Key takeaways

  • While it's important to strive for improvement, it's equally important to prioritize your well-being
  • Set boundaries by creating a clear separation between work and personal life
  • Tips for maintaining a healthy lifestyle

As teachers, it seems that we’re exposed to more talks of ‘improvement’ than any other profession. Finding time for wellbeing, however, is an improvement that reaps many rewards.

Nerdy girl leaving campus Female student walking around her town after her lectures teacher wellbeing stock pictures, royalty-free photos & images

We are always striving to improve ourselves and our students. We follow the goals set out for us in our school’s improvement plan, we challenge ourselves to learn new skills and strategies, and we constantly teach our students how to improve their own learning. Improvement is part of our DNA, and that’s a good thing, but it can also become harmful when we push ourselves too hard and neglect our well-being.

Pressures facing the teaching profession add to this "improvement culture" we’ve created for ourselves. Demanding targets, increasing workloads and high expectations (from senior leaders and ourselves) result in us setting unrealistic goals and resolutions, which, although meant to help better us, only result in us getting closer to burnout.

Teacher burnout is a serious issue that affects many educators around the world. According to a recent survey, 44% of the K-12 workers in the US say they always or very often feel burned out at work. Teacher burnout can lead to physical and mental health problems, lower job satisfaction, and higher turnover rates. It can also negatively impact student achievement and motivation.

Teacher well-being and the effects of poor school climate

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Teacher well-being

Well-being has long been an area of concern for teachers - more and more are having to take time off from work due to mental health issues, and there’s a general consensus across the states that well-being and morale are low in education. There isn’t one particular reason for this, but workload, high pressure, budget constraints, and lack of teachers all contribute. A lot of these factors are out of our hands, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t improve our own well-being.

Working on improving your well-being does not need to coincide with a new year or present itself as a resolution. It should happen all year round, and at any point, you see an opportunity for improvement. The beauty of looking after yourself and your own well-being is that it has positive effects on your career and your students. Here are some ideas of resolutions or changes you can make, either in the new year or at any point, to help improve your well-being.

1. Learn to say no

Saying no is not selfish or rude. It is a way of respecting yourself and your needs. Saying no can help you:

  • Reduce stress and prevent burnout
  • Manage your time and energy better
  • Focus on what matters most to you
  • Achieve your goals
  • Improve your self-esteem and confidence
  • Enhance your relationship with others

Saying no can be hard, especially when you want to please others or avoid conflict. But learning to say no is a skill that you can develop with practice. Here are some tips on how to say no effectively:

  • Be clear and assertive. Use a firm and polite tone, and avoid using words like “maybe,” “I’ll try,” or “I’ll think about it.”
  • Keep it simple. Don’t over-explain or justify your decision. A simple “no, thank you” or “I’m sorry, I can’t” can be enough.
  • Practice saying no. The more you say no, the easier it will become. You can practice saying no in front of a mirror, with a friend, or in low-stakes situations.
  • Be honest and respectful. Explain the reason why you are saying no, but don’t make excuses or apologize excessively.
  • Repeat your answer if necessary. Some people may not accept your no the first time and may try to persuade or pressure you to change your mind.

2. Allocate Time for Yourself

As a teacher, you may often feel like you have no time for yourself. You may neglect your own needs and interests while taking care of others or fulfilling your obligations. If so, you may need to learn how to practice self-care and enjoy your hobbies. In this blog post, you will learn why allocating time for yourself is important, how to find and pursue your hobbies, and what benefits you can gain from practicing self-care and enjoying your hobbies.

According to the American Psychological Association, chronic stress can have negative effects on your physical and mental health, such as headaches, insomnia, anxiety, depression, and cardiovascular problems. Therefore, it is essential to find healthy ways to cope with stress and recharge your energy. One of the best ways to do that is to allocate time for yourself and do things that make you happy and relaxed.

If you need some inspiration for finding and pursuing your hobbies, you can check out this list of 15 calming hobbies for teachers that you can start right now.

Moreover, practicing self-care and enjoying your hobbies can also benefit your students and your teaching. According to research, teachers who engage in self-care and leisure activities report higher levels of well-being, job satisfaction, and teaching efficacy. They also experience lower levels of stress, burnout, and absenteeism. Furthermore, teachers who have hobbies can use them to boost student engagement and learning by infusing their lessons with their personal interests and showing their students how abstract concepts play out in the real world.

“An empty lantern provides no light. Self-care is the fuel that allows your light to shine brightly.” - Unknown

3. Give yourself some credit

As a teacher, you have one of the most important and challenging jobs in the world. You are responsible for educating and inspiring the next generation of learners, leaders, and innovators. You work hard every day to plan lessons, grade papers, manage classrooms, and support students. You deserve some credit for all that you do!

Giving yourself some credit can have many benefits for your well-being and performance:

  • Giving yourself credit can boost your self-esteem, confidence, and motivation.
  • It can also reduce your stress, anxiety, and burnout.
  • It can help you cope with challenges and setbacks and improve your resilience and perseverance.
  • It can also enhance your creativity, productivity, and satisfaction.

4. Don't let exercise slip

As a teacher, you have a busy and demanding schedule. You have to prepare lessons, grade assignments, attend meetings, and deal with various challenges and issues. You may feel like you have no time or energy for exercise. But exercise is not a luxury. It is a necessity for your health and well-being.

Exercise can provide many benefits for teachers, both physically and mentally. Exercise can improve your cardiovascular fitness, muscle strength, bone density, immune system, and metabolism. It can also reduce your risk of chronic diseases, such as diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and some cancers.

Exercise can also boost your mood, memory, creativity, and productivity. It can help you cope with stress, anxiety, and depression. It can enhance your self-esteem, confidence, and motivation. It can also improve your sleep quality and quantity.

Do it for you

As teachers, we tend to be selfless, constantly putting the needs of others before us in a bid to help the students and our school. This is, of course, something to be proud of, but we need to remember that because of the work we do, and who we impact, we need to look after ourselves.

Little changes such as the ones above can have a huge impact on your well-being when you stick to them, which, in turn, can improve your mood at work and the quality of work you produce. Wellbeing shouldn’t be a phase, resolution, or put on the back burner - time should be made for it all year round.

Author: Bethany Spencer & Hope Marvin

Posted: 07 Feb 2020

Estimated time to read: 7 mins

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