Teacher Self-Care

Teacher taking time for herself

Teacher Self-Care

Teachers are some of the busiest professionals we meet. We watch them juggle the needs of students, administrators, team members, and family members. They have to manage classroom behavior, be mindful of curriculum requirements, and prep students for testing. With this myriad of responsibilities on their shoulders, it’s not surprising that many teachers suffer from long-term illness and burnout.

“Too often, we do not make time for sufficient self care because we’re too busy taking care of others.”

Eleanor Brownn

Classroom technology can help ease some of the burden, but that’s a small part of the puzzle that makes up a healthy environment for teachers. A recent study showed that “workload and a better work/life balance are the main reasons teachers leave or consider leaving the profession within 10 years.” Without active preventative measures, teachers can end up on long-term sick leave. Some teachers decide to leave the field forever.

“By making time for self care, you prepare yourself to be your best so you can share your gifts with the world.”

Eleanor Brownn

One way to combat this trend is with teacher self-care. Whether big or small, self-care habits can be impactful and help teachers manage a stressful environment. We searched a collection of articles and gathered a list of ideas below:

Start the day right.

The way we start our day sets the tone. Taking time for yourself in the morning can ease stress and create more peaceful feelings before heading to a high-pressure day of teaching. These activities can take as little as 5–10 minutes, but they make a big difference in how you start your day:

  • Meditation—Take a few minutes to focus your mind.
  • Mindful breathing—if meditation isn’t your thing, just a few minutes of mindful breathing has been “linked to improved heart, brain, digestive and immune system function, as well as overall stress reduction.”
  • Exercise—Make time for exercise that you enjoy, like stretching, walking, running, yoga, playing sports, or a trip to the gym. Exercise is a great way to wake up our minds and bodies, and it relieves stress too!

Keep it up at school.

A good start to the day is important, but it can be challenging to maintain the focus and peace of a morning routine when faced with the pressures of school. Here are some ideas to maintain some focus on your own needs as you care for others:

  • Avoid trivial classroom conflicts; if your students can work it out with themselves, let them.
  • Prioritize and eliminate—decide what is the best use of your time and eliminate the extras that aren’t necessary and detract from that.
  • Keep a small pick-me-up at your desk, like tea, chocolate, nuts, a stress ball.
  • Accept that you’re a “teacher in progress”—you don’t have to be perfect. We should all continue growing and learning, and we all make mistakes.
  • Learn to say no. This may be one of the hardest, but focusing on priorities and saying no to things that don’t fit those priorities can relieve huge amounts of stress.

End the day on a positive note.

There are a lot of important things that we can try to cram into the end of the day—it’s the last chance to cross items off our to-do list. Make sure some of those to-dos are taking care of you!

We’re not saying this is a checklist of items that you need to tackle—we all know another list of things to do is NOT what teachers need. The important thing is to find self-care options that will make a difference for you.

“Don’t just pick whatever sounds easiest, or whatever sounds fun. You want it to be something that’s going to take a weight off your shoulders and give you this real sense of satisfaction.”

Angela Watson

Makerspaces 101

building blocks

Makerspaces 101

Students today face a future with new challenges and opportunities that are hard to predict and anticipate. As they look at future jobs, they find employers requiring a broader range of skills. To prepare today’s students, innovative educators have explored new teaching strategies. Among these we find teachers giving students the opportunity to explore problem-solving in new, creative ways with makerspaces.

What is a Makerspace?

Makerspaces are collaborative workspaces designed for hands-on creativity. In them, students create a digital or physical product that they share with their class, school, or even community. Makerspaces are dedicated to creating, learning, and exploring. They may include high-tech tools and equipment, like 3D printers, sewing machines, or robotics equipment. They might just use supplies as simple as cardboard, duct tape and art supplies. They provide a space for student-centered and student-directed learning and inquiry.

Why are makerspaces beneficial in education?

As students head into a drastically different workforce than what their parents and grandparents experienced, they need to know how to collaborate with others. Students also need deepened creativity and critical thinking skills to solve unique and constantly shifting challenges. Makerspaces are a prime opportunity to gain this experience by giving learners the opportunity to collaborate while they “explore, experiment and discover.” The opportunity to try, fail, and try again in a safe environment can help students develop persistence and a determination to stick with a challenge until they find a solution.

