Y'all know I'm all about teacher self care and wellness, so I want to share some things that I did in the past that completely wasted my time and energy.
Be sharing these, I hope I can help you avoid the same mistakes I made!
I lost myself in the name of "professionalism." I thought the more I appeared to have it all together then it would help me in the long run. I started teaching at 22 years old and I looked very young. I wanted to seem more mature because I felt as if I had to impress staff members and parents. I can't tell you how many times a parent has asked, "How old are you again?" or questioned my capability because of my age. I felt like a robot just trying to keep up with the expectations I had created in my own mind. Take it from me, fakin' it 'til you make it does not work. Be yourself, teacher friend.
I volunteered for everything. I thought me being young, single, and without children automatically meant I would be the one to attend afterschool events and serve as the grade level representative. NEWSFLASH!!! That's not true AT ALL. Thankfully, I was surrounded with seasoned teachers who helped me understand that my assumption was wrong. We created a schedule and split the required events among the team. It's easy for some to assume that because you're a recent college grad or young teacher that you have nothing else to do with your time off, but I quickly learned it wasn't the case. If you're a new teacher preparing to enter the world of teaching, do not let anyone take advantage of your free time. If you begin to notice that you're being asked to do more than your contract requires over and over again, this may be an area in need of a boundary.
I took work home....ALL THE TIME. I did this because it seemed to be the norm. Arrive early, leave late, and grade at home. Wash, rinse, repeat. I would go home, walk my dog, shower, barely eat dinner, and do more work. It was my little system and Y'ALL, it was burning me OUT! Fast forward nine years and I am still learning as things evolve.
Here is what helps me leave work at work.
Create daily, prioritized to-do lists. I would put an asterisk beside the tasks that absolutely HAD to be done in order for the next day to run smoothly. Once you feel confident in your day to day completion, try week to week. This will help you figure out what HAS to be done and determine what lessons/activities need to be done to get the biggest bang for your buck. You want to put your time, energy, and effort into tasks that will benefit your scholars.
I gave myself permission to be OKAY with the fact that I may not have finished the entire to-do list, and found peace in the fact that I was prepared for the next day. I also had to get to know myself again after becoming so consumed with my work. Continue to have hobbies and do things that bring you joy. Your self-care needs to be a priority in order to show up each day for your kids.
My team worked together to create pacing guides for each subject. We created our teaching slides and student slides a week in advance, sometimes two weeks, depending on the content. We included important dates in the pacing like testing windows, holidays, teacher workdays, progress reports, field trips, assemblies, and report cards. Long range planning can be tedious and may take a few workdays or one Saturday morning a month, but the benefits are SO worth it!
Backwards design planning. With each unit or module, we began by taking a look at the end of unit assessment or project. Then we would focus on the tasks that would have the BIGGEST impact on our scholars. In my student teaching, my mentor teacher would stay after work for an hour each day in the beginning of the year until she was prepped enough for the rest of the year. She truly began with the end in mind.
Establishing and adhering to boundaries. When deciding if something needs a boundary, assess what you value in your life. What do you do that brings you joy or happiness? It may be a weekly pool game with friends, dinner with your family, or journaling time alone. Your boundary needs to protect those priorities. You may pick a day to stay after with your teacher bestie to unwind, laugh, and plan/grade. You could also pick a day to stay after and walk the track or exercise with a friend. Purposely setting dates after work will help you leave on time so that you can show up, guilt-free and enjoy your personal time. Click the image below for a super helpful article from The Power of Positivity for more info on how to set healthy boundaries.
All in all, remember to give yourself grace, patience, and love. You will make mistakes and that is OKAY! You will learn and evolve in your teaching career every single day. Here is a summer routines and boundaries workbook to help you assess your practices right now and determine what you will commit to continuing when the year begins.