10 Ways to Keep Your Marbles as an English Teacher.

  1.  Move, move, move!  I know sounds like common sense and even dumb as teachers spend most of their day on their feet, but usually we end up standing or moving in the same ways over and over again.  Thus tensing the same muscles, never releasing them fully.  So, when you have thirty seconds in between classes, consider doing one-two stretches.  Or maybe in the bathroom, let’s be real it’s usually a minute or less to do your business, but if you take just ten seconds more to stretch your arms or torso, you won’t regret it.  So move, find ways to incorporate movement into your day.
  2. Breathe.  Okay I know, mindfulness has gone hipster these days.  And…you’re probably thinking, duh of course I breathe, how do you think I’m alive?  You’re right.  You breathe, of course you do.  What I’m suggesting is to feel your breath enter and leave your body.  It is a different experience altogether.  We do it in my classes and you will be amazed at how quickly a squirrelly ass sixth grade student can reset and get focused when she feels her lungs expand and contract!
  3. Go outside, feel real air.  We spend so much time in our classrooms, in ancient buildings with compromised air circulation systems.  So, take five minutes and do a lap up and down the street or parking lot or front entrance.  I used to do this only when spring arrived, but as winter slowly arrives, I’m realizing that outside isn’t as bad. No.  The air frees me for just a moment of that intense pace that exists on school grounds.
  4. Take the time for lunch.  I’ve been preaching and fighting for this right for a decade now–sometimes even getting in trouble for it.  Eating mindfully is as important as breathing.  When we eat, our body is hard at work, how dare we put more stress on it by continuing to plan, or copy or work?  So take some time off your busy ass schedule and spend it with your lunch.  Remember we are not performing surgery here.  No one will die because you didn’t finish a task.
  5. Find your rhythm.  Some days you may need to focus on teaching, while others on assessing.  On days when you are teaching, rest your body, don’t try to grade and plan on those days, give yourself a break.  On days when you are grading/assessing, allow students to work independently so you can work.  Take breaks from the computer and stretch, walk outside, be kind to yourself on those days as grading is hard work.
  6.  Add music into your transitions.  When grades are due or we are in the midst of a busy project, I always forget the impact of music in my classroom.  Playing music before students come in and as they come and as they do independent work, gives me a sense of ease like this is home not work, I’m just relaxing.  It sets a mood…at the risk of sound trite.
  7. Find some alone time to be with you.  Again, I know this sounds ridiculous and all om-mey.  But!  It is vital to disengage; it allows for your body and mind to spread back out, get level again.  In schools, teachers and students, especially today, are so over stimulated from technology to listening to students tell you about their weekend to colleagues melting down over various crises.  It can be overwhelming and leave you perpetually doing, almost as if I’m inside a pin-ball machine and I’m the ball going from one corner to the next.  I choose most days out of the week to find some time away from everyone and on those days that I actually accomplish this goal, I go home ready to workout, cook, spend time with N.
  8. Fuel your body properly.  This is my biggest challenge.  Sugar is everywhere!  Teachers, we, use it as massage therapy, anger therapy, yogi therapy.  I can literally eat a piece of chocolate in front of students and feel as if I’m elsewhere.  It’s habit.  Why can’t I do the same when I breathe?  [said the addict…]  Then there’s water.  Just as big of a feat to overcome.  The older I get, the more this impacts my body.  I have to stay hydrated or I will end up with a migraine and usually, it isn’t until the migraine occurs that I’m berating myself for not taking care of me.  As care takers, we have to put ourselves first.  Lately, when I see my water bottle is low, I stop what I’m doing to fill it up.  I’m trying to practice making myself a priority over my work, over…dare I say…my students, even.
  9. Use your personal days!  I know you want to have a large bank of days sitting in your leave bank.  It makes you feel good, safe, comfortable, relaxed.  But how do you feel at this moment, right now?  Are you comfortable, relaxed, calm, restored?  If the answer is no, and I predict it is, then do it. Take. A. Day.  Now, I already hear your excuses: but I’m giving a quiz, my kids need these notes, it’s too much work to plan for a sub, I may not get a sub by tomorrow, it’s just easier for power through till the weekend.  I could go on, on, making this it’s own blog post.  I’ve used every last one of those excuses myself to not take care of me, when I needed it the most.  Take. That. Day.  You won’t regret it!  Your students will thank you for it!
  10. Don’t procrastinate grading essays.  Before all of you delete my post or stop reading, never to return.  Here me out.  Like laundry, dishes, dusting, grading piles up.  It doesn’t matter what you do or how much you stay on top of it, you will always have grading.  So, I’ve had to redefine it for myself this year.  In the past, I’d go on these crazy binges of grading till my eyes blurred and body was stiff.  Then, I’d have like three weeks of procrastination and have to do it again.  By March, I’d say my favorite phrase:  I have nothing left to give and barely crawl to the end of the school year.  I was burning myself out by stop and going at such intensity.  What if, you did a few here, a few there and fit it in when you could, not letting it pile up?  Could you last longer, not feel that gas empty, can’t even move at the end feeling?  For this one, I don’t have enough evidence to prove it works…so I’ll let you know in March, but I can say this:  I don’t feel as overworked as I did before by doing a little here and little there.
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