For educators, as summer starts to wind down, we likely experience a lot of emotions. Excitement for the start of the new school year. Thankful for the time to relax and recharge over the summer. Inspired after a summer of learning and connecting. But we may also feel anxious about how full our days will be and maybe a bit nervous about getting back into a routine when there continue to be challenges that we face as a result of new school initiatives, potential shifts in learning and other things that get added into our days. I’ve always enjoyed the summer “break” because it gives me an opportunity to breathe, not worry about such a tight schedule, and I have more time for things that I missed out on during the school year. During the school year, finding balance and focusing on self-care can be a challenge, and I know it has been for me. But, I have been better about finding ways each day to take a break, to create a space for something that helps me to recharge. Even though I know that I need to take longer breaks and put the cellphone and computer aside, it is tough. So instead, I focus on small changes in each day that can make a big difference.
And regardless of your profession, focusing on self-care and finding balance in your day is still essential. Bringing our best selves to our classrooms, our work environments, and then home to our families each day can only be done when we start with doing something for our self-care. Whether we plan something with family and friends, take a power nap, get outside for a walk or just sit and read, these types of activities can make a big difference.
While I am still a work in progress when it comes to finding balance, I have come up with some ideas that help me to be more intentional about it each day. It is easy to experience burnout and to run ourselves down because we try to do “all the things” but if we pick a few activities for each week or one thing each day, hopefully, we will notice the difference it makes and it will become part of our well-balanced routine.
Ideas to explore
There are a lot of great ideas out there and some fantastic apps (I recommend JabuMind for Teachers) that can be used to be more mindful of our well-being. Here are five ways that I focus on balance and self-care and have found, to enable me to be more productive each day: Just remember to choose one thing to get started. We have a ton of choices for activities that promote mental and physical well-being. So just start with one!
Get moving. One thing I started to do this school year was to get out of my classroom during my planning period and walk around the building. Not only is it an opportunity to move, but it gave me the chance to catch up with some colleagues, interact with students and feel more connected than I normally would. During my lunch period twice a week, I would place an order for a bagel sandwich or a coffee at the amazing bakery that is located right by my school. Placing an order online and then getting outside for a quick walk, fresh air, and definitely a treat, was something to look forward to. And when in school with students, promote movement in your classroom too and get them up and moving. I recommend creating a scavenger hunt and getting outside when you can. Even setting aside 10 minutes a day will help and we know that exercise has so many benefits, especially for boosting energy and mental wellness.
Make time for rest. Exercise is important but so is rest. Our work is demanding and is not limited to just the hours that we are in school. Planning lessons, reviewing assessments, and communicating with families and colleagues require that we stay up late or arrive to school early. A lack of sleep and quality rest will negatively impact our mental and physical health and Our students and colleagues will notice our lack of energy and possibly even mental clarity, so we need to ensure time for sleep to receive the positive benefits!
Reflect. For our personal and professional growth, it is important that we set aside time each day, throughout the day to reflect. Reflection is key for fostering the development of self-awareness and metacognition and is something that we should model for our students. Find time to reflect on your day, progress made or challenges faced, and sometimes even the epic fails that we might experience. The ability to process these experiences, whether in a journal, a post-it note, or an audio recording are great ways to monitor our progress each day. Reflection helps us to see the improvements that we make, especially when we ask ourselves “Am I a little bit better today than I was yesterday?,” a question posed by Daniel Pink in his book Drive.
Connect. We have so many interactions every single day, but think about how many of those interactions are truly meaningful and give us enough time to pause, lean in, and really listen to each other. We need to have time for connecting with our family and friends, colleagues, students, and our PLN. Being together in person is fantastic but depending on time and location, that isn’t always possible. So we can leverage the technology as we have in the past two years and create moments and more space. Find a way to connect every day. In school, greet students at the door, get out into the hallways (think exercise!) or use social media to send a quick message to check in on others. Make time for those moments, take a minute to send a text message, leave a Vox or make a phone call. Find at least one person to connect with each day.
Celebrate. If you have created some time in your day to enjoy a break, to find balance, then definitely celebrate! If not, that’s okay because here is another idea. Find something to celebrate each day. In my classroom, I will do some random things like giving away silly prizes for a game, taking a risk with a new idea and celebrate its success or even failure, and this year, celebrated random days of the week by having ice cream or going outside for class. Celebrating even the small wins does make a difference and sharing the celebrations with others is a plus!
Especially in the past year, I’ve been able to find more balance in my days even though I have added more to my schedule. These ideas have helped me to be more effective and productive in my work and to feel better in general. I’d recommend disconnecting a bit from technology because for me, that does take up a lot of time, but I value the benefits that it provides me for staying connected with others and being available for my students. Rather than totally disconnect, I will mute notifications for an hour or leave my phone in another room so I can focus on some tasks and that works for me. Find what works for you and run with it and share your best practices with others. Now take a quick walk outside or pause to listen to some music. Start finding some balance in your day right now. Thanks for reading.
About the Author
Rachelle Dené Poth is an ed-tech consultant, presenter, attorney, author, and teacher. Rachelle teaches Spanish and STEAM: What’s nExT in Emerging Technology at Riverview Junior-Senior High School in Oakmont, PA. Rachelle has a Juris Doctor degree from Duquesne University School of Law and a Master’s in Instructional Technology. She is a Consultant and Speaker, owner of ThriveinEDU LLC Consulting. She is an ISTE Certified Educator and currently serves as the past -president of the ISTE Teacher Education Network and on the Leadership team of the Mobile Learning Network. At ISTE19, she received the Making IT Happen Award and a Presidential Gold Award for volunteer service to education. She is also a Buncee Ambassador, Nearpod PioNear, and Microsoft Innovative Educator Expert.
Rachelle is the author of seven books about education and edtech. She is a Columnist for Defined Learning, Getting Smart and NEO LMS and has her own podcast, ThriveinEDU. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram at @Rdene915