ARTICLE

Self-care for Your Break

These tips, adapted from our webinar Self-Care for the Summer, suggest ways to make the most of your break so you can return to your classroom rested and re-energized to continue the vital work of educating for a diverse democracy.

Read the transcript from our webinar Self Care for the Summer!

Rejuvenate Yourself

During the school year, you probably spend much of your day responding to the needs of other people. Rest up and re-energize for the second half of the semester by taking a little time to treat yourself! Sleep in. If you're not planning to travel, take a day trip or spend a day as a tourist in your own community (the websites of local chambers of commerce or welcome centers can be a great place to find free activities). Get outside if you can and get moving. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, "regular participation in aerobic exercise has been shown to decrease overall levels of tension, elevate and stabilize mood, improve sleep and improve self-esteem. Even five minutes of aerobic exercise can stimulate anti-anxiety effects."

For many of us, the year has been particularly difficult. Taking time over the break to rejuvenate means more than just relaxing—it means healing. You might need to recover from events that took place in your classroom, your community or your country. Or maybe you're struggling to stay inspired and fighting back against accumulated exhaustion and burnout.

Showing compassion to yourself, your students and your school community is one way to start. TT has a few resources that show how others have done this. The article Healing from Moral Injury explains how one teacher built herself back up after what felt like a betrayal by her administration. The accompanying toolkit offers recommendations for techniques you can use. I Thought about Quitting Today, which also has a companion toolkit, tells the story of a teacher's fight with burnout.

 

Evaluate Your Practices

As you think back on your year so far, you'll probably remember moments when you wish you'd acted differently. The break can be an excellent time to evaluate classroom practice. Ask yourself:

  • How are you working to empower your students and to create a safe and affirming environment? 
  • How do you know these choices have been effective? 
  • How does your everyday professional practice reflect a commitment to anti-bias education?

If you find that you're having trouble answering these questions, or if you're not sure how to do so, then take some time to learn more about how other educators demonstrate their commitment to anti-bias education. Here are a few places you can begin:

Critical Practices for Anti-Bias Education provides strategies to ensure you're working to increase equity through your instruction; your classroom culture; and your engagement with families, communities, and other educators. 

Let's Talk is a guide to leading critical conversations about issues like race, gender, and ability in your classroom.

Reading Diversity, a tool for selecting diverse texts, can help you build out your class library to better reflect your students and encourage them to empathize with those whose lives and identities differ from their own.

 

Formulate a Plan

The resources listed above won't only help you evaluate your practice; they'll also help you make changes. After the break, there's a limited amount of time left in the school year. You've built a strong classroom culture and your students know you and one another. They may be feeling antsy for the end of the year, so a new practice or strategy could be the key to keeping them engaged and focused.

And this break is the perfect time to plan out how you'll do that. Once you've rested and evaluated your practices, take a little time to make and commit to a plan for ending the year strong.

Commit to trying one of the instructional strategies outlined in Critical Practices for Anti-Bias Education, to holding one critical conversation in your classroom before the school year ends or to incorporating diverse texts at every opportunity. Sharing a plan with others can increase the likelihood you'll follow through, so tell a colleague or a friend how you'll be working to support anti-bias education. Or share with us in the comments below! 

 

Celebrate Your Successes

A favorite One World poster here at TT includes this quotation from educator and psychologist Haim Ginott:

"I have come to a frightening conclusion. I am the decisive element in the classroom. It is my personal approach that creates the climate. It is my daily mood that makes the weather. As a teacher I possess tremendous power to make a child's life miserable or joyous. I can be a tool for torture or an instrument of inspiration. I can humiliate or humor, hurt or heal. In all situations it is my response that decides whether a crisis will be escalated or de-escalated, and a child humanized or de-humanized." 

We don't always remember the crisis averted or the humiliation avoided. But these small moments shape your classroom climate. And they're worth celebrating: One quality great teachers share is that they recognize their own strengths! Here are a few achievements—some large, some small—that teachers have shared with us.

"Being a listening ear for colleagues who struggled with difficult students" 

"Hosting a student-teacher" 

"Incorporating mindfulness activities"

"Creating interesting classroom lessons" 

"Supporting an intern through the death of a student" 

"Reflecting on my own habits as I taught Seven Habits to students"

If you're comfortable doing so, please use the comments to add your own successes to this list. But even if you keep them to yourself, take a moment to celebrate all that you've accomplished already this year! 

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