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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

Share Your Self-Care Strategies

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As teachers, we give so much to others, it can be hard to remember to care for ourselves, too. Self-care is the act of taking the time and space to truly nurture ourselves. This isn't just something that's nice to do - I believe it's truly essential to sustaining the level of deep engagement that is required of us when we are doing our best work.

At my school, self-care is an active part of our culture, both for students and staff. When we give students the tools to take care of themselves, we foster independence, ownership, and confidence. When we allow ourselves to do the same, we increase our own sense of feeling grounded and balanced.

I'd love to build a big list with your help of ideas for self-care, and then I'll put the list together into some categories along with links to external resources if you have those too. I'd love then to be able to give that list to new teachers or burned-out teachers or really anyone to help them get through the tough times and sustain through the good ones. 

So - what are your favorite self-care strategies? Here are some prompts to get you thinking...

  • What activity do you do when you get home from work to create a separation from work to home?
  • What two-minute strategy do you use during passing time to center yourself?
  • What items could you keep in your desk to give you an emotional boost throughout the day?
  • What activities could you do along with your coworkers to create a culture of self-care?
  • What might you do after a particularly tough day?
  • Do you have any images or words you call to mind in a hard moment?
  • Which ways of connecting with others fill your tank?

Can't wait to hear your ideas! 


This post was created by a member of Edutopia's community. If you have your own #eduawesome tips, strategies, and ideas for improving education, share them with us.

Comments (12) Sign in or register to comment Follow Subscribe to comments via RSS

TAHadley's picture

I am currently unemployed ( more experience than any district will pay for, a dire situation) but have always wanted to enlist a local yoga teacher to come in after school and conduct a class. No excuses!! :). will do this when/if I get a job!!

Laura Bradley, MA, NBCT's picture
Laura Bradley, MA, NBCT
Middle school English/Digital Media teacher

That's a great idea, TAHadley! A few years back our principal contacted a local massage therapy school. The MT school provided a couple massage chairs, and the students came in during our break and lunch times to give us 15 minute neck/shoulder massages. The staff walked around in a fog the rest of the day!

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Alex Shevrin's picture
Alex Shevrin
Teacher/leader & techie at independent, alternative, therapeutic high school

I agree with the quick-yoga-in-the-restroom idea - sometimes just a few deep breaths can get you centered and move along with your day without anyone noticing a thing!

I too keep "emergency chocolate" in my desk. Super helpful not only for me but for sharing with others when they are having a rough day too.

Lina, I love your suggestion about motivational quotes. I have a few of these posted right above my desk. My favorite is one that says "you are enough." A good reminder.

Mandy S- NJ teacher's picture

I like this idea of "self-care." We all have strategies that we may not even realize or acknowledge that we do to promote care for ourselves. But I'm sure I could use some extra ideas in the area of keeping myself feeling positive and upbeat for our students. In my master's course, a requirement for the beginning of the course was to develop my own mission statement. I posted that mission statement on my laptop. It's a positive, enthusiastic statement that reminds me why I wake up and come to school everyday. It serves to inspire me when I'm having a moment of frustration. During my lunch period, my coworkers often debate, stress, and bicker over curriculum demands, student issues, along with all the other demands of our job. I choose to leave the room and get in my car and drive to the park a block away to sit in the sun by myself for 25 minutes. If it's cold out, I still drive to the park, but I turn on my heated seats and recline my seat. I turn on some good tunes and text a friend something funny that happened in my morning. It seems to work for me.

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Mkpfaith's picture

It's so hard...teaching. When you really care, it can take up so much time. I feel awful because I've neglected helping our own two kids and it's taking a toil on my health slowly. I'm only 42! I like this idea of self-care and just appreciate knowing I'm not alone in this. Chocolate is great but, lol, I ate half a bag of Ghiradelli Chocolate (mint bark) the other day at work. Yoga sounds great if it can come to me at work. Friday's are MY day...go home and do nothing. My self-care for now.

Aaron Heintz's picture

I give anonymous student surveys every marking period. I ask: 1. What do you like most about our class? 2. What do you like the least? 3. How can we fix #2? 4. How can I improve as a teacher?

After reading them all I usually save the most touching , meaningful responses in a "rainy day" folder. I generally forget the file exists until I stumble upon it. It is always uplifting to read and rediscover such wonderful comments and positive feedback.

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Ashley's picture

I agree with staying away from the negative thoughts. You want them to understand that you value their opinions and even agree, but in order to stay positive and focused on the task at hand, the negative thoughts and bickering should be kept at bay. I've only been a Para for 4+ months (and am going to school for my Ed degree), but I can see how easy it is to get caught up in the mentally exhaustive parts of the job, and you must take time to yourself. Effective immediately! Haha If not now, then when? I'm getting back to my diet and exercising tomorrow. And will be thinking of other little ways I can thank myself during a busy day. Chocolate, pandora on my lunch break, my nook...

SocialWorkerColleen's picture

What a fantastic question!

I keep healthy snacks in my desk, but I know where to find chocolate if needed! That way I get tk visit co workers too. I also have fixings for coffee or tea.

I find that making time at the end of each of my groups to chat with the kids/play a quick game like hang man always brightens my day. I think it helps the kids too!

I have inspirational things on my walls too, but I also have a printout of advice from an old supervisor and I look at it when I need a boost.

Gaetan Pappalardo's picture
Gaetan Pappalardo
Teacher, Author, Guitar––Word.

Music!

---If you play a musical instrument, bring it to school. There's nothing like letting off some steam when your kids are not in class by ripping up some guitar or blowing some harmonica.

---Audio system--- you need one- crank it until the walls rumble.

Oh yeah, I also have a Darth Vader stress head.

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