Mindset & Motivation – Truth For Teachers https://truthforteachers.com Real talk from real educators Tue, 27 Jun 2023 02:15:26 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.9.2 https://angelawatson-2017.s3.amazonaws.com/truthforteachers/wp-content/uploads/2021/11/10143716/cropped-android-chrome-512x512-1-32x32.png Mindset & Motivation – Truth For Teachers https://truthforteachers.com 32 32 How to listen actively (rather than deeply) in difficult or vulnerable conversations https://truthforteachers.com/how-to-listen-actively-in-difficult-conversations/ https://truthforteachers.com/how-to-listen-actively-in-difficult-conversations/#respond Wed, 28 Jun 2023 17:00:28 +0000 https://truthforteachers.com/?p=150318 I don’t listen well…at least, not naturally. As an educator and adult with ADHD, attention threatening to pull away from the person talking to me every few seconds can be quite damaging to the relationships I try to build with students. I’ve noticed as more things demand my focus, I am listening less. Last fall, … Continued

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I don’t listen well…at least, not naturally.

As an educator and adult with ADHD, attention threatening to pull away from the person talking to me every few seconds can be quite damaging to the relationships I try to build with students. I’ve noticed as more things demand my focus, I am listening less. Last fall, I decided to improve my own listening by signing up to teach a workshop on it (deadlines are an excellent motivator for my learning).

My workshop was titled “How to Listen ‘Actively’ rather than ‘Deeply.” Researching for the workshop helped me to identify my own weaknesses in listening quickly. It still takes practice to use what I’ve learned, but recognizing where I was standing in relation to a mountain peak of “Great Listener” was a helpful first step.

You might be thinking, “Isn’t listening deeply important?”

Absolutely! Deep listening is a popular term across educational communities and beyond as good practice for engaged listeners. However, let me propose a visual:

You and a friend are waiting in the ocean for the next big wave to surf. Your friend is talking to you while they gently paddle alongside their surfboard. Suddenly, your friend tenses up. You sense something is wrong so you quickly dive the deepest you can go in the water. You are searching the ocean floor for signs of danger. While you are doing this, your friend is coping with a jellyfish sting meters above you as wave after wave crashes over them and their surfboard.

This is what can happen when our only focus is deep listening. What’s the disconnect here? You dove deeply to find the cause of the friend’s pain rather than paying attention to what was on the surface (or very close to it). This sounds counterintuitive for listening to someone, but it’s something we are missing (I say “we” but I really mean “I”). Jesus once told Martha that Mary had found the “one thing worth being concerned about:” sitting at his feet and listening to his words (Luke 10:38-42, NLT). Steve Covey writes this in his bestseller The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.”

Rather than listening to someone to figure out what you’re going to do about it, listen actively. This isn’t the opposite of deep listening, per se; rather, it’s taking deep listening— to pardon the ocean metaphor-turned-pun— deeper.

Take your listening deeper by noticing the surface

Dr. Roger K. Allen describes the “Art of Deep Listening” from his research. For the purposes of this article, I’ll be exchanging what he uses to describe “deep listening” for “active listening” since deep listening has somewhat lost meaning as a term in education circles.

Dr. Allen defines deep listening as “suspending judgment & being fully present with another person to understand his or her experience or point of view.” From what I have found in other sources, deep listening— especially with students— requires active listening, checking what is happening on the surface of the conversation as well as looking for what is happening underneath.

The United States Institute of Peace defines “Active Listening” as “a way of listening and responding to another person that improves mutual understanding.” The institute points out that active listening “is an important first step” to calming tense situations and finding solutions, an important first step that we are sometimes skipping in our attempt to “really understand” what others are saying.

Here are some of the ways that I have found to listen not just deeply but actively.

1. Pause, seriously.

Wait a few seconds after someone finishes a thought to see if they have more to add. You might be surprised at how people are more likely to fill in their own blanks when given a few seconds (consider counting up to 7) to think back through what they just told you.

“Don’t rehearse your response while the other person is talking. Take a brief pause after they finish speaking to compose your thoughts. This will require conscious effort! People think about four times faster than other people talk, so you’ve got spare brainpower when you’re a listener. Use it to stay focused and take in as much information as possible.” (Harvard Business Review)

The United States Institute of Peace calls this concept “interested silence.”

2. Take notes, especially when you notice the person is opening up in an unintended way.

You could try saying, “I want to be sure I don’t miss what you’re telling me- is it ok if I write this down?”

This communicates to the other person that their words matter to you, that you are genuinely interested in what they have to say. Sometimes, apparent interest alone is enough to bring more important details to the surface.

3. Repeat the person’s words back to them at appropriate times (trying to leave it in their words rather than rephrasing it).

Use sentence frames such as “What I think I hear you saying is ____________________. Is that right?” or “So it sounds like ____________________. Is there anything I’m missing?”

These communicate that you are open to having your understanding so far adjusted for nuance. Oftentimes, nuance is the reason behind misunderstandings; with tenuously-balanced relationships or teetering conflicts, this can be vital.

5. Maintain attention.

Abrahams, Robin, and Groysberg in The Harvard Business Review suggest that “If you often find yourself distracted when trying to listen to someone, control your environment as much as possible.”

The article describes you setting intentions before you begin, using a written agenda (a more formal version of the notetaking strategy above), or even a whiteboard. I use the last method when helping a student brainstorm their Common App college application essay. For some students, this is the first time that they have to think seriously about their life narrative. Writing down their thoughts as they come out can help them see patterns.

Abrahams, Robin, and Groysberg add this:

“ If you do have a lapse in attention, admit it, apologize, and ask the person to repeat what they said. (Yes, it’s embarrassing, but it happens to everyone occasionally and to some of us frequently.)”

Admitting when I lose focus has been simultaneously difficult and freeing. It enables me to fix smaller mistakes in understanding that could have compounded to something much more difficult to surpass later such as losing the speaker’s trust.

6. Don’t impose your own opinions or solutions.

In many areas of our lives, we are required to both tell and listen to difficult topics. The British Heart Foundation offers suggestions for talking about health-related problems. Their suggestion: ask if the other person wants to hear your thoughts at all.

“In other areas of life too, most people prefer to come to their own solutions. If you really must share your brilliant solution, ask first if they want to hear it – say something like “Would you like to hear my suggestions?”

In Chapter 1 of How to Talk so Kids Will Listen and Listen so Kids Will Talk by Adele Faber & Elain Mazlish, the authors give a list of possible ways to show children that you are really listening. These reasons work for adults as well.

  1. Listen with full attention.
  2. Acknowledge their feelings with a word—”Oh”… “Mmm”… “I see.”
  3. Give their feelings a name.

Give them their wishes in fantasy. [The authors later explain this as a process similar to imaginative rehearsal, an opportunity to play out scenarios with possible decisions to see the end results.]

6. If the other person is getting more emotional, thank them for the effort it took to share. 

This was something I learned in a lecture on helping students feel safe in conversations with their peers in a controlled environment such as a socratic seminar. The speaker said it can really help to simply say “Thank you” when someone shares, regardless of the emotions of their words. Now, this can come across as cheezy if the context doesn’t fit, but if we are reading the room right, this can be a useful tool. It can teach the listener to be grateful for when others open up or share when it might seem more difficult to share their ideas at all.

Active listening has to be a choice

We have a running joke in my family about a vacation we took to Chicago a few years back. Every few minutes, one of us would point out a beautiful piece of architecture or an art installation; inevitably, moments later, someone else would point out the exact same thing, and we would laugh because we were all so engrossed in the sights as to not hear each other’s observations.

While this story makes me laugh, imagine if I had been on a field trip with students. Imagine if those students had vitally important things to talk to each other about while we were on that trip. Conflicts might have manifested simply from not being heard, the kind that could be seemingly insurmountable for a student.

