This post is for my teacher friends that are struggling to cope with the extreme shift in "being" a teacher.
This is my ninth year teaching French in public schools. I can attest that each teacher has their fair share of woes and challenges in their job. Despite all that, I've seen countless teachers take work home outside of contracted hours as a regular practice, because they are so unwaveringly dedicated to what they do. The pandemic wrought complete havoc on the world. This article does not intend to discount anyone else's troubles; it intends to highlight ways that teaching has shifted, increasing daily stress and the practices that I have found most effective in calming the crazy.
The pandemic has turned school systems upside down all over the country. For me, I was loaded up with 5 preps (that's 5 levels of French, previously I had 3!) and hardly any remote teaching friendly resources provided by the district. I know I'm not alone! So many teachers literally MAKE the materials they provide to their students. This is one of the stressors. I have also found myself spending out of pocket on websites like www.teacherspayteachers.com where I even have some of my own materials for sale. At any rate, teaching virtually is still quite demanding on the digital factor.
Another big adjustment- Screen time. This is the most screen time I've ever gotten! Creating work and grading work and doing all the teaching virtually is INSANE. Grading takes forever, partly because the assignments come in haphazardly. Everything is so tricky to keep track of because it's so abstract in the ether. I am constantly staring hard at my computer screen. Everything is happening there now! That was a change that made my brain short circuit.
To cope, I got blue light glasses and have been doing eye exercises for a couple months now that have helped tremendously! Blue light glasses cut down on the blue light rays that damage your eyes and can cause anxiety and nervousness. This is why it is recommended to put the phone down well before going to bed. I believe this has been doing me a world of good.
Another amazing practice is a consistent practice of eye exercises. I do them at least once a day at work. They are simple and take a lot of strain off of the muscles around the eyes. You look up, down, side to side a few times, and look around in a circle both ways. It makes me see blue spots for a few moments. I can feel my forehead relax and everything! I will never go back!
The workload has increased for my district and most teachers in the sense that we have more to prep and grading time has also turned into a drawn out process. We are now making videos for the kids to watch with each lesson that is expected to be at least 10 minutes each. I tallied it up and that's over 200 minutes of video per week! I don't have that amount of prep time, and I still need time to grade and prepare materials! Don't misunderstand, I love what I do and teaching was never easy, but there just isn't enough time in the day. I have had to do a lot of forthcoming disclosures with students and parents. It has helped to be honest about the situation and ask them to modify their expectations (since I've had to do that for the kids! Wouldn't that make sense?) I have been saying "thank you for your patience" so, so much. Most people understand. So all you can really do is admit that things are different and everything is on a major lag. It's not just me.
Isolation has been a toughie for me as well. In person class sizes are down to 2-4 students. On completely virtual days, we all sit in our rooms and hit the grind. And since teachers are some of the most type A, dedicated people I know of, you better believe we are working our tails off rather than lounging around. I have even had to remind myself to get up from my desk! To make sure I am not a total recluse, I committed to having lunch with my colleagues once a week. I'm thankful a few people have extended the invitation to me. We sit, spaced out, and eat and talk for about 20 minutes. It's so important to have an active network around you! I also try to check in with my department, we are small, just 2 Spanish teachers and me, the 1 French teacher! I am grateful I have them right next door. So we talk and go through it all side by side.
In an additional attempt to increase camaraderie, I am offering a yoga class to the staff once a month. I am so happy the request was accepted! It is a small offering that I think could make a big impact.
This is a brief look at my professional world now. I love teaching and know that teachers work themselves to the bone for their students. The amount of pride is an awesome thing. You WANT your kids to receive that kind of pure dedication and care. You WANT your kids to learn from upstanding people. Though in these times, the amount of pride in this setting is sending many of us to our worst selves due to stress and poor self-care. We are the exemplary students you wish you had in your classes. The kind of person who will go above and beyond in all you ask, and when you ask too much, will burn out trying to complete the requirements with the utmost precision and perfection. The school systems are loading up higher and higher demands. I am only sharing this to be honest about what is happening HERE in our communities.
Our mental health matters. If we are too burnt out, and not our best selves, how can we give our best to our students? We are at risk of karmically sending that crappy energy out to them!
So these are some practices I have implemented to protect and cleanse myself while at work:
Salt- I have placed small baggies of enchanted Himalayan pink salt at my door and at my desk. This will help protect me when in my classroom and cleanse each person as they come and go.
Cast protection- I take a moment in my car in the morning to cast protection. I attune to my higher self and the Universe, and I envision a white light all around me as I say "May I be healed. May I be protected. May I be light." I say this as many times as feels good. Then I close with "Blessed Be" and I clap to shew away any negative energy.
Nadi Shodhana breath- Most call this alternate nostril breathing. You send your inner gaze towards your third eye and exhale- inhale each side, alternating. You use your thumb and ring finger to close each nostril. The free hand can be in Gian mudra. Do this for a minute or two throughout the day.
Mindful eating- I do not do any work while I'm eating my "lunch" which is really a mid morning snack because it's 10:00 AM. This gives my mind a break and gives me permission to enjoy what I'm doing.
These are small practices. Find what works for you! But most importantly, think about it. The most important thing is to take an objective look at what you do, how you care for yourself and how it's influencing your mood and productivity.
I would love to hear from you! If you already have effective practices or if these suggestions spark a positive habit for you, please email or message me!
Thank you teachers! You are an integral part of communities everywhere. You make unforgettable impacts on so many young minds every year. You deserve to be happy and well too!