of ourselves in order to care for the children in front of us. We’re told to get plenty of rest, exercise three to four times a week and drink eight glasses of water every day. If you follow these three simple steps, everything will be okay, right? I’m sure these three steps help, but what are some other ways you can unwind and revitalize on the weekends leading up to and during Spring break?

I taught special education in a cross-categorical setting for six years, but it wasn’t until I taught third-graders during my final year of teaching that I realized how grueling state testing could be. Many of my students required an individual reader (me) for the math section as well as extended time for the entire test. Not only did I have to read each math section individually to students, I sat there as I watched them select the wrong answers – even about recently covered content – and I felt completely defeated. My thought process often went something like this: He’s going to answer this one correctly! We spent three weeks on this concept. Yes! I’m a great teacher! Oh… oh wait, you’re using the right numbers with the wrong algorithm.

Following the testing period I felt completely inadequate; I wondered how I could have better prepared my students. I realized I needed to find ways to take care of myself on the weekends in order to stay positive and focused through the end of the school year.

The truth is, self-care looks different for everyone, but I’m hoping you can select one of the activities below to find some inner peace and stay motivated at school.

Here are my top ten ways to practice self-care.

  1. Stay up really late binging on your favorite TV show. Except the Sunday before school. No zombie teachers, please.
  2. Organize your life. Pick one area of your home to focus on, whether it’s your closet, kitchen, or garage. (Are you lucky enough to have one of those?)
  3. Pet sit for a friend. One word: Snuggles.
  4. Try a new, crazy-complicated recipe that you would never try during a typical work week. Bring your co-workers any leftovers… if the food turns out okay.
  5. Explore an unfamiliar Chicago neighborhood, preferably with a fellow teacher who is also not working.
  6. Get your finances in order. Make a budget or do your taxes if you haven’t done so already. You don’t think that’s invigorating? Wait until you see your refund!
  7. Spend your entire refund — uh, I mean just a very, very small portion of your refund — at a certain large chain retail store that shall go unnamed.

Okay, so I only have seven self-care practices on my list, but in order to include ten I would have to add the following: Get plenty of rest, exercise three to four times a week…

On another note, does anyone want to pet sit my dog for a few days?

He snuggles. A lot.

Jen is one of AUSL’s elementary turnaround special education coaches who previously taught diverse learners at Deneen School of Excellence. 


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