Teachers work hard. It's not unusual for teachers to put in long hours, to have teaching constantly on our minds and to put our work before other things. That's not always a good thing, though. Overwork can lead to exhaustion, illness and burnout - leaving us as less effective teachers.
So what can we do to combat the 'work yourself to the bone' attitude? How can we take care of ourselves as teachers?
1. Eat Proper Meals and Stay Hydrated
As a constant visitor to that box of fundraising chocolates, I'm the last person to tell you to cut out all chocolate. However, eating proper meals and staying well hydrated can definitely help when you're trying to avoid burnout. Think about scheduling time into your week to plan meals, cook ahead and freeze if you can, even planning what you're going to take for lunch each day can make the meal time planning easier. If you're bringing food to school for lunch, invest in a lunchbox that makes you happy - you're more likely to use it if you like looking at it!
A water bottle which makes you happy can also help you drink enough water - especially if you remember to use it. Use your break times to refill it, take it out on playground duties or supervisions, keep it in a place in your classroom where you're sure to remember it!
2. Find Moments of Positivity
When you're feeling worn out with work, it can be easy to fall back on more negative thoughts - especially when the news of the world isn't terribly happy. This can have the result of making you feel more worn out. Find the places where you can get a positivity fill - it might be an Instagram feed with beautiful photos (a friend once suggested following florists!), affirmation cards you keep on your desk or in your planner, positive quotes to share with your students, a beautiful picture to look at, or a positivity podcast.
You might also like to undertake a challenge to be a source of positivity in the world. Look for the times when you can compliment the people around you, play a beautiful or funny piece of music for your students, bring in a treat to share with colleagues or take your family on an outing to a place which is uplifting to you all (we love our local coast town around here - instant mood lift!)
3. Use Your Time At School Effectively
Time at school is so precious, so make sure you use it! Try not to get distracted by side subjects or talking about non-related stuff with colleagues. Use your planning, marking and organising time to plan, mark, organise, talk with parents, answering emails - things that help you do your work better!
To do this, you might need to find out what helps you focus when you're at school. You might need to spend 30 seconds tidying your workspace or 30 seconds writing a list of things to work on. You might need to invest in a pair of headphones and some music without words (I have a classical music playlist that works for productivity every time!). You might need to close the door to your classroom to let your colleagues and/or students know that you're working. You might need to break big projects down into smaller ones or use a timer to keep yourself on track.
The more you can get done in school time, the less you bring home. Plus you get those warm fuzzies because you've worked hard in the time given to you for working hard!
4. Don't Become Too Focused on School
It is possible to become too entranced with school, but it's so important to maintain a life outside of being a teacher. Make time for yourself and the people around you - even if you need to officially schedule it into your phone, planner or calendar.
One of my former colleagues used to schedule an outing with her young son after school on Fridays. It was the day she'd leave the building right on time, making sure that they got the most of an afternoon treat. Your schedule might include coffee or a walk with friends, an exercise class which leaves you happy, a subscription to the theatre or the ballet, or making time each week to enjoy a hobby or favourite television show. These are the things which bring joy into your life - and they make you a better teacher for it.