Finding Small Moments Throughout the Year to Recharge
My grandma used to say, “You can’t pour from an empty pitcher.” We all know that teaching can be a stressful job. During the school year, we devote so much of our time and energy to students. The summer is a chance to step back, decompress, and recharge. But why do we wait until after we close our classroom doors for the last time each school year to refill the pitcher?
Summer is an opportunity to rejuvenate, but it is also an ideal time to meditate on what replenishing activities you would like to incorporate into next year’s daily routine. Trying out new ways to keep the pitcher full during the more carefree days of summer will make it that much easier to integrate them into hectic school days between September and June. Here are some ideas to get you started:
- Are you someone who spends a lot of time outdoors? Choose a set time to get outside and take a walk. During the school year, consider walking a lap around your school building or parking lot during your lunch break.
- Square breathing takes only a minute but can help decrease stress in your body. Imagine four sides of a square, with each side representing a count of four (1, 2, 3, 4): first breathe in through your nose, then hold the breath, then let it out through your mouth, followed by another breath-hold. Repeat a few times.
- If weeklong trips to the beach or the mountain are where you find your calm, it’s time to get driving. Grab a friend and take a day trip to a small town not far from you for some shopping or great food. Or perhaps there are tourist stops in your state that as a local you have never visited. Take a weekend afternoon and explore!
- Humans are social creatures. We talk with others to celebrate, vent, process, and everything in between. One way to help release stress throughout the year is to connect with others. Find a colleague whom you can trust to hold conversation with during the day and a friend or family member you can talk to outside of school hours. Know it’s okay to say, “I just need to vent” or “I need some help finding a solution (or processing).”
- Listen to a podcast. It can be while you are grading papers, during your commute, or while you walk. While there are many great educational podcasts, take a mental break and listen to something unrelated to your school day. Here are a few of my favorite podcasts outside of our profession: More Perfect, History That Doesn’t Suck, By the Book, The Way I Heard It, Unlocking Us, The West Wing Weekly, Armchair Expert.
- Make time to find or further a hobby. Perhaps you are a baker, woodworker, knitter, gardener, or calligraphist. Whether you’re trying it for the first time or are something of an expert, if you enjoy doing the activity it can help you reset. Carve out time each week to engage in your hobby.
- Keep a “smile file” – a folder of notes, pictures, or cards from students that make you smile. There may be a moment sitting at your desk when you find yourself frustrated. A lesson didn’t go as you’d planned, or a student was having an off day. It is those moments when you can pull something from your “smile file.”
- There are times you can almost feel your cup draining, and it can be exhausting. In those moments, practice gratitude. Take a moment to think of something around you that you are grateful for. This can immediately change your mindset. You can also think of a person you are grateful to have in your life. Perhaps let them know you are grateful for them. Look for the opportunities to pause and give attention to the things and people that you can be grateful for.
- To the best of your ability, during the school year, leave work at work. When you walk out the school doors, focus on you, your family, your home. Give yourself a mental break from the hustle and bustle of classroom life.
- Whether it is a stress release, a calm start, pumping up your energy, or anything in between, your commute to and from school can be valuable time. Use your commute. Perhaps it’s a news program in the morning for a low-energy start or some classic rock blaring on the way home to release some stress. If music or podcasts don’t serve you, use the time to call a friend or family member. Or, simply sit in the quiet and anticipate or reflect on your day.
Written by Heather Young, Responsive Classroom Consulting Teacher