How to get started?

Getting started can feel overwhelming. Whether you’re looking for ideas on how to set up a makerspace or how to provide equipment and supplies on a tight budget, there’s help. Here are some ideas we found:

  1. Learn from others. The internet and social media are full of guides and tips for getting started and making a makerspace work for you and your students. A little online research can provide a lot of information. You might also be able to visit and experience a makerspace in your area.
  2. Ask the community. Communities can help stock simple supplies like cardboard boxes, paper, popsicle sticks, office supplies, glass jars, etc. Give a wish list to businesses, parents, and post it on social media. Your community can provide experts with specific, technical skills who could assist with a project.
  3. Start small. You can find amazing makerspaces with incredible supplies and equipment, but a simple space can serve the same purpose. It’s even an option to start with one project to introduce the concept and build as you move forward.
  4. Establish expectations. Ask students to help construct guidelines and procedures before getting started so everyone is on the same page.
  5. Make connections. Incorporate maker projects into everyday lessons to “cement the association between real-world curiosity and experimentation to more structured and measured classroom instruction.”

Makerspaces are growing in popularity because they are helping students develop the 21st century skills that employers are looking for. Collaborative, problem-solving opportunities prepare learners for their futures and the challenges they will face when they leave school.

Have you given makerspaces a try? We’d love to hear your experience.

5 Behavior Management Tips for the Classroom

Students working in a classroom

5 Behavior Management Tips for the Classroom

Students misbehaving can interrupt learning and frustrate teachers, yet it occurs daily. Teachers react to bad behavior in different ways, using different disciplinary actions, directing attention elsewhere, or even ignoring the behavior. Whatever the reaction, the question remains, “How can I manage misbehavior in my classroom?” You can find dozens of tips for effective classroom management, but we wanted to share five general strategies:

  • Assume the best: Assume students want to learn and participate. Assume they want to be there. Assume they want to learn good behavior and take advantage of opportunities to teach such behavior. “Assuming the best is an underlying orientation that enables us to treat both our students and ourselves with respect and dignity.” Eventually, student behavior begins to reflect positive assumptions from their teachers.
  • Teach students how to better manage themselves: When students become self-regulated learners, they are more likely to stay focused and less likely to provide distractions for other students. Taking time to teach skills like listening and focusing can help students become more disciplined and self-regulated.
  • Provide a safe, structured classroom:A structured classroom often translates to a safe classroom, one where students can enjoy themselves and focus on learning.” Start on day one with clear rules and expectations. Set expectations high but keep goals attainable. Hold students accountable for their actions and be sure to hold yourself to the same standard.
  • Provide effective consequences: To increase the effectiveness of consequences, it may help to wait until emotions have settled, and you’ve had time to think of a creative consequence. Be sure to follow-up with the consequence, but do it privately and with empathy.
  • Offer all students equal opportunity to learn: If students aren’t able to hear what’s being taught, they can become disengaged and distracted. Installing Classroom Audio Systems and reducing environmental noise gives all students the opportunity to hear and learn. 

We’d like to hear from you. Have you tried any of these techniques? What’s a strategy you’ve found works well in your classroom?

3 Ways to Nurture Student Leadership

Students collaborating

3 Ways to Nurture Student Leadership

Leadership skills are highly sought after by employers today, so it’s only fitting that they are taught to students from a young age. Many schools offer programs that teach leadership qualities, including student council, peer mentoring groups, safety patrol and student clubs. In addition, here are three small things teachers can do to nurture skills students need to become leaders.

Teach students to believe in themselves and their ability to succeed.

High levels of self-efficacy, or belief in their ability to reach a goal, lead students to challenge themselves. Those students also have higher intrinsic motivation, a key characteristic in students who become adult leaders. We can accomplish this through inquiry-based activities, collaborative learning, and helping students appreciate how far they have come instead of comparing themselves to other students.

Teach students to work together and teach each other.

