Support for Teacher Well-being: Preserving your Light and Joy
I just wanted to let you know that you are loved and appreciated.
You are the real super heroes, because day in and day out you are asked to do the impossible …. often without the support and resources you need. You help create all the little minds that will go on and grow up to be the next leaders.
I see you time and time again making it all somehow work – juggling all your students’ needs and behaviors, your students’ well-being, your own health and well-being, your own personal lives, and your families.
I watch you persevere through the most difficult situations with calmness, strength, and kindness. I see you loving children who may need love more than anything else academically. I see you cry, stress, and pray over how to help them.
I see you.
I thank you!
You are often on my mind.
Please know you are not alone in this. People do care about you. We recognize how hard you work. And we’re very grateful for what you’re doing as educators.
I love this quote: “Teaching is the only profession that creates all the other professions.”
In my opinion, one of the most rewarding parts of being a teacher is knowing that you positively influence your students even long after they have left your classroom. This is what you are doing.
You’re teaching students how to take care of themselves and how to go out and make the world a better place. You help teach children about wellness and positively regulating their emotions because this is an important part of being an effective member of society.
Well-being is the goal to help students AND educators thrive.
Unfortunately, it can be easy to get so focused on your students and their needs that you may forget your own well-being. To help you refocus, here are a few ideas for how you may achieve more balance and joy in your life.
Take Time for Self Care
“Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes, including you.”
Even if you only have one hour a week to spare, devoting time to prioritize rest and relaxation with an activity you enjoy will be worth it. Whether it be yoga, dance, breathwork, quiet reading, relaxing meditation, therapeutic massage, listening to calming music, doing an enjoyable hobby, or even scheduling in time to just take a bubble bath or nap – whatever you choose to do, make sure you keep it in your schedule. This is for your well-being. This is so important.
You don’t need to burn yourself out for the sake of your students. When you take time to do what makes your soul happy, the light you give the world will shine even brighter.
No one else can do what you do or be who you are, and people need your positive influence and light. So remember to prioritize yourself and pay attention to what your mind and body are telling you they need. You can be strengthened and rejuvenated when you focus on self care.
Make Your Health a Priority
You cannot help your students, yourself, or anyone as effectively as you want to if you’re sick, worn out, or ignoring your health. Do not ignore symptoms. Instead, meet regularly with doctors about concerns. Try to eat healthy nourishing foods, drink enough water throughout the day, include stress relief supports that work for you, and get relaxing sleep.
Prioritizing these things will help you feel better, but if you’re like me, having too many things to think about (even if they are for my own good) can seem overwhelming. To combat this feeling, try to start implementing one new change at a time.
For example, I started taking a daily supplement I felt I needed. I found that it not only helped boost my immune system, but also cleared up my mental fogginess and gave me more energy.
Having more energy and a clearer mind helped me focus on making better food choices, so I started remembering to bring water and healthy snacks with me to work, (instead of grabbing handfuls of fish crackers throughout the day). These small changes supported my body and mind more and I was able to focus, feel better, and continually make more small changes for good.
If you are struggling with mental health, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Just like when you break a bone, you can’t expect it to heal just by thinking positively. Seek out the proper supports you need to heal. Some ideas include: finding an online teacher community, connecting with friends who support you, calling a family member to talk about your day, discussing things with a holistic healer or doctor, and seeking out a trusted therapist.
Set a Positive Work-Life Balance
One of the most critical steps to creating a healthy work-life balance is to set and keep work hours. Even if you feel like there are a lot of things that need to be prepped after school, I have learned it is a never ending cycle. The longer you continue to stay late after contracted hours, the harder it is to leave.
A teacher’s work is never truly done, and would consume us if we allow it. The mental and physical demands and workload could have us working non stop 24/7. WE have to be the ones that chose to stop and not compromise our personal time. You can be a wonderful teacher and still set boundaries and leave on time.
Setting boundaries includes mentally clocking out when leaving school. I know you probably catch yourself worrying about your students and thinking of their needs because you care about them. But trust me when I say, that only keeps you from truly being present for your friends, family, and yourself. I have so much regret from the years that I did not have a healthy work-life balance. I will never get that time back with my family. You must save emotional energy for yourself and your loved ones.
Combat Burnout and Compassion Fatigue
As teachers, we’re all too familiar with the concept of teacher burnout. The data in a 2022 Gallup News poll points to K-12 teachers having the highest burnout rates over other jobs.
While researching this further, I came upon a 2023 article in We Are Teachers by Nicole Homerin entitled “Too Many Teachers Are Suffering From Compassion Fatigue Without Realizing it.” In the article, Homerin states that compassion fatigue should be discussed as a contributing factor to teacher burnout. She points out that teachers are more prone to compassion fatigue due to the fact that teaching is a female-dominated profession.
“It’s often expected that our ‘motherly, caring’ instincts work overtime, for free, and with little to no support. But this ignores every educator’s identity as a human being, with feelings, empathy, and limits in emotional and physical capacity. We care for students who may at any point in time be experiencing a variety of challenges. From hardships at home such as homelessness, food insecurity, and trauma, to challenges at school including bullying and school violence, the problems our youth face are innumerable. As we care for our students day in and day out, our empathetic nature may reach a breaking point,” Homerin says. “Emotional labor is still labor.”
Compassion fatigue happens in any profession that requires caregiving, and teachers are on the front lines. In his 1995 research article, Charles Figley describes the condition as a “secondary traumatic stress disorder or response directly related to the feelings of helplessness and psychological distress experienced by individuals in helping professions.”
Thankfully, Homerin points out, compassion fatigue has a quicker recovery time compared to burnout. If we recognize the signs and symptoms early on, intervention can prevent full-blown burnout, she says.
Resources Homerin recommends to help heal from Compassion Fatigue:
You are Worth it
Teachers are definitely superheroes, but you don’t have to be superhuman!
Please remember to prioritize your well-being. So, take a day off without feeling guilty, if needed.
Wear comfortable clothes.
Leave your teacher bag and never-ending things to do for normal work hours.
Use the bathroom when you need to.
Take time for self care.
Preserve your light and joy.
Focus on your health, because we need you and we need you to be ok.
We thank you teachers and we are rooting for you!
Studies Weekly Teacher Advocate