While the “Deep Listening” model is a popular one for teachers to study, going back to basics- actively watching what cues the speaker is giving to us, seeking more information rather than a solution right away, even offering silent engagement as an indicator of processing- might be just as worthy.


Abrahams, Robin, and Boris Groysberg. “How to Become a Better Listener.” Harvard Business Review, 21 Dec. 2021.

British Heart Foundation. “10 Tips for Active Listening.” 10 Tips for Active Listening – Heart Matters Magazine, British Heart Foundation.

Covey, Steve R. (2004). The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.

What is Active Listening? (n.d.). What Is Active Listening? | United States Institute of Peace.

Allen, Roger K. “The Art of Deep Listening.” Dr. Roger K Allen, Conflict Management, Listening Skills, Self Empowerment, 27 Jan. 2021.

Testa, Italo. “The Imaginative Rehearsal Model – Dewey, Embodied Simulation, and the Narrative Hypothesis.” Pragmatism Today, 10 July 2017.

Faber, Adele, and Elaine Mazlish. “Chapter 1: To Help With Feelings.” How to Talk so Kids Will  Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk, Lagom, London, 2022.

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Teachers are angry. Here’s how to channel that anger productively. https://truthforteachers.com/how-teachers-can-channel-their-anger-productively/ https://truthforteachers.com/how-teachers-can-channel-their-anger-productively/#respond Wed, 29 Mar 2023 17:00:16 +0000 https://truthforteachers.com/?p=149829 In 2019, Angela Watson hosted an incredible podcast episode with Soraya Chemaly, author of Rage Becomes Her: The Power of Women’s Anger. I read this book in slow bits as the pandemic unfolded, finishing it in July 2020. It has become a familiar touchstone as I navigate all that I’ve been angry about these past … Continued

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In 2019, Angela Watson hosted an incredible podcast episode with Soraya Chemaly, author of Rage Becomes Her: The Power of Women’s Anger. I read this book in slow bits as the pandemic unfolded, finishing it in July 2020. It has become a familiar touchstone as I navigate all that I’ve been angry about these past few years.

Chemaly writes that “Anger is a boundary.” In the 2020-21 school year, and even more so, the 2021-22 school year, anger alerted me to where my boundaries were being crossed.

I pitched the idea for this article to Angela in the spring, when the anger was still palpable for me. I had a theory that perhaps other teachers felt the same, quite a few metaphorically saying, “take this job and shove it.” (Angela wrote posts here and here to help guide teachers making this decision). I had a hunch that I was not the only one who was fed up.

This theory — that teachers are more angry than usual — requires some contextualizing, though. Was it just me? Was it just because I read the book and let myself feel that anger?

By the time this is published, we will be at a new moment in society. I may process anger differently from when I first pitched this article, but anger will still be a part of me — a part of all of us — because it is part of the human experience. Chemaly calls us to learn from our anger, to have a plan to navigate this emotion whenever it floods our nervous systems.

Practice anger consciousness

Society as a whole looks negatively upon anger because it can lead to irreversible harm through impulsive actions and words, but Chemally argues that anger is neutral. It is what we do with anger that determines if there is harm.

What Chemaly asks us to do first is to raise our “anger consciousness.” This is our self-awareness that the emotion we are feeling is anger (women in particular may mislabel it as sad, frustrated, etc.). The physical manifestation of anger may vary widely as well, because of socialization. For example, someone may cry or laugh, but they are not sad or happy. They are angry. So much of the harm comes from people trying to get rid of the anger quickly before it’s even fully understood.

Making space to be anger-conscious may be extremely difficult at school. There are usually 35 pairs of eyes on you while you navigate your emotions. You may have an involuntary physical response (or be using all your resources to subdue that response). If you’re not in class at the time, you may vacillate between “keeping it professional” in front of administrators and “just venting” with other teachers–neither of which fully acknowledge the anger.

We’ll talk about what external actions to take, but right now, focus just on what anger feels like to you. Where do you feel it in your body? How are you likely to react? Think about it now, then take some time to practice just naming it in the moment.

I spent months doing this after reading Rage Becomes Her. Something would happen, and I would get this burning feeling from my cheeks to my stomach–I’m feeling it now as I write.

I would feel that feeling, and to myself, I would say, “Anger! There you are! I’m really angry right now.”

When I had the space to reflect, I would even send a little thank-you to it. “You are a big emotion–you clearly have an important message for me. Thank you so much.”

Interpret and act

Sometimes the cause of your anger may seem obvious; other times, not so much, but either way, try to pause for interpretation.

Chemaly writes, “Anger does not, in and of itself, ‘make you right.’” Examine what you’re angry about to figure out what’s your work. Sometimes it’s our thinking.

There can certainly be irritants piling up every day that can lead to anger:

  • The student who doesn’t come to class until the last week of the quarter. If you’re thinking, “This kid doesn’t care the whole time and now she wants me to bend over backwards?!” you will likely feel anger in this situation. If you are thinking, “Oh wow, she’s finally here. I’m excited to get to know her. We will take this a day at a time,” you probably aren’t going to feel as angry. I know both are possible, because I’ve seen the same student get radically different reactions across the school day, depending on the teacher, and that teacher’s thoughts. My question becomes, what kind of thoughts will lead to the actions that will create the best results for this student?
  • The student who takes things from your desk without asking. Some people see this as a sign of the student’s comfort; others as a boundary violation. If it feels like a boundary violation, it’s important to communicate that calmly and clearly. Pretending that it isn’t a boundary violation will only lead to more anger or an unintentional response. Treating it as a boundary violation when that boundary hasn’t been communicated will also lead to anger.
  • The student making passive-aggressive comments in class. This might be interpreted as a threat to the safety of the community you are building or a sign that this student is unsure of how to healthily relate to his classmates. Your interpretation will inform your next steps.

In any situation, it’s important to explore all the ways something can be interpreted before acting so you can choose the best action for your situation.

And what about in the moment when you are angry? This is your opportunity to teach students what to do. A swift, clear response is what is needed in the case of a safety or boundary violation. Anything else can wait, but you can take a minute to regroup. Normalize this so students know how to do it. Here are some possible things to say, depending on your situation:

  • “Let’s pause. I’m going to grab a quick drink.”
  • “I am going to take a few breaths and let’s start again.”
  • “Please wait, I need to write something down real quick.” You can jot down how you’re feeling or anything you need to get out.
  • If you have a preset dance party or brain break routine, this is also a good time to use that.

Before any of these actions, you may or may not choose to disclose that you are angry, depending on the situation, but if you want to highlight that you are navigating anger and not suppressing it, you can say, “I think I’m getting angry right now, I will need some time to think about it, but I’m going to reset so I can focus on being your teacher.”

Other times, it may be super clear that the anger is justified. Something like, “I feel angry because it’s important to me that…and…” could be helpful.

I know this modeling might seem kind of cheesy, and not feel like what we want to do in the moment, but this is exactly what we need students to practice. They don’t have to follow the road of anger wherever it leads. They can interrupt the moment and show themselves some care.

I worked with a student last year who engaged in physical fighting when she was angry. Through our consistent practice, she was able to stop fighting and find other ways to articulate her anger. I am so proud of her.

What about the adults?

Even though I think it’s totally okay to admit that sometimes we have class situations that make us angry, I imagine that the majority of the anger at school has to do with colleagues, administrators, and even forces and people outside the school.

Like in the situations above, after you’ve identified the feeling as anger, it’s time to interpret and act. There may be times when it’s really how you’re choosing to look at a situation that is causing your anger.

For example, is your colleague’s email really implying something negative about you? Once I’ve set aside my interpretation of a snarky-seeming email, my action is always to talk with the person face-to-face. This is the best way to clear the air and disrupt any inaccurate perceptions.