Communication skills are essential for good leaders, and working in groups helps students develop necessary communication and problem-solving skills. When students teach each other, it requires them to re-read and review material. It improves self-confidence and presentation skills, which are also qualities of a good leader. This can be facilitated through group work, projects, or presentations.

Teach students responsibility and give them more responsibilities over time.

Responsibility entails accountability, self-control, discipline, and trustworthiness. Students practice responsibility by doing their homework, studying for tests, and accepting the consequences when they don’t. When students receive bad grades or have discipline problems, recognize their achievements and help them realize they can do better. Giving out small classroom jobs and daily tasks can also increase their sense of responsibility.

Along with math, reading, and writing skills, students need to develop the qualities that are necessary for college and the work force. Teaching today’s children and adolescents to be leaders from a young age will, without a doubt, better prepare them for the future.

The “Why?” Behind Professional Learning Communities

Professional Learning Community

The “Why?” Behind Professional Learning Communities

“The three words explain the concept: Professionals coming together in a group—a community—to learn.” -Shirley Hord

A professional learning community, or PLC, is a term describing any group of educators that meets regularly to improve their teaching skills and their students’ academic achievement. Continue reading “The “Why?” Behind Professional Learning Communities”

Teacher Spotlight: Mr. Farias—Why I became a teacher

Teacher Spotlight: Mr. Farias—Why I became a teacher

There are over three million teachers in the U.S., and they all have a reason for doing what they do. Teachers understand the importance of their role in students’ lives and in shaping tomorrow’s generation, and they work hard to make that impact a positive one. Although teachers realize how vital the profession is, they all have their individual motives as to why they decided to become a teacher.

Jose Farias began his teaching career in August of 2017, and is teaching 7th and 8th grade Reading classes at Joel P. Jensen Middle School in West Jordan, Utah. After receiving a bachelor’s degree in English Teaching from Brigham Young University, he was anxious to begin his teaching career and to learn right along with his students.

A Love for Learning and Teaching

“I developed this love for learning and teaching in school. I was always a good student because I cared about my grades. Being successful was a big priority in my life because of my upbringing. It also helped that I naturally enjoyed learning more information in every subject,” Farias said.

Farias also stated that learning was enjoyable because of the great teachers he had. He remembers a particular teacher from the 6th grade, Ms. Borgen. “Her class was always so effective, and entertaining as well. I remember wanting to be a teacher like her,” he recalled.

Mr. Farias is a teacher simply because he loves to teach. He is passionate about the subjects he teaches, like grammar, reading, and writing. He likes the satisfaction of having his students improve in those areas and giving them an education that matters. Farias wants his students to not only be good at those skills, but also be inspired to learn more. He loves getting to know his students and building a close relationship with them so he can truly help them, especially those who are the most disruptive and may be struggling the most.

Being a teacher, however, comes with its challenges as well. Farias stated that he did not expect teaching to be so exhausting. “It’s fun, but you get really tired,” he said. “It’s a lot of energy to put in.”

Working Through the Challenges

Farias shared how he kept going through the first couple of weeks teaching. “Working through exhaustion is difficult, but I find that taking time for myself has been the biggest help. Besides coffee and sleep, taking some time to just relax and give my brain a break makes me feel better. I’m usually more mentally than physically exhausted, so giving myself time to breathe is the best. I’ve also started using a microphone in my class for the sake of my voice. It definitely makes me less tired by the end of the day because I don’t have to yell or raise my voice.”

Joel P. Jensen Middle School is equipped with Audio Enhancement’s Classroom Audio Systems, which allows teachers to speak through a microphone to distribute their voice evenly throughout the classroom.

Mr. Farias hopes to have his students show improvement in their reading levels. “If they are really low level or really high level, I want all my kids to improve this year. Wherever they are, even just a few notches, I want them to learn more. That’s my goal.”

He also stated that a characteristic every teacher needs to have to succeed is love. “To be a teacher, you have to be a very loving person. That’s it. You really have to love what you do and you have to really love the people you work with. The teachers, the kids, the boss. You have to be really loving and really open. You have to care.”

We thank Mr. Farias and the many teachers around the world who are passionate about what they do; who work through their exhaustion to make a difference in many students’ lives; and who love and care every day.