As a new school year begins, teachers come armed with new or revised lesson plans and renewed excitement ready to give our students the best of ourselves so that they can be their best selves. Sometimes giving the best of ourselves comes with a price. In our quest to be a great teacher as well as parent, partner, caregiver, or one of the many other titles each of us wear, we often put our own needs last, which is the worst thing we could do to ourselves. In my quest to redefine my work/life balance and reduce school year stress, I read many self-help articles and had several conversations with my daughter and sister, both of whom work in the mental health field, and found many commonalities. Here are a few strategies that stood out to me. I hope at least one will work for you.
- Prioritize – Be sure that you differentiate between what “must” and what you would “like” to get accomplished.
- Be realistic; you cannot do everything.
- Make a schedule to help you use your time more efficiently.
- Schedule “Me Time” – If you don’t put yourself on your calendar chances are you will not make or take time for yourself.
- Get a massage.
- Take in a movie.
- Meet up with a friend.
- Read for pleasure
- Manage Your Mind – The most important voice in your life is your own. Listen to your body and practice positive self-talk. Don’t beat yourself up. When feeling stressed take a mini break.
- Close your eyes and take a few deep breaths.
- Take a walk.
- Listen to music.
- Look at cherished pictures – your kids, grandkids, a favorite vacation spot.
- Keep a Gratitude Journal – At the end of the school day or before you go to bed, take a few minutes to reflect on your day and write down a few things for which you are thankful. Not only will this help you to focus on the positive parts of your day, but on a difficult day you can revisit your entries and assure yourself that “this too shall pass.”
A page from my own gratitude journal
- Establish Boundaries – While you may not have a “job” that allows you to leave work at work, you do not have to be available 24/7.
- Decide on a reasonable time to “unplug” each evening to stop checking your work email.
- Establish a time limit for grading or engaging in social media.
- Stop saying “Yes,” to every request. Be selective with how you use your precious free time.
These are just a few suggestions and strategies. Obviously, you may not be able to do this right away but choose one and start small. If you have others to add to the list, please share them in the comment section below. Teachers do important work. We can’t make a difference in the lives of our students if we don’t treat ourselves with respect and kindness. We are all in this together!
Rita DiCarne is a 2000 PAWLP Writing Fellow. She teaches 7th grade ELA at Our Lady of Mercy Regional Catholic School in Maple Glen, PA. Rita married her high school sweetheart 39 years ago and with him she shares two wonderful children, their fabulous spouses, and four fantastic grandchildren!
by Mary Buckelew
“Before choosing The Glorious Heresies by Lisa McInerney for my self-selected book, I figured that I’d be reading aesthetically as I wanted to read for entertainment. After reading, I can say I read mostly with an aesthetic lens, but I did read efferently at times to soak in new information regarding my major.” (Ethan, undergraduate criminal justice major)
“I wish I’d known about the different stances of reading long before this, and I wish my high school teachers hadn’t focused solely on the efferent aspects of reading and books. I only read books in high school to pass tests, write required papers, and other test oriented stuff . . . I don’t think my teachers knew that the aesthetic stance existed. Even summer reading was always selected for us and then we were tested – efferent all the way.” (Sarah, undergraduate biology pre-med major)
“I now like to think about how I am reading, why I am reading, and I even apply efferent and aesthetic to other classes and life in general.” (“Honest Anonymous Feedback” from the end of the semester evaluations, Lit. 165 2:00)
Sarah, Ethan, and the anonymous student were enrolled in my Literature 165 classes this past spring semester. They shared these ideas in their final reflections and in final evaluations.
The theme of the 2016 National Council of Teachers of English was Faces of Advocacy. A theme that couldn’t have been more timely. NCTE’s call for proposals included the following: “Many times as educators, we feel defeated and incapable of making change of any sort. This [NCTE] conference is your opportunity to rise to the challenge of who you are as a teacher or teacher leader – celebrate and discuss the possibilities that lie ahead of us.” There was definitely celebration in finding a COMMUNITY of educators dedicated to a shared purpose – literacy, freedom, and agency for all. Advocacy. What are we doing to advocate and to inspire advocacy in our classrooms, buildings, community, and the world?
L to R: Mary Buckelew, Lynne Dorfman, Rita Sorrentino, Janice Ewing, Tricia Ebarvia, and Kelly Virgin
In this post, PAWLP Fellows Rita Sorrentino, Janice Ewing, Pauline Schmidt, Kelly Virgin, Patty Koller, and Tricia Ebarvia share some of their takeaways from this year’s NWP and NCTE conferences. We encourage readers to respond. Please share your strategies for teaching and inspiring advocacy and service. We also urge teachers to attend and present at local, regional, and national conferences to renew the professional spirit.
– Mary Buckelew Read more
By Lynne R. Dorfman
If you are teaching the qualities of good writing, all you need are some picture books! Why picture books? Picture books provide the models that will help students grow as writers. They have vivid vocabulary—word choice is so important! They have beautiful illustrations or photographs, adding another layer to the text to motivate and engage our struggling readers and writers. Teachers can read them aloud in one sitting, but also return to them throughout the year as mentor texts to imitate. Students can also return to picture books independently to help them take a risk and try out something new. Sometimes, students will gather a set of books by an author to study one craft move that an author has used across some of the texts he has published. Read more
By Janice Ewing
So winter finally arrived. Remember how during the mild days of December we wondered where it was hiding, and if it would ever make an appearance? Then in January the snow burst in, followed by a couple of languid snow days, and now it’s that slushy, drag-along season, when we sometimes find ourselves struggling to maintain energy and enthusiasm.
A bit of metacognition about the blog (metablognition): when we first designed this project in 2013, we identified monthly themes that seemed to follow the path of a teacher’s year. As we’ve grown and changed over the years, we’ve continued to use those themes as a guide, rather than a mandate for the topics of our posts. The theme we chose for February was “Maintaining Positive Energy for Teachers and Students,” and that still seems relevant. Read more