This is a guest post by Fredrick Scott Salyers, an educator, writer, and photographer based in Brooklyn, New York. Salyers has spent his career dedicated to the academic, personal, and social development of young black men. His educational career spans various fields, including k-12 and higher education.
There’s always a sharp change around August, and it’s definitely not the weather. For most teachers, August marks the back to school season, successfully ending our summer bliss of normal lives. Often the change begins as a rhythmic churn that speeds into the frenzy of nerves, sleepless nights, and bright young faces as we get closer and closer to the first day of school.
Most teachers show up each year for passion-invested content that we love. For many, what calls us back to work is the hope to impart a similar passion in our students. We don’t teach for the 4 a.m. alarms or the piles of grading. We don’t teach because we like the stress and the burnout.
Honestly, I dreaded returning for summer training, simply because a leisurely summer life felt so much better. However, over time I became more and more excited about the coming school year. I have an intense passion about the transformative and political act of education.
The past two weeks reminded me of what authentic instruction and its impact looks like and feels like. Still, stress factors contribute to teacher burnout and high turnover. Without a doubt, it’s natural to see teachers burn out more quickly than in any other profession. The stakes are beyond high when you have young minds and hearts in your classrooms, looking to you for guidance and knowledge each day.
For this, teachers need healthy ways to practice self-care. Our work follows us home each and everyday, whether in the form of unit exams, professional development, or student caseloads.
I compiled some of my best practices in the hope to keep other teachers centered, restored, and prepared for the pace of an impending school year. Follow these steps and keep your cup full from the demanding tasklists, the stress, the inconsistencies, the long hours, the endless grind, and the many hours you may spend in services of children and their families.
- Take at least 15 minutes a day to yourself
- Put the coffee down.
- When appropriate, laugh with your students.
We naturally smile when we laugh, both being highly contagious. Students love to see or gain insight into their teachers as regular people. Giving yourself a moment to laugh, whether at lunch, or at a funny joke mid-class, gives you the quick chance to recharge and connect with students.
- Pay attention to your moods.
- Dedicate yourself to a new book, at least one a month.
- Pick at least one good moment from your day and give gratitude for it.
- Carve out time to enjoy your home, a meal, or a favorite thing.
- Sleep more.
- Find and keep that “one friend” who doesn’t work in education like you.
- Teach with your heart.