“Boundaries” have become the newest buzzword. Here’s how to actually create them as a teacher.

Other times, boundaries may be in order. The important thing to remember is that boundaries are not about changing other people’s behavior. We can’t change others, and we shouldn’t threaten them with our boundaries to make them change. Boundaries are about you and what you will or won’t do.

Let’s say you have a colleague who never has prepped what they are supposed to prep for the PLC. It’s become such a pattern that it seems they are benefiting from your shared preparations without contributing their own. You can state that you will not share what you’ve prepared unless all group members are ready to share. This protects you, and ultimately, the other person doesn’t have to change; they just won’t benefit from your work without reciprocity.

These actions can be more difficult with administrators because of the power deferential. Again, check your thoughts. Our thoughts and perspectives are often limited to the classroom. While we have a valuable lens, there are so many pieces to running a school that we thankfully don’t have to think about. In other situations, your anger may be completely warranted. If it’s a union violation, your union representative is the best person to discuss it with you–rather than venting in the teacher’s lounge (and taking no action).

Radical imagination

In the Rage Becomes Her book, Chemaly writes, “Anger is an act of radical imagination.” This is the true power and possibility when we make space for anger. Without it, we lose the opportunity to imagine outside of the way things are and into what they could be.

If your anger is related to a clear systemic issue, there are many ways to take action: organize, donate money, or connect small daily actions to disrupting the system “out there.”

Completing the stress cycle

While this structure, where you identify, interpret, and act on anger is strong and harnesses the best potential of this informative emotion, you must also attend to your body.

Emotions are a form of stress on the body, and in Burnout: The Secret to Unlocking the Stress Cycle, Emily and Amerlia Nagoski argue that you need to deal with both the stressor and the actual stress. The former process from Chemaly is about dealing with the stressor. The actual stress, the physical sensation, in this case of anger, also needs to be released.

The Nagoskis call this “completing the cycle.” On a primitive level, it’s a way of signaling to your body that the danger has passed. Without it, our bodies begin to think we are constantly under attack. In the modern age, our bodies are stressed daily, so we need daily ways to release built-up stress.

The best way is through physical exercise, though only you know what kinds of physical movement give you that release. Other releases can be positive social interaction, laughter, physical affection, crying, or creative expression. Dialing in to which ones work specifically to release anger will help your body move forward with your mind.

Rage Becomes Her: Supporting students (and ourselves) in expressing our full range of emotions

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Thriving as a shy or timid teacher: you don’t have to be gregarious to be good! https://truthforteachers.com/the-shy-teacher/ https://truthforteachers.com/the-shy-teacher/#respond Wed, 23 Nov 2022 17:00:07 +0000 https://truthforteachers.com/?p=149305 So you’re shy and you’re a teacher. There are typically two approaches shy teachers choose. Some want to become less shy and more outgoing. Others want to learn ways to navigate teaching while shy. Usually, it’s a combination of the two. I commend you for being a teacher–your own kind of teacher. It’s easy for … Continued

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So you’re shy and you’re a teacher. There are typically two approaches shy teachers choose.

Some want to become less shy and more outgoing.

Others want to learn ways to navigate teaching while shy.

Usually, it’s a combination of the two.

I commend you for being a teacher–your own kind of teacher. It’s easy for someone to count themselves out of the profession because of shyness. You didn’t and that’s great.

We need diverse personalities and approaches to respond to and support our diverse students.

The difference between “shy” and “introvert”

People often use these terms interchangeably, and while there are some overlapping features, there is a difference between shyness and introversion.

First and foremost, introversion is a personality type while shyness is an emotion.

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, to be shy is to not be inclined to be forward. It implies a timid reserve and a shrinking from unfamiliarity.

On the other hand, to be introverted is to be a reserved or quiet person who tends to be introspective and enjoys spending time alone. It has been noted that introverts gain energy through solitude and quiet.

To further illustrate this distinction, let’s explore two teachers: Sam and Toni. Sam is a shy teacher. He is fearful of speaking up and being the center of attention. Toni is an introvert. She enjoys spending time alone and derives her energy from that alone time.

At first glance, Sam and Toni may show up in the same ways: quiet demeanors, very self-aware, and spending time alone or in small groups.

However, upon closer inspection, Sam is not always shy whereas Toni is always an introvert. Sam’s shyness is fueled by fear and discomfort whereas Toni is content and comfortable in her preferences.

How to thrive as an introverted teacher

Characteristics of a great teacher: myths and facts

When thinking about the traits of great teachers, I am reminded of the children’s show The Powerpuff Girls. The superheroines are born from “sugar, spice, and everything nice.” What are the ingredients of great teachers? Can shy teachers fit the bill?

4 myths about the traits of effective teachers

  • They must be extroverted: Some extroverted people can be shy. So there is a chance that a shy teacher is extroverted when confident. However, being extroverted is not a prerequisite for being an excellent educator. After all, Albert Einstein was an introvert and an amazing college professor!
  • They must be gregarious: While it is wonderful and crucial to build relationships as a teacher, it is unnecessary to be “on” at all times. Great teachers do not need to be friends with students, families, and colleagues; instead, they can be friendly and cordial. Furthermore, they do not need to go to every work and social event hosted by their school; instead teachers should strive to set and maintain boundaries to feel both a sense of belonging within the school community without feeling overwhelmed and pressured.
  • They must be talkative: Teachers certainly talk a lot but we don’t need to be talkative! We should be intentional about what we are saying and how much we are saying. An economy of language that is clear and consistent is most important when teaching!
  • They must be completely independent: Everyone will need support and guidance throughout their career. This is especially true in the teaching profession where we strive to meet the diverse needs of our students and their families. We need to stay current on the skills and knowledge we need to foster our students’ success. This is only possible when we acknowledge that we don’t know it all, can’t do it all, and are open to support!

4 facts about the traits of effective teachers

  • They must be strong communicators: As Socrates said, “Education is the kindling of a flame, not the filling of a vessel.” In order to ignite students, teachers must be engaging and they must listen well to their students, their colleagues, the school community, the wider world, and to themselves. It takes constant reflection and deep self-awareness to become a masterful, effective communicator.
  • They must be good collaborators: Great teachers collaborate with others. They understand that to operate in a silo is to miss out on opportunities to share, adapt, and adopt best practices for their students. Great teachers also cultivate a deep knowledge and passion for their subject matter. They are lifelong learners and are adaptable.
  • They must embody core values: Great teachers embody values that are instrumental in building community and connection. They are warm, enthusiastic, compassionate, patient, and empathetic. This makes them approachable and accessible. After all, educator Rita Pierson is right when she says students don’t learn from people they don’t like!
  • They must be emotionally regulated: Great teachers recognize and manage their stress. They possess strong organizational skills and coping techniques to help them effectively navigate challenges. They cultivate and maintain their resilience and support ecosystem on an ongoing basis so as not to burn out.

Why are you shy? What can you do about it?

As mentioned, shyness is an emotion, and emotions are mutable. Therefore, there are ways to become less shy.

Here are some questions from licensed psychotherapist Wendy Leeds to consider along your path towards increased confidence:

  • How have I successfully dealt with fear-based situations like this in the past?
  • Who might be able to help me handle my anxiety?
  • What new information could help me deal with my fearful thoughts?
  • What’s one small step I can take right now to feel better?
  • How can I tell the story about this fear differently?
  • What’s the best possible outcome I can imagine?
  • What would my life look like, if I could move past this fear and focus on positive possibilities? Is there a role model I can learn from and emulate?

Ultimately, some introverts are shy but not all shy people are introverts. An extroverted person can be shy in particular situations.

If you are a shy person, you can certainly be an amazing teacher! Perhaps this realization (along with the information included in this article) is the boost you need to become the best version of yourself for your students.

