I secured my first teaching position at the age of 24. I had just graduated from college, my daughter was turning 5, and I had been married for 4 years. In order to finish college, I worked full time and attended college full time…in addition to caring for a family. I will say, I am a work horse. I don’t get tired (as a matter of fact, I have to do extra work outside of a school day so that I can sleep) and some people have referred to me as a “freak of nature”!
In spite of this, I quickly learned that teaching is a very exhausting job! Not only are you on your feet for over 8 hours a day (yes, I said over 8…I know some people believe teachers play all day…not the case!), but you are having to make so many split second decisions and watch every move of every child in your class, that your mind is also wiped out by the end of the teaching day. I also learned that not only does this occur on a regular basis (don’t get me started on full moon days!), but then you also have to spend time lesson planning, grading papers, and ensuring you are using your data on students so you can make adjustments and find ways so they can achieve academic success! Not only exhausting, but stressful as well!
I remember my first year of teaching…by Friday evening, when everyone else in my social circle wanted to go to happy hour (non-teaching friends), I wanted to go home and go to bed. Yes, at 4:30 I could have crawled in bed! I remember my ex-husband saying how much of a wimp I must be if I could not even make it through a normal dinner on a Friday night without yawning! By year two of teaching, however, I learned that I needed some kind of outlet so that I could relieve the stress and “take care of me” for a minute, or I was not going to make it with a career in education!
As I finish my 22nd year in education, I have found that there are natural times of the year that work in schools is tougher than others. I call this the roller coaster…beginning of the year is exciting so we are on the top of the hill. October is usually the first time a teacher has to complete report cards and there hasn’t really been a school break at this point, so the roller coaster is starting to go down hill. Most districts have a week break at Thanksgiving, so November tends to stay steady until the break and then we go back up hill. Only 3-4 weeks of school between the Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday so we stay on the hill. January, as we return from an extended break, we are still on the hill. Then February hits..it is cold (yes, even in Houston sometimes), it gets dark early, and the month is long (minimal breaks) so we are rushing down that hill FAST! Spring break comes in March, so we climb back up…and April and May are BUSY in most districts so we are down hill, once again!
It is important that you find ways to take care of yourself! It took me a minute (like I think most teachers, because we feel guilty for taking a minute to breathe…because we are supposed to be super human, right?) Let me share some things that I did to keep my stress level down and my motivation up!
- I picked one day a week to lesson plan and grade papers. I found that if I stayed at work a little longer on Friday afternoon, the copy machine was free, so I could lesson plan and copy papers before heading to happy hour. I also started grading papers while watching Sunday football (or the sport of the season)…multitasking was the way to go!
- I tried to get to bed at a decent time Monday through Thursday nights. I cannot (even to this day) sleep on Sunday nights, as I continually visualize the week ahead in my mind . I also trained my daughter to sleep in on Saturdays (even if it meant until 7 am) so that we could catch up and then have fun the rest of the day.
- I found that most of my friends were teachers and when teachers get together, we talk about school. We made a pact that we would NOT discuss school on Saturdays. Most of us are transplants, so we are each others’ families and spend a lot of time together…so we decided that if school was off limits at least one day a week, we could just unwind and enjoy each other without the burden of teaching.
- I have always been athletic (my original college degree was actually physical education) so I found that if I did something physical that tired me out, I slept better and could control some of my stress. I find running does this for me…and as a campus administrator, still a runner today!
My point of this message is…teaching is a TOUGH job! We do it because we love it! We do it because we want to make an impact on the world! But in order to do it well, we have to find ways to take care of our own needs. Trust me, it is normal to feel stressed and overwhelmed, but if you want to make a difference for the students in your life, you must be at your best. And the only way to do that is to find a way (or two) to take care of you!
Sparkle on, my friends!