As the school year ends, you may feel like you’re running the last leg of a marathon. You can make it to the last day of school, and with these tips, you may even enjoy yourself too.
If you don’t take care of yourself, you won’t be able to help your students succeed either. Your students need you, yes, but they need you at your best. If you don’t take time for yourself, you’re only doing them a disservice.
Just like we are reminded every time we fly, we need to put our needs first to ensure that we can help others safely.
In a 2022 Education Week article by Larry Ferlazzo, Alycia Owen says, “Put your own oxygen mask on first before assisting others.” If you don’t take care of yourself, you risk emotional and even physical harm.
“We ignore our negative emotions at our peril. They’re really signs that we need to make some changes in life,” said Laurie Santos, a cognitive scientist and Yale professor, in a July 2022 Teach & Learning article by Erik Ofgang.
When you feel overwhelmed, hopeless, or burnt out, take a break and make whatever changes you need to put on your proverbial oxygen mask.
Many teachers take on an enormous amount of work. In addition to lesson planning and grading, you are handed assignments from administrators, asked questions by anxious parents, and tasked with ensuring the emotional wellness of your students.
Sometimes, it’s too much. Don’t feel like you have to tackle everything. Let your principal know when you can’t handle something, like managing field day this year. Give yourself permission to spend time on your hobbies, and don’t become your job.
An easy way to help you and your students focus better as the excitement for summer vacation increases is to include more frequent brain breaks throughout the day. Brain breaks can include impromptu dance parties, guided meditations, sing-alongs, or games. Give your students (and yourself) a little break from the learning and then jump back in, more focused than before.
Your students probably have a lot of pent-up energy, now that the weather is finally warm. Channel that energy into end-of-the-year cleaning – organizing bins, checking markers, and taking down posters.
Cleaning the classroom and the end of each year can feel like a gigantic project, especially on top of everything else you have to do. Getting your students involved helps them learn life skills, explained one writer in a June 2022 post for Bored Teachers.
Your students are probably also experiencing some added stress and jitters as the school year winds down. If you react to your students’ restless behavior with pent-up stress and anxiety, you’ll just continue to feed off of each other and nothing will get done.
Share how you feel with your students, Hilary Richardson suggested in her April 2017 National Education Association article.
“Openly acknowledging my stress helps them understand and behave better,” Richardson said.
Communicating with your students can improve your classroom culture and relationships. It will help you all get to the end of the year in a better state of mind.
Richardson also suggests changing the scenery to improve classroom feelings of stress and restlessness. Just having a brief lesson outside can have a huge impact on your students’ focus and your mood.
Going outside does more than just provide a change. It can actually improve your students’ physical and emotional health, behavior, and engagement in learning, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.
During larger class activities, you may find it helpful to pull one or two students aside and spend some one-on-one time with them, talking about their lives and goals, getting to know them, and telling them how proud you are of them.
“I find that [one-on-ones are] one of my favorite parts about teaching and help remind me of why I do it in the first place,” said Erik Ofgang in a March 2023 Teach & Learning blog.
These precious sessions with your students can be some of the most impactful moments of the year, for you and for them.
The end of the year can be such a fun time. The weather is warm. Field day is coming up. Enjoy this time with your students. Be silly, play games, and form lasting bonds. Those are the moments your students will remember. Those are the moments that will remind you why you love teaching.
“Make lasting memories and don’t forget to laugh,” said Jamie Davis, in Ferlazzo’s April 2023 Education Week article.
Studies Weekly is here to help. You can check out our blog on teacher well-being for more ideas.