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Feeling restless? Try switching up your teaching style into one of these 5 types. https://truthforteachers.com/changing-teaching-style/ https://truthforteachers.com/changing-teaching-style/#comments Wed, 16 Nov 2022 17:00:27 +0000 https://truthforteachers.com/?p=149293 A few years ago, I had a conversation with my assistant principal that I’ve thought about many times since. We loved to sit in her office and grapple with big educational questions, such as issues of equity and access, as well as the smaller stuff, like when the copier paper would be delivered. In this … Continued

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A few years ago, I had a conversation with my assistant principal that I’ve thought about many times since.

We loved to sit in her office and grapple with big educational questions, such as issues of equity and access, as well as the smaller stuff, like when the copier paper would be delivered.

In this particular conversation, she asked if I could be an effective teacher if I wasn’t so relational with my students.

I gazed at the teapot that sat on the credenza behind her desk while I thought about the question. After all, I was (and am) an extremely relational teacher. If I had an education philosophy, it might go something like, “Teaching my students and loving my students go hand-in-hand.”

From the moment I stepped into a classroom, my relational teaching style was obvious. I simply loved my students and being their teacher. I eagerly wanted to understand who they were — their dreams and fears and learning styles and histories — so I could do a great job teaching them. I didn’t see any other path to success. Loving my kids and doing everything I could to reach them was never a decision for me. It was an instinct.

This style looked like showing up at their baseball games, spending my Sunday afternoons calling their parents to talk about progress, staying up late to devise lessons they would find engaging, and on and on.

My colleagues, to my embarrassment, noticed this and often commented on it. They worried I was going to burn out. Or that I was “trying to make the rest of us look lazy.” They thought I was working hard, not smart.

But I just couldn’t fathom any other way. Plus, this approach was a joy to me. Being relational with my students gave me energy and passion for teaching.

Without question, this style worked well for me.

Right up until the moment it didn’t.

I needed a change…but a change in my teaching context, or in how I showed up?

Imagine another conversation with a different assistant principal, this one only a year ago. I liked this leader very much, too. I knew I could trust him with the truth.

I confessed I was getting a little bored. I assured him I loved my job and our school. I just felt … squirmy. Our team had tackled and conquered serious issues and navigated our school through some of the weirdest and most troubling times we’d ever experienced, professionally, personally, and (honestly) globally. And yet, look. Our kids were thriving.

Still, I felt restless. Even a little glum. I thought less and less about what my kids needed and more about just doing what I had to. I often looked forward to the weekend first thing Monday morning. Not a good sign.

I wondered if it might be time for me to switch schools or leave education altogether.

But I wasn’t sure. The much-needed change, I felt, was me. Not my school or my projects, but rather my approach to teaching.

It was time to switch up my teacher type.

The 5 (very unscientific and completely made up) teacher types

Teacher type is a phrase I made up. It is backed by exactly zero professional research and is nothing more than a short-hand way for me to quickly categorize teachers. I do this in my brain alone, partly for fun, but mostly to better understand my colleagues’ approaches to teaching.

Teacher typing is a little bit like some of the goofy personality quizzes I used to make my journalism students take at the beginning of the year as part of our team-building process. “Oh, so you’re a blue paperclip! That makes so much sense! Me? Gold folder, thanks for asking.”

But teacher types are much more than a little mental silliness. I deeply respect, and am indeed envious of, teaching styles that are not my own. I look at my colleagues’ gifts with awe.

I also don’t think of teacher types as stereotypes. I understand them instead as instincts, the various ways teachers lean into reaching students. It is all about exactly that: reaching students.

In brief, here are the teacher types I’ve identified:

#1: Relational, as described above, and happily embraced for over eighteen years.

#2: Tech-savvy teachers have a near-savant ability to exploit digital resources up to and beyond their intended purposes. Consider a teacher I worked with a few years ago I’ll call Mrs. Vasquez. Her virtual learning management system was so gorgeous, interactive, and efficient that her students’ learning stayed completely on track during lockdown teaching (What?!)

When some students returned as others stayed at home, she quickly got hold of some kind of fancy voice-activated camera she attached to a tripod and set up in the middle of her room. That thing swiveled at the sound of voices. At-home kids were one-thousand percent engaged in her lessons because they felt like they were right there in the classroom.

#3: Professional teachers are all about improving their practice. They are the first ones to show up for professional development opportunities, whether offered in the teacher lounge or at a conference several hundred miles from home. Professional teachers can (and do!) tout the latest research about effective teaching strategies. They read professional books, blogs, and newsletters and are eager to try out what they’re learning … and enthusiastically tell their colleagues all about it.

#4: Community builders are a bit like relational teachers, except that they take all their warmth and concern outside the walls of their classroom. This kind of teacher understands the value of parental involvement and in fact, prioritizes home communication over nearly every other task on the agenda.

Community builders can be found partnering with organizations outside the school, too. A local ice cream shop brings treats to your school on Friday afternoons? Your community building teacher probably established that partnership, along with another one that resulted in a new floor in your school’s gym. Your community builders collaborate extremely effectively, and if your PLC is lucky enough to have this kind of teacher on your team, those meetings are one of the most rewarding hours of your week.

#5: Content area experts know and deeply love their curriculum. When I think of content area experts, Mr. Jones, a twelfth-grade English teacher, comes to mind. Man, does he know his Shakespeare. And the transcendentalists. And also the twelve (or is it thirteen?) literary theories, how iambic pentameter elevates speech to poetry, and the ways in which voices of protest shape literature. Mr. Jones doesn’t say pride, he says hubris, and he displays absolutely none. He simply adores English language arts, and his passion is contagious.

These approaches to our profession are instinctive and individual. While I naturally prefer the on-ramp of being relational, the teacher down the hall from me is a content area expert. We both love what we do, and we both get great results.

What happened when I tried switching up my teacher type

When I decided to explore a new teaching style, I knew I had the capacity to build another strength. I’m not exactly sure why, but during that conversation with my administrator, I instantly knew which teacher type to try out: professionalism.

For one year, I decided, I would say yes to every professional development opportunity that came my way. Every book that a colleague recommended, I’d read. Every class required by the district, I’d take right away instead of putting it off until the last minute. I would study teaching topics I’d been interested in but hadn’t found the time to explore, specifically teaching gifted kids and adding a reading endorsement to my license.

However, I knew that to make capacity for all this extra focus on professional activities, I’d have to ease up on my relational style. Under normal circumstances, that would never have been an option. A new teacher had just joined our team, though, and she is extremely relational. I could relax, knowing our kids would get all the emotional support they needed.

Off I went into the land of professional development, not exactly excited, but at least curious.

One thing happened that didn’t surprise me: my teaching got better. All the practices, strategies, and ideas I was learning about went straight into my classroom. My lessons improved as I polished up my instructional practices.

But something else happened that surprised me enormously.

My passion came back. My energy and enthusiasm for teaching bubbled up over. I thought constantly about, well, teaching.

In particular, I found myself thinking — a lot — about how to help my colleagues. I began daydreaming about professional development sessions I could create and new ways to communicate with my PLC members. I wanted to co-host an internal podcast for my consortium of schools. Almost every day on my way to school, I left voice messages for our area’s curriculum resource teacher, with one idea after another.

I felt my excitement for teaching return. It was a sensation I hadn’t had in years, but it was expressing itself in wholly new ways. Instead of dreaming up lesson plans, I was dreaming about ways our entire school system could grow.

My principal noticed. One day, he walked into my classroom and offered me a job. He had seen my focus expand from my classroom to our whole school, and he was impressed. One year after I decided to focus on professionalism, I became an instructional coach.

Am I suggesting you switch up your teaching type or explore a career change? Well sure, if that’s what you want.

