I’m back from a week-long family vacation on the Eastern Shore of Maryland (gorgeous, by the way, for those of you in the Mid-Atlantic United States!). Anyway, as the mom of two little people, who’s married to a teacher-husband, I spent some time on vacation thinking about how teachers—those who give their time to other children—juggle the tension between their teacher lives and their parent lives. In many cases, I hear teachers, particularly moms, lament that they simply cannot make it work. I want to believe it can be different, so I went in search of some teacher-parents who are pulling it off and feeling happy about it!
I recently spoke to Laura and Lauren—both teacher-mothers in the DC area—about how they make it work. Laura and Lauren have two kids each.
Here are some tips I gathered from my conversations with them:
- Find a workplace that fits your needs. Laura mentioned that during her interview process, she noticed small signals that the middle school would match her needs as a working parent. For example, the principal (also a mom) acknowledged there would be days when people’s kids got sick and they had to stay home. I know many schools, particularly charter schools, with very strict attendance policies for teachers. As the mom of a 4-year old with a broken arm and a million orthopedist appointments to juggle, I think a zero absence policy is unrealistic. Figure out your school’s policies—both spoken and unspoken.
Congratulations! You did it! You finished another school year. Maybe it was the hardest year of your life, or maybe you had the best class ever–either way, another school year has come to a close. This means it’s summer! It’s one of the perks of being a teacher, right? Summers off! Yes…and…
Many times, summer flies by and you are walking back into your classroom feeling like you never left. So here are three reminders for getting the most out of your summer and making sure you are ready to bring the happy back into your classroom in the fall:
- Be intentional with your time. If you want to spend the day binge-watching TV, do it! But be intentional that that is what you are doing–you are guiltlessly relaxing. Being intentional is just making sure you are in charge of your time. Each morning, take a few moments to really think about your day. How do you want to feel today? What needs to get accomplished? How might that look? Can you incorporate some of how you wanted to feel into your day? For example, if you want to feel pampered, can you find 15 minutes to pamper your toes and give yourself a pedicure? Or if you wanted to feel rested, can you schedule a short nap or time for a bath?
It’s that time of the year: things are wrapping up at school and summer vacation is in sight. Some of you will be taking a much-needed break before returning for your second corps year. Others of you will be moving on to new opportunities and experiences. This will be the last Mental Heath and Wellness post for the year. But before signing off for the summer, I wanted to leave you with several things to think about in the upcoming months.
How will you rejuvenate this summer? You deserve a break! How will you provide yourself with the time and activities needed to recharge? When I was a CM, summer break was crucial for maintaining my mental health. I allowed myself to spend at least a month not thinking about teaching at all. I took trips to visit old friends, spent time with my family, and indulged a bit by doing things like getting massages and pedicures. I found that taking a break from the things I had been so immersed in for the previous 10 months gave me the chance not only to get some much-needed rest and relaxation, but also to gain some perspective on my experience.
What did you learn about yourself this year? Often, when we have the chance to step back from an experience, we are then in a better place to reflect on things. For instance, how did you do with self-care? What activities or strategies did you find most rejuvenating? If you didn’t do well with self-care this year, how might you make the time for it next year? Perhaps you could use this summer to kick-start a regular exercise regimen. Or spend some time learning to cook fast, healthy meals. Or maybe you could pick up a new hobby. Whatever it is, balancing work with care for yourself will improve your effectiveness as a teacher—plus you’ll feel better, too!
Hi. Happy May. My name is Jenson. I was a 2006 corps member in NYC, and I taught first grade in Brownsville, Brooklyn at P.S. 156. Ready for the acronyms? I have been a CMA once, a CS twice, an MTLD thrice, and I am currently coaching a team of CSs and LSs preparing for Tulsa Institute 2014. When not reciting acronyms, I’m a third-year doctoral student at UT Austin in counseling psychology. This part of my life involves doing lots of things: working with children in a psychiatric hospital, learning how to therapize, attempting to ward off soul-crushing debt. But here’s the part that might interest you: I research teacher stress.
As you might have guessed, I didn’t have to enter academia to learn about the issue. Between teaching six-year-olds how to read and teaching teachers the wonders of behavioral narration, I’d gotten a pretty good read on the situation. What interested me most was the way teachers experience stress; what, specifically, most stresses them; and how in the world we might support the mental health and well-being of those in the world’s most important (and stressful) position. The following is a list of some of the things I have learned in three years on the academic side of the field:
- CMs and alums are stressed. For my preliminary doctoral research, I surveyed 62 current and former CMs (all currently in the classroom) and two-thirds ended up in the “stressed group.” Shocker.
- But they’re not alone. Current research suggests that chronic stress plays a significant role in the rising attrition rate for novice teachers in general. Studies also show that pressure to raise student test scores causes teachers to experience more stress and less job satisfaction.
- You’ve got a friend. Relationships among colleagues in school buildings have a huge (maybe even the largest) impact on teacher well-being. This is true for administrators as well. There may be more than one good reason to attend that Thursday-night happy hour…