Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Self-care secrets from a (formerly) burned out special ed teacher

Yeah, burn out is real. Most of us hate admitting it, but we have at least towed the line with burn out at some point in our teaching lives. For me, it comes and goes in waves. Some days I make it through the day and no matter how successful, stressful, ridiculous, or exciting my day was, I feel great and know why I do what I do. And some days, I literally go home and fall asleep on the couch with tears in my eyes and my winter coat still on. The struggle is real.

So - WHAT  DO YOU DO?! Well, there's the usuals: get a manicure once a pay period, have several wine options in your fridge at all times, keep a well stocked chocolate stash in the corner of your desk. Please do those things. DO THOSE THINGS. But self care is more than a back rub and a cold glass of Pinot.

And... let me be clear, this is not my strong suit. But I know the importance in taking care of myself and how it directly impacts my students and my relationships with others. So here's some ways that I am working on taking care of myself, so that I am the best teacher, wife, friend, and family member that I can be.

1.) Morning routines.

I personally love to read. It gives me joy. Do I read during the school year? No. Do I read in summer? Yes. I just opened book 6 of my summer last night. Is this okay? NO!!!! Something I have found to be really helpful for me is to make a ritual or a routine of it. I make sure I always have coffee that I really like (not just Folgers), like a good pumpkin or cinnamon flavor, and I make coffee and I read in the morning. This means I have to wake up early. Only by 15 minutes, but that time is sacred. It took me a long time of wanting to implement this routine before I actually did it, and I'm not perfect at it. But it helps. And for me, it matters what I read.

This school year I am planning on going through Savor by Shauna Niequist. It's a Christian devotional that's super relate-able, impacting, and quick. Deep without making me use a dictionary first thing in the morning. If you're a Christian or just interested in some inspirational reading, join me!!

2.) Down Time.

Holy cow. We have down time?! Well, not always. BUTTTT - many of us are blessed with paraprofessionals in our room that not only are necessary to running our programs, but they are our assistants in other aspects. GUYS - USE THEM. Like any human on the planet, if the kids are on iPads, doing independent work, silent reading, whatever - they are just going to sit there and do nothing if there's nothing for them to do. It can be awkward to start implementing this ("Hey, I never have you copy/cut out/label/laminate, but now I want you to start doing this."), but it's FINE. They get paid to be there, and you will likely find that they WANT to contribute as much as possible and be a real part of the planning of the classroom. Laminate checklists and use dry erase markers to make them weekly to-dos. You shouldn't have to do all of the cleaning, labeling, velcro-ing, whatever. If it helps you from lugging a suitcase of behavior visuals home to laminate on a Tuesday night AND can be done by staff during the school day? That's a total win-win!

3.) Classroom environment.

Like where you're at. If you're really into classroom decor, you know what I mean. If you're not, or struggle to set that up, it's okay! Add in some things that make the room brighter, more cozy. You and your crew are there ALL DAY. Make it a place you love. This year, I'm adding some quotes just for me by my desk. The last 3 years I didn't use a teacher's desk, but this year I decided that I really want, and need, that space as my own. These are the ones I'm using, but if you search on Pinterest you will find tons of wonderful mantras to keep you going. If you're into prints and frames, check out these awesome ones on Etsy (this one, this one, and ahhh this one!). I personally fear that my behavior bunch may swipe the desk once or twice and I'm going to stick to stapling mine to the wall :) #knowyouraudience

    let your faith be bigger than your fear: every. tiny. victory.:

Also, if you can get permission from your administration (always good to ask because, well, you never know) - use an essential oil diffuser! Diffusing lavender in the classroom is for real SO calming. I also keep lavender lotion by my desk to use AND to let my kiddos use. "They" say that lavender is calming and you know, I'll take it.

4.) Food.

I know when I'm stressed out I do one of two things: am anxious all the time and have no appetite OR go to a drive thru because I'm starving and feel like I have no time. Both of these ideas are terrible. I know when I eat junk I feel gross. And it's honestly not worth it.

This year I am going to start meal planning for the week, which is not a revolutionary idea. It seriously helps me when I do this, though I'm SO BAD about keeping up with it. When I do it, I always have the ingredients that I need on hand, and since my husband and I are the only ones at home, we always have left overs. I typically eat these for lunch, so I know that I'm going to consume an actual meal and not a handful of trail mix and a string cheese for lunch (GUILTY).

Here's an AWESOME blog series from Haley at Miss L's Busy Bees called Teachers Who Cook. Definitely going to be a major resource for me this year with my new venture!

And from here on out... give me your tips! What helps you not want to cry in fetal position after an exhausting day?

(PS These Amazon links are just visual ideas of what I'm referring to - I get a 'lil bit of cash if you purchase them from that link, but that's really it :)

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