You are some of the most influential people in our lives. We all remember our teachers. Many of us have positive memories of those who helped us learn and navigate our way through childhood and adolescence. We might even have had one very special educator who made such a significant impact that it still affects us as adults.
Teachers, you are some of the most underappreciated people in our kids’ lives. You put countless hours into creating a rich learning environment for your students. You are passionate and compassionate people who give more than most. But you often do not receive the support you need. Every year, you are asked to do more and more with less and less. And educators everywhere are giving up on teaching and leaving
the classroom. Teacher burnout is real and we are losing teachers at an alarming rate.
Summer break is swiftly coming to an end. Though many parents and students look forward to the new school year, you may have mixed feelings. Some of you may feel excited, while others may feel dread. I get it, I’ve been there. Teaching is rewarding and it can be so much fun, but it can also be hard. Really, really hard.
What can you do to get through tough times?
Dear teachers—sometimes it takes a lot of effort to look past hardships and remember why you became a teacher in the first place. Nurturing young minds, witnessing the brightness in a child’s eyes when they make a connection—there’s nothing else like it. But when you spend your weekend writing lesson plans, spend your own money to restock your supply cupboard, or stay up late to prep for an IEP meeting, it becomes harder and harder to see yourself sticking with it. But our kids need you. You and your work are valued. It won’t always be easy, but there are ways you can find the support you need to keep going.
Find your people
They will very likely be other educators, but not necessarily. Just find a group of people you can talk to, vent to, bounce ideas off of—in real life or online. Your closest coworkers, friends, or family members are usually happy to step in when needed. We all need support.
Find your voice
Don’t be afraid to self-advocate. You might need more administrative support, or materials, or training and it can be an uncomfortable thing to ask for. But if you don’t speak up, things are unlikely to change. It is okay to ask for things you need. When you have the resources you need, you can put your whole self into teaching. Plus, we like to teach our students to self-advocate, right? Teach by doing.
Find a way to make it fun
When I was a teacher, I made a theme calendar at the beginning of each year. It was a good way to organize the year into chunks and helped me with lesson planning. I taught early elementary and, as a new teacher, I would pick themes like farm animals or colors—topics that seemed most age-appropriate. But honestly, those are kind of boring. Especially after you do them year after year. Later on, I started to pick other themes like fine art or superheroes. A coworker did a whole unit on the Olympics and guess what—the kids were just as interested in those topics. So was I! It kept things fun and exciting, and it gave my students a chance to learn about something they otherwise would not. I mean, how often do kindergarteners recognize artwork by Degas or Picasso?
Find a way to practice self-care
As a teacher, you probably find yourself lesson planning, problem solving, or doing other teachery things ALL THE TIME. I know from experience that it’s very hard to work during your regular work hours only. Really, it’s impossible. But you deserve—and need—a break. Whether you meditate, read a book for pleasure, do a puzzle, just do something to give your mind a break from the classroom. Self-care should be a priority! Because if you’re not at your best, how can you be the best teacher to the kids who need you?
Find a way to stay positive
When things get tough and it would be oh-so-easy to spiral into negativity, push through it and find the positive. Easier said than done, sure, but there’s almost always levity in even the hardest situation. If you’re by yourself, recite some affirmations. If you’re with the kids, have the class listen to a silly song. Laugh together, be light together, be optimistic! Kids are great at this.
Teachers, the work you do every day often goes unseen. But I’m here to remind you, dear teachers, that you are indispensable. You are appreciated. You deserve all the support you need to inspire and educate our kids. Thank you for being a teacher.