But the big idea here is that leaning into a new teaching style can have enormous implications for your passion and your energy. And in these days of wild uncertainty and rampant burn-out, what could be more important than re-invigorating your love of education?

Want to try out a different teaching style?

Here are a few suggestions for ways you might lean into a new teaching style if you want to try out something different:


  • Read a book that discusses early childhood trauma and how that impacts student learning.
  • Attend an event that students specifically invited you to.
  • Explore social emotional leaning and inject what you find into a lesson. This can look as simple as students pointing to a smiley face, sad face, or angry face to let you know how they’re feeling.
  • Add class meetings to your daily routines.

Tech Savvy

A word about this before I dive into ideas. It is easy to get completely overwhelmed by the plethora of available resources and completely shut down. This has been my experience, anyhow. If this is you, too, focus on small, incremental steps.

  • Befriend a tech-savvy teacher and ask them to tell you all about a favorite digital tool.
  • Use the technology you are already familiar with in a new way. Think about phones, social media, or software applications you already use, and ask yourself how you can bring one of those tools into a lesson.
  • Commit to trying one new digital app with your students per quarter. Just one.
  • Move a paper-based tool you already use (interactive journals, dry-erase boards, planners) into its digital counterpart. Not sure how? The Internet will be more than happy to help you—or that tech-savvy teacher you eat lunch with.


  • Sign up for virtual classes that present innovative teaching practices. You’ll know them when you see them, I promise.
  • Read a book or two that address issues around learning, such as why kids don’t like school or how the adolescent years affect concentration.
  • Been thinking about adding a subject or endorsement to your license? This is the year to do it. Be sure to ask your administrator about getting reimbursed for the cost.
  • Volunteer to lead a professional development activity at your school. Better yet, pair up with a colleague to lighten the load.

Community Builder

  • Seek out volunteers for your classroom.
  • Communicate more frequently with parents — in a way that doesn’t keep you working nights and weekends. Ask an administrator at your school if you have access to email or auto-phone message lists for your students’ families.
  • Have your students create a parent newsletter showcasing the activities in your class.
  • Speak with neighborhood businesses about your school. Keep it casual. Be ready with contacts or ideas if a business owner asks how they can become involved.

Content Expert

  • Find (or create!) a group of teachers who love your shared content area. Commit to meeting monthly.
  • Take a college class or attend a conference on a topic within your curriculum. Again, ask about reimbursement.
  • Subscribe to a professional journal for your subject.
  • Take a personal field trip to enrich your own learning.
  • Let your administrator know you’d like to be considered for teaching advanced students.

It’s important to recognize that it is our responsibility as educators to pay attention to all five of the teacher types. We can’t ignore technology or get loose with our content area just because those are not our strengths.

But with all the priorities clamoring for our attention, we cannot be fabulous at everything, all the time, either. It makes sense to rely on our innate abilities where we can because doing so is efficient and also feels great.

And listen, I am not suggesting that you give this a go if you’re a brand new teacher or your administrator just moved you from earth science to marine biology. Your plate is full.

But if you’re a little bored, kind of restless, or even wondering if teaching is still right for you, consider a shift in your approach to teaching. What a gift this could be to your students, your school, and most importantly, to yourself.

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A “groovy” new resource for reversing educator burnout https://truthforteachers.com/reversing-educator-burnout/ https://truthforteachers.com/reversing-educator-burnout/#respond Sun, 13 Nov 2022 17:00:28 +0000 https://truthforteachers.com/?p=149716 I’ve spent this fall co-creating a brand new course with Dr. Rebecca Branstetter of the Thriving School Psychologist. It’s called Reverse Educator Burnout: 10 Shifts to Help Educators Enjoy the Journey and Stay the Course, and it’s designed to support EVERYONE who works in K-12 schools (teachers, admin, paraprofessionals, coaches, counselors, etc). Rebecca and I … Continued

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I’ve spent this fall co-creating a brand new course with Dr. Rebecca Branstetter of the Thriving School Psychologist.

It’s called Reverse Educator Burnout: 10 Shifts to Help Educators Enjoy the Journey and Stay the Course, and it’s designed to support EVERYONE who works in K-12 schools (teachers, admin, paraprofessionals, coaches, counselors, etc).

Rebecca and I have been friends for over 10 years, and one thing I love about her is the way she incorporates playfulness and fun into everything she does. So, we didn’t just make yet another online PD…

We did a 60s hippie road trip theme, filmed in San Francisco where she lives. I’ve always been a flower child at heart so this was a no-brainer. We wore bell bottoms and borrowed her neighbor’s green van which reminds me of the Scooby Doo Mystery Machine. (You can see a bunch of our pics here.)

The course itself is set up in easily digestible 7-10 minute videos. (Don’t worry, we didn’t go overboard on the theme — we’re wearing professional clothes in the actual trainings.)

Rebecca — as a school psychologist — talks about the research and neuroscience of reversing burnout, and then I talk about the practical classroom application. Each module also has a guest expert who shares their unique perspective on reversing burnout.

We also provide a “roadmap” journal to help you keep track of your ideas as you watch the videos.

Rebecca and I believe in helping educators co-thrive WITH students. We find the overlap between what’s best for kids and what’s best for educators. So, as you learn new skills through the course, you can teach the same strategies to your students.

You can buy the course on your own, but it’s really designed for school purchases: we want districts investing in their faculty’s well-being and mental health, and this is a tool that can help.

We’re losing so many of our best educators — and our new educators don’t even have a chance to thrive — because the institution of school just completely burns them out. This needs to be addressed at a systemic level, and the course Rebecca and I created is a simple inroad for better educator support.

You can pass this link along to administrators who are invested in teacher retention and wellbeing, or any other educators you know who might benefit.

If you’re purchasing with your own funds, you can use the discount code ANGELA to get 25% off. 

Rebecca and I are so excited to get some relevant and fun professional development into schools so that educators feel more supported and better equipped. Thank you for helping us spread the word, and for supporting us in what we do!

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5 ways to strengthen emotional intelligence in the classroom https://truthforteachers.com/5-ways-to-strengthen-emotional-intelligence-in-the-classroom/ https://truthforteachers.com/5-ways-to-strengthen-emotional-intelligence-in-the-classroom/#respond Wed, 26 Oct 2022 17:00:52 +0000 https://truthforteachers.com/?p=149296 A trap I fell into while working on socio-emotional skills with my students was ONLY focusing on the social component. I knew that emotional intelligence is an important skill to foster in children: it helps us to better understand ourselves as we move through our daily lives. This knowledge of self then helps us to … Continued

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A trap I fell into while working on socio-emotional skills with my students was ONLY focusing on the social component.

I knew that emotional intelligence is an important skill to foster in children: it helps us to better understand ourselves as we move through our daily lives. This knowledge of self then helps us to better understand and empathize with others.

But I favored lessons on empathy and social interactions, and as a result, the seeds I planted didn’t always take root.

It became clear that I was expecting my students to have larger background knowledge about emotions than they actually did.

There are many adults who do not have a strong base for emotional intelligence. We often lack the words or comfort levels to share how we’re feeling with others, as well as the tools to help navigate situations when big emotions arise. Increasing emotional intelligence starts with self-awareness. From there we can learn how to better self-regulate. Helping students to tune into their bodies, recognize the physical sensations that come with experiencing an emotion, and to consider how they would like to respond are cornerstone traits to strengthen this life skill.

Below are five ways that we can infuse more practice with self-awareness and regulation to help strengthen emotional intelligence in the classroom.

1. Name emotions with accurate language

This might seem like a simple approach, but it is very powerful. We may think students are already familiar with naming emotions, but they are often very limited in vocabulary, understanding, or both.

