You go out of your way to give that one kid in your homeroom an individualized behavior tracker and a pep talk every morning to set him up for success. You positively narrate, give wait time, and strive for 100%. You feel like things are finally starting to gel in your room.
All of a sudden, the days are shorter and darker, and routines you thought were solid in your classroom start to feel like they just aren’t working the way they were in October.
Sounds familiar? Many of us find ourselves in the “disillusionment” phase of the teacher emotional roller coaster during this time of year. No matter how many times vets remind us that things will get better, you might feel lonely.
The good news is, there are active steps you can take to make sure you’re keeping your own well-being a priority.
You’re the eternal support system for your students – so what can you do for YOU that will bridge that gap from disillusionment to rejuvenation?
What can I do today?
- Talk it out. Let someone know how you’re feeling. Find your coach, call a friend or colleague, eat a meal with your partner. Remember you are never alone in this.
- Tell yourself that you got this, figuratively. Really! There are benefits to telling yourself – out loud – “you can do this”.
- Reset after a hard day. Watch 30 minutes of your favorite mindless sitcom. Move your body in a way that feels good to you. Eat your favorite comfort meal (and don’t feel bad if you don’t cook it yourself).
- Share a funny story about a student or particular moment with a friend or family you see over the holidays. You know your friends are already anxiously awaiting your best “teacher stories”.
- Refresh your space. This could be in your classroom, at home, or both. Removing clutter will clear your mind and get you ready for the second half of the year. Plus, it just may make space for a shiny new pack of FLAIR PENS!
- Treat yourself to an activity you’ve been wanting to try. Always eyeing that indoor rock climbing gym with curiosity? Aerial yoga? Go for it!
What can I plan to do in the new year?
- Consider cultivating a customized gratitude practice. You can write it in a journal, store it electronically, or even keep a mantra in your head for the day around gratitude. In my second year of teaching, I started keeping a draft email addressed to myself and tried to add one thing that made me feel appreciative or appreciated every day. It can be as simple as “I am grateful that I took five minutes to eat a granola bar during my prep so that I didn’t feel hangry during last period” or “I am grateful Luis only climbed on the cabinets twice today” (an actual entry from my 2012 edition).
- Reflect on how and where you are spending your after-hours time. Are you staying hours upon hours after school ends every night? Is there one day a week where you can take some of your grading or computer tasks home or to a coffee shop, instead of staying in your room? Sometimes a small change in physical environment can make a world of difference.
- Set small goals or benchmarks that you can check in on every couple days or weeks. Did that student who almost never does homework turn it in twice this week?
Celebrate all successes to calibrate just how far you’ve come – and know that “rejuvenation” is on its way!
Sarah is a CPS grad who has come full circle as an AUSL Instructional Coach at Lewis and McNair Schools of Excellence. She previously taught middle and high school special education in the South Bronx, New York, and worked with pre-service teachers as a Fulbright grantee in Bogota, Colombia. Her favorite self-care strategies include leading Zumba dance routines, cooking vegetarian concoctions and singing in the Chicago Community Chorus.