As we head into summer and enjoy some sun, warmth, and – hopefully – a bit of relaxation, it’s a great time to reflect on what we can do to take care of ourselves during these school-free months. Self care is important for everyone, but especially for those with stressful and demanding jobs. Hello, teachers! Teaching is a profession that can be incredibly rewarding while also being incredibly challenging and demanding. Why? Because being a teacher doesn’t mean just helping students to learn. It also means being a gatekeeper – helping students cope with stress in their everyday lives, navigate trauma, protect them from violence, and help them contend with peer pressure. It all adds up to make the role of a teacher a very stressful one.
Stress can lead to burnout and attrition. In fact, studies have shown that attrition is higher in teaching than it is in nursing, engineering, law, and architecture (Ingersoll, et. al, 2018). 9% of teachers will leave the profession within 1 year, and 44% will leave teaching within 5 years (Ingersoll, et. al, 2018). This attrition rate is directly related to the stress teachers experience on the job: teachers often quit or move because of emotional stress and exhaustion (Skaalvik & Skaalvik, 2016). This attrition has led to a national teacher shortage, which has countless negative ripple effects in terms of teacher and classroom quality (Garcia & Weiss, 2019). And this was before the pandemic!
So what can be done to better support those in this profession? By helping teachers reduce stress, we can decrease the attrition rate. This is essential for keeping talented teachers in the field, ultimately improving education for children nationwide.
What is self care?
Self care means taking care of yourself, so that your essential needs are met and you can show up for others. Self care spans both physical and mental wellbeing and the wonderful thing about it is that it can be almost anything. So, the first step toward making self care work for you is to create a personalized self care strategy. Do you like to play music? Listen to music? Write poetry, cook for fun, paint, power walk, jog, or sing karaoke every Friday night? All of those are forms of self-care. They calm, heal, and feed your spirit.
Whether your self care strategy includes exercise, meditation, journaling, or other healthy practices is up to you. But, if you need a few pointers about how to get started, Inner Strength teaches a process that can help you to design an effective self care strategy that can support you as you teach. To learn more, check out Self-Care Tips for Teachers and feel free to share some of your own ideas and strategies in the comments below!