In his book Permission to Feel: The Power of Emotional Intelligence To Achieve Well-Being and Success, Marc Brackett highlights the importance of increasing emotion vocabulary in children by stating,

“The more words that children can use, the better able we’ll be able to support them. When we use a wide variety of terms to describe emotions, our children learn the words, but they also absorb the lesson that describing their feelings is a natural, positive thing to do” (Brackett 113).

This doesn’t have to be complicated! I’ve found that the two simplest things we can do to increase emotion language are to name emotions and to explore the clues that tell us that we or others are experiencing an emotion. Here are a few ways that we can do this:

Use literature

Using characters in the books we read in class to help identify and explore an emotion is an easy place to start. It can be helpful to ask students questions like “How do you think the character is feeling?” and “What clues tell us that they are feeling this way?” We can use this approach to examine facial features, ask students to think about a time they felt the same way, or invite discussion about physical sensations they might feel in the body when experiencing a certain emotion.

We can also share literature that deals with social-emotional learning and invite class discussion. We are lucky to live in an age where there is a gorgeous variety of picture and chapter books on these topics. Use books that you may already have in your classroom, chat with your school librarian, or explore communities online that offer quality recommendations.

Use everyday situations

We can invite students to pause and check in with their own bodies during the day. This can be especially meaningful when the atmosphere in the room feels a certain way.

For example, if the room is full of energy, students seem particularly lethargic or disengaged, or when stress is high before a testing scenario. It may be helpful for us to name what we are noticing in the room and invite students to see if this feels true for them. We can ask students to pause and notice the physical sensations they are feeling and to consider what emotion they are experiencing. From there we are able to work with students to identify what they may need as support.

Use yourself as an example

Naming emotions we feel in ourselves as they arise throughout the day can also be an impactful way to normalize emotions and connect with students more deeply. Stating how we’re feeling and what clues our bodies are giving us and sharing what strategies we need to self-regulate in the moment can be powerful for students to hear.

As always, use your best judgment about what and how to share depending on your students, their developmental and maturity levels, and your own personal comfort levels.

2. Share the science

My students loved learning about their brains. There was always an intense focus that emerged when I shared the “why” behind something as non-concrete as emotions and behavior. When it was broken down, it suddenly made sense and the knowledge empowered them to make different choices. They also loved sharing the knowledge with others–it was a great topic of discussion whenever they had a substitute.

Dan Siegel’s hand model of the brain helped provide my third-graders with a concrete example of how their brains play a part when they experience big emotions. It gave them a clear visual of the three major parts of the brain that go into emotional regulation. It also provided a clear “why” behind the work we were doing to support their growth in this area.

Looking up Dan Siegel’s work or exploring Scarlett Lewis’s Choose Love program can help give more examples of age-appropriate language around this topic. Feel free to adjust for your students and their interests or developmental needs. Younger students may need a more simplified model or older students might be interested in more complex topics like the parasympathetic and sympathetic nervous systems.

3. Introduce and integrate strategies

Providing students with simple, concrete tools that they can practice and access when experiencing big emotions is key. There are currently a lot of resources for educators on this topic and finding strategies that work for you and your students can take time.

Throughout my own process I’ve learned to be honest about what strategies work for me, but also to be open to things that don’t. I would sometimes shy away from techniques that weren’t my favorite but found that some students gravitated towards those.

Here are three categories of strategies and some simple examples from each that I’ve found to make a difference with my students.


There’s more and more evidence that we have become a population of shallow breathers. When we feel stressed or anxious, we have the tendency to hold our breath high in our chests, rather than allowing our bellies to expand and our lungs to fill to capacity. Working on this “belly breathing” (also known as diaphragmatic breathing) is one of the simplest things we can do to help encourage our students to re-connect with themselves.

Invite students to sit tall in their chairs with their feet planted on the floor. They may choose to close their eyes, or find a soft gaze somewhere on the floor. Students may also choose to place a hand on their bellies if they wish to.

From here, we invite students to breathe in through their nose, if they can, and to exhale through their nose. Experiment with counting the students through the breath for equal counts of four.

Or experiment with a count of four on the inhale and six on the exhale. Encourage students to reflect silently or out loud on how they feel after several rounds of breath.

This is such a simple technique and is an easy one to write off. That being said, it is perhaps the tool that my students accessed the most once they became more comfortable with it.

Quiet time

Noticeable changes began to arise in my own classroom when I started carving out time for students to explore quiet, stillness, or sensing into their bodies.

This will look very different at each age and maturity level, but one simple technique to try is a five-sense activity. Invite students to sit quietly and mentally notice five things they can see.

From there, they can choose to keep their eyes open, or rest their gaze on the floor as they make note of four things they can touch, three things they can hear, two things they can smell, and one thing they can touch.

Journaling, nature or building walks, glitter jars, or Responsive Classroom’s “Quiet Time” are other examples of ways to help students connect inwardly and self-regulate.

Mindful movement

Allowing for movement breaks throughout the day has been considered beneficial for students for a while now. You may already have some type of practice for this woven into your daily classroom life already. Sometimes it seemed hard to find time during the day to get my students up and moving and I needed ways that students could access movement, even if they were required to stay seated. Below is a short and simple series of chair movements I would use if my students needed a break, particularly in testing situations.

First, ask students to scoot as far forward in their chairs as needed so that they can plant their feet flat on the floor. Ask them to imagine that they have a string coming out of the tops of their heads and someone is gently pulling on that string to help make them sit tall and strong. Invite them to rest their hands on their thighs and either close their eyes or gaze at the floor. Take a few breaths here.

You can then invite students to inhale and stretch their arms over their heads. Then exhale and slowly twist their upper bodies to the right, resting their right hand on the back of their seat and their left hand on the outside of their right thigh or seat. Encourage them to keep breathing and to keep their spine straight. Exhale to unwind and then repeat on the left side.

Finally, invite students to keep a straight spine and lift their right leg off of the ground, crossing their right ankle over their left knee. They may choose to stay here and take a few breaths, or perhaps start to bring their chest down towards their legs. After a few breaths, uncross the right leg and repeat on the other side.

4. Make time for reflection

Carving out intentional time to connect and reflect is a wonderful way to cultivate awareness and deepen the practice. This ensures that everyone feels comfortable and that you are reaching the community in an effective way.

Reflect with students

Inviting students to be active participants in this journey informs and empowers both them and you. Regularly checking in with students can be as simple as asking them to reflect internally after they’ve implemented a strategy. Asking questions like “How did you feel before?” and “How do you feel now?” can foster an internal awareness and strengthen the process of slowing down to consider how we are feeling and what actions we can take to support ourselves.

We can also ask our students for feedback on what they feel is working and what is not, both for themselves and as a class. They can share their thoughts with you independently (privately in one-on-one interaction or recording their ideas on a sticky note), in partnerships, or in group situations like during whole-class meetings. How you choose to do this will depend on your students’ comfort levels.

One year I had a small reflection journal for students to use partly for this purpose. We would try a new regulation strategy and, after practicing it for a week or so, I would ask them to record how they felt when using the strategy or when they thought they might use it in their lives. This gave them a chance to consider whether it was something that felt good for them. Some students also used the journal as a tool to reflect during or after experiencing a big emotion.

Reflect with colleagues

If you have a group of colleagues or friends from other districts who are also interested in fostering emotional intelligence in the classroom, connect with them when you can!

Troubleshooting, problem-solving, and sharing wins with people who are on the same journey can be helpful and supportive. There are so many things to learn from each other! We can often gain new perspectives or feel seen by others when we connect in this way.


Self-reflection is an often overlooked tool. As educators, we tend to excel at reflecting on what might have worked with a group of students and adjusting accordingly. But do not forget that you are a part of the process!

Remember to consider your needs and limits as well. It is just as important to make sure that what you are implementing is working for you too.

5. Honor the process

Increasing emotional intelligence within our classrooms can sometimes be challenging and uncomfortable because it asks us to grow. Know that there may be times when things feel difficult for you or your students and that this is okay.

