Ask Bob Ross to paint a picture of a teacher’s lounge, and you are not likely to see “happy little trees” and “very, very free clouds”. It looks more like the endless memes of teachers, who appear to be dead or dying, sprawled out on the floor or couch alongside a mug that suggests mental stability is fragile at best. My “a-ha” moment came after I informed a student that he needed surgery. Slouching even further down into his seat, he wanted to know why.
I informed him that the procedure was to remove his head from his anus.
Not a proud moment for me, even if I used a cross-curricular Biology term. Because I really do love to teach, I regard it as a noble profession, and I desire daily to keep my job, I knew I needed my own paradigm shift. So after a decade of trial and error, blowing up and burning out, I have accrued tricks of the trade for keeping the cap on the crazy in 2017.
- Set (and keep) boundaries. Knowing how and when to say no is one verifiable way to set personal boundaries. So often guilt-ridden consciences impede decisionmaking and cloud judgement. Reading Boundaries, by Henry Cloud and John Townsend enabled me to go through the guilt-free process of setting “time guards.” It can also help to restore sanity to those who can’t say no or simply can’t find time for anything other than work.
- Make time for yourself. Setting aside time for a haircut, glass of wine, pedicure, beer, Netflix session, margarita – these “me time” activities make life worth living, in my opinion. Studies show that engaging in thoughtless activities such as taking a leisurely walk, coloring in one of those tediously-detailed adult coloring books, or cleaning out a drawer actually allows the mind to release hidden creativity, solve problems, and fire the synapses necessary to recall the name of that thing that your forgot.
- Carve out a date with your crew. It’s not an activity that should be reserved only for holidays. Perhaps the reason that many teachers can’t “adult” is because most of their time is spent with adolescents. There are times when grown-up conversation, in whatever form it takes, is just what the doctor ordered. Don’t have a crew? Find an activity that employs adults and enjoy! An added benefit: Hanging with your pack boosts confidence.
- Create (and maintain) a positive health habit. One of the benefits to working in education is often the free health and wellness protocols that are made available to employees. Feeling good contributes to doing good. Carrying extra weight, engaging in poor eating and exercise routines, and maintaining infrequent check-ups will set the stage for illness of both mind and body. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and no one expects a total body transformation, but taking advantage of programs that encourage exercise, internal wellness, and edifying nutrition enhance the joy of life. Inquire with local school board insurance or wellness personnel to find out what is offered in your area.
- Find a peer mentor, or study successful people. I just ordered Tool of Titans by Tim While not specifically dedicated to the art of teaching, the book offers insight on what makes a person successful. Other favorites that I study, stalk, or ask for advice: Jim Rohn, Tony Robbins, Sarah Brown Wessling, the English III teacher down the hall, and the Chemistry teacher next door. There is endless wealth found in professionals that have fresh ideas, tireless work ethic, and expertise beyond my pay grade.
Teaching is a hilariously fulfilling and simultaneously depressing endeavor. It is, I think, one of the hardest jobs afforded to our society, yet as with any chosen career field, there are ways to enjoy the ride, make the most of the opportunities, and strike that coveted work-life balance with sanity (almost) intact. I now pay attention to the heavy-hitters in the field, the ones who are successful in and out of the classroom. I seek advice, make notes, and dial-in my focus to predict that the next ten years in this life will better than the last. As Bob Ross would say, “All you need to paint is a few tools, a little instruction, and a vision in your mind.”
(c) Lauren Trahan
Lauren Trahan was recently selected as her school district’s High School Teacher of the Year.