Here are some important pieces to help us move through it.

Follow through

Once we start to dive into this journey with our students, it is important to follow through. This includes honoring the requests students may make of you when it comes to self-regulation. You may find yourself feeling frustrated or defaulting to old ways that you used to show up in your classroom.

For example, I had a student who thrived on taking a meditation break with our classroom glitter jar, particularly during writing activities. There were times when I wished he would just sit down and get his work finished. But once we had set the clear expectation that he was still responsible for coming back to the activity to finish his work after he had self-regulated, the glitter jar only helped him to become more productive.

Be consistent

Consistency is also an important part of the process. There may be times when you feel like what you’re introducing isn’t sticking. Some students continue to show up in the same ways and struggle with the same issues over and over.

Make adjustments as needed, but trust the process as well. Students often need time and consistency to feel safe enough to start implementing these strategies and share their internal world. This helps students know you will honor their needs and they in turn will want to honor yours.


As educators, we know the importance of modeling and leading by example. It is powerful to take part in this process with our students and let them see us! When you ask students to journal, journal with them.

When you invite students to share their reflections, share with them. When you ask students to try a new strategy, try it with them. It sends a powerful message and learning alongside our students is one of the most beautiful things we can do.

We are most likely also working on strengthening our own emotional intelligence in the process. Things will inevitably come up for us as we explore this topic with our students. Be gentle with yourself as things arise and seek support from friends, colleagues, and professionals as needed.

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7 “first aid supplies” you can use for resilience emergencies during the school day https://truthforteachers.com/first-aid-kit-for-resilience-emergencies-at-school/ https://truthforteachers.com/first-aid-kit-for-resilience-emergencies-at-school/#comments Wed, 12 Oct 2022 17:00:49 +0000 https://truthforteachers.com/?p=149307 Do you ever wish you had a job that didn’t require you to make 1,500 decisions in a day? Imagine it … a job where you could stare blankly into the computer screen doing data entry while blasting 90s alternative music in your earbuds? A job that doesn’t require so much darn enthusiasm? If so, … Continued

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Do you ever wish you had a job that didn’t require you to make 1,500 decisions in a day?

Imagine it … a job where you could stare blankly into the computer screen doing data entry while blasting 90s alternative music in your earbuds?

A job that doesn’t require so much darn enthusiasm?

If so, I am here to tell you that you aren’t alone.

Teaching is a performance art. It requires energy, stamina, flexibility, confidence, and a whole lot of love. And most days striving for that #winning performance is FUN. Work doesn’t seem like work, the kids are engaged, technology hasn’t failed, and you are up to date on grading.  The art of teaching is fulfilling, even though you go home exhausted.

Conversely, there are the “desk-job-longing” days, and it can take tremendous effort to move forward. It could be that nothing is going right — the copier is jammed, parent emails are stacking up, you’re behind on lesson planning, etc. Or it could be that you are just plain worn down, with no energy left to muster.  In these moments where we are desperately seeking strength to forge ahead, it’s imperative to reach into our resilience “first aid kit” for some self-service triage.

One day, deep into hybrid learning, I had just taken attendance in person and online. I had the projector on for the students in the classroom, I was screen sharing with the students at home, I had gotten the microphone to work, and I was settled in a chair to start the lesson on camera. The first two sentences were hardly out of my mouth when the phone rang. ALL.THE.WAY. ACROSS.THE.ROOM.

Internally, I was exasperated. The amount of organization and energy required for asynchronous teaching was off the charts and I was holding on by a string. I put the online learners on hold, took off my headset, and walked across the classroom, and answered the phone.

Turns out the secretary had called the wrong room. She apologized, and instinctively I said, “That’s okay, I needed the exercise.” My irritation had washed away almost instantly because of many years of practicing reframing my thoughts.

Emergency care for your body, mind, and spirit is located in your head.  Mindset is so powerful that it plays a significant role in decreasing stress, improving health, and increasing happiness. Our brains are first aid kits with the built-in capability to create a lasting foundation of resilience.

But, therein lies the paradox. Even though we have all the supplies readily available to us, it can be extremely difficult to access them in moments of stress.

However, with practice, there are things you can do right in the moment to build resilience when the job you love seems to be kicking your butt.

7 First aid supplies for resilience emergencies


Every mindfulness instructor is going to tell you to use breathing and/or visualizing as a calming technique– and that is because it’s incredibly effective. This is a coping strategy that can be done in just a few minutes.

To quiet your mind and bring awareness away from your worries, take a few deep breaths. The supply of oxygen to your brain increases and the parasympathetic nervous system is stimulated.  In turn, you feel connected to your body, which promotes a state of calmness. It’s easy to do in the moment.

I have been known to use deep breathing while I walk around the classroom, checking on assignments, with students none the wiser.

Do not argue with reality

I’d argue that all stress comes from arguing with reality and insisting that “things should be different.” Thoughts like, “Parents should respect me”, or “The administration is unsupportive”, or “There is not enough time to teach this curriculum” ultimately do not serve you because they create tension and frustration. They argue with “what is”.

Author Byron Katie says, “When we don’t argue with reality, action becomes simpler, fluid, kind, and fearless.” We cannot change the world around us in order to be happy or have a smoother day. Instead, accepting the reality of “what is” gives the power back to you.

Perseverating on how we believe things “should be” is unproductive; accepting “what is” helps you move forward.

Identify what you can control 

Can you stop a parental firestorm in its tracks when it’s headed your way? No, but you can control how well you are prepared for it to hit.

By focusing on what specifically in a situation you can control, a sense of empowerment follows, and positive emotions are triggered.

For example, you may not be able to control the new schedule rolled out for the upcoming school year but you do have control over making what happens in those minutes work for you and your students. Let that inform your action and you will feel good about how you choose to respond.

Talk to someone you trust

Sharing emotions reduces stress while simultaneously making us feel close to another person. Find a friend to lighten your load and relieve your stress from the situation at hand.

This doesn’t mean complaining to everyone in your school corridor who will listen. Instead, get your feelings out to one person who will support and guide you to healthy decision-making.

Just remember that repeatedly venting over and over to the same person can cause friction in a relationship. There is a fine line between healthy venting and toxic complaining. Be selective about how often you are venting and prompt the other person to offer their perspective.

Practice self-compassion

This means treating yourself warmly, gently, and fairly. Why is being kind to ourselves so difficult? As teachers, I can safely assume we are all doing the best we can with the information we have at each moment. With self-compassion, you practice accepting–rather than judging– yourself.

The teacher in the next classroom might have all their report card comments done way before you, created an amazing lesson entirely from scratch, and seems to have classroom management perfected. That is okay! None of that is a reflection on you.

Take pride in your own unique strengths, talents, and characteristics. Give yourself a break; you are amazing.

Recognize any positives in challenging situations

Staying positive in a negative situation is tough, but you can honor difficult situations and emotions while also choosing to focus on positive elements or outcomes.

This recently happened to me when I found out my principal and mentor were moving on to another opportunity. Initially, I felt sad and disappointed for myself even though I truly was happy for him. Ultimately,  I chose to focus on the fact that I wasn’t losing a mentor, but also gaining an additional teacher in the new principal that was hired.

Does this mean I wasn’t sad or disappointed anymore? No, of course, I was. But by recognizing that there were actually good things possible in the situation I eased the negative impact. With many years of practice, I can identify the positive in any negative situation almost automatically.

Complete the stress cycle

When we face anything the brain perceives as a threat, stress is the body’s natural response. Called the “stress cycle”, it has a beginning, a middle, and an end. Let’s say you just got out of a difficult meeting with an angry parent. It was high tension and even though the issues were resolved, your body is still stuck in the middle of a stress response. It takes completing the stress cycle for your body to fully move on from the perceived threat.

Sisters Amelia and Emily Nagoski write in their book “Burnout” about six evidence-based strategies to complete the stress cycle: physical activity, creativity, laughing, crying, physical affection, and deep breathing. The most efficient is 30 minutes of exercise each day, but all work wonderfully. Take the time out of your day to complete the stress cycle.

When you build up your resilience, life flows a bit more easily. You may find that your vibe rubs off on your students. You may share the same strategies with them in moments of need, teaching them a bit about social-emotional learning in the process. And, you may also find that co-workers start to find you not only optimistic, but confident and unshakeable.

Coincidentally, these are also fantastic qualities found in the best performance artists, as the show must go on.  We carry on our daily performance as educators not only because we must, but also because we know the next day will be better. The mood will have shifted, or our energy will have resurfaced.

Besides, we all know that “desk jobs” really aren’t that great anyway.

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The ultimate guide to authentically creating a secondary classroom where students feel safe, welcome, & whole https://truthforteachers.com/guide-to-safe-space-secondary-classroom/ https://truthforteachers.com/guide-to-safe-space-secondary-classroom/#respond Wed, 05 Oct 2022 17:00:53 +0000 https://truthforteachers.com/?p=149283 SEL can sometimes feel like “one more thing” we have to do, and can sometimes feel inauthentic to students. This is especially true for secondary students. Younger learners are used to SEL (socio-emotional learning) practices like sharing circles and morning meetings; these procedures tend to fade away as students get older and into more specialized … Continued

The post The ultimate guide to authentically creating a secondary classroom where students feel safe, welcome, & whole appeared first on Truth For Teachers.

SEL can sometimes feel like “one more thing” we have to do, and can sometimes feel inauthentic to students.

This is especially true for secondary students. Younger learners are used to SEL (socio-emotional learning) practices like sharing circles and morning meetings; these procedures tend to fade away as students get older and into more specialized secondary content. I know I’ve had more than one SEL-focused lesson fall flat in a room full of high school juniors.

I realized that in a way it’s like trying to get little ones to eat their vegetables: you have to hide it in something they’re already used to.

That’s how I came up with these five strategies and routines that help me cultivate a safe and welcoming classroom for secondary students.

These strategies are relatively low-prep (although some may require a bit of prep to set up at first before automating) and have been effective for my students in grades 7-12. Some of these strategies can also streamline planning as well, as they have some classroom routines built in.

I’ve organized these 5 strategies in the order that I usually introduce them in my classroom. The order is intentional because it starts with simple/low-stakes activities that signal to students that this is a safe space for them to be their true selves, and eventually spill over into more authentic student interactions, where they can be a bit vulnerable after they are comfortable.

However, you do NOT have to do ALL of these strategies.

They work together quite nicely as a whole class, year-long system, but if you only have the time or energy to do one or two of them, they can also stand alone.

Whether you decide to do just a few of these strategies or all of them, I recommend tackling them in the order I’ve listed, but you know your students and your teaching context best.

Strategy #1: First day name tent procedure

Many teachers do name tents and similar “getting to know you” activities on the first day. There are a lot of great student questionnaires out there that capture a lot of really important information for teachers to know. My personal struggle has always been what to do with that information. It has always been overwhelming for me to process all the information captured on these questionnaires in the first few days, when I am still trying to learn names and schedules.

In reflecting on this, I decided to settle on 4 key “big picture” pieces of information that give me a lot of insight into students’ personalities right away and enable me to spend the rest of the school year getting to know the kids in greater detail. I capture these 4 key pieces of information on their name tents. That way in the first few weeks I can learn names and associate those names with a general idea of who they are. Students can also get a more general sense of one another early on, which helps get the classroom community rolling.

First, before the school year starts, I semi-randomly create a seating chart. I say “semi-randomly” because I am intentional about seating for some students. For example, those with IEPs or 504s that include seating accommodations; however for most students I just assign their seats randomly (often just clicking the “randomize” button on my school’s rostering software, and then manually moving individual students as needed per specific learning plans).

This seating chart is just for the first week or so, to avoid confusion on the first day. I want students to know right away on the first day that there will be assigned seats in our class, and their first task when they arrive on day one is to find their seats using my seating chart. This gives me a chance to observe student interactions, including which students are more inclined to cooperate than others. It plants the seed that my classroom is a collaborative learning environment.

In the days leading up to the first day, I also prepare a name tent template and a Google Form. The name tent template has sentence starters on the back flap to help facilitate academic discussions. This year I also plan to add sentence starters to the inside flap, to facilitate student discussions centering on reflection and empathy.

The Google Form captures the same information that I want them to include on their name tents. This might seem redundant but doing so serves several purposes:

  1. It frontloads for students the information I will be asking them to provide on their name tents. This gives more introverted students a chance to process the information and share it safely before putting it on their name tents.
  2. One piece of information I ask about on the Google Form is students’ preferred pronouns (and in which contexts I should use them). This can be a very sensitive topic for students, giving them a confidential space to share that information via Google Form means a LOT to students who may be questioning or exploring their pronouns. For several of my transgender or questioning students, they are only “out” on my confidential Google Form and nowhere else. Having a safe space to do this, where being out about their gender isn’t an “all or nothing” is powerfully important.
  3. Having students complete the Google Form on their devices is an easy bellwork activity for the first day, which frees me up to greet students at the door, help students find their seats/the right room, etc. And it establishes the bellwork routine right away (which is a regular routine in my classroom).
  4. It also helps me to notice any discrepancies between what a student shared on the Google Form and on their name tent, so I can follow up if necessary. This follow-up provides an easy opportunity for me to connect individually with a student on something low stakes (“I noticed a difference here and I just want to make sure I have the right information”) while communicating to the student that I care about them.
  5. In setting up the data spreadsheet for the Google Form, I can have it automatically color-code responses which makes it much easier for me to get a sense of who my students are (big picture), group students, etc.

The main pieces of student information I rely on in the first days/weeks are:

  • Students’ names that they want me to use in class
  • Their preferred pronouns (and in which contexts I should use them)
  • Whether they tend to be more cautious or more adventurous
  • Whether they tend to prefer individual work or collaborative work
  • Whether they are more “big picture” or more “detail-oriented” when processing information
  • Whether or not they like to read

Obviously, names and pronouns are critical, but I have found that just those 4 key pieces of additional information can tell me a lot about a student and what helps them thrive in class, without overwhelming myself with information in those first few days. I feel as though I’m getting the most critical information that I can leverage for establishing relationships with kids and creating the right learning conditions for them right away, and then let the connection unfold naturally and organically over time as I get to know more about them over the course of the year.

On the Google Form, I have students share with me the appropriate contexts for their preferred names & pronouns. Some students are comfortable with their peers knowing their preferred name & pronouns, but not their parents, and vice-versa. This information is critical for creating a safe environment for all students.

Having them share this in a confidential Google Form helps me know how to address students in class, in front of their parents, and with colleagues. It also signals to students that I will honor and respect their boundaries and choices, and helps them reflect on the relationship between their identity and their various social contexts. Doing this on a Google Form provides them with the necessary frontloading and foreshadowing to complete their name tent with confidence and security when we get to that point in class.

While completing the Google Form, some students really struggle with picking just one option for some of the either/or questions. I get a lot of students who say, “Well, I’m adventurous in some situations but not in others. What should I choose?” I advise them to pick the one that MOST resonates with them. I deliberately left off a “Both” option because most kids would just pick “Both” for every prompt, and then I wouldn’t have terribly meaningful information.

Keeping it to just two extreme opposites also really forces them to do some quiet self-reflection, which is great practice for what I will ask them to do in class throughout the year. SEL skills like Self Awareness need to be practiced, just like any academic skills, so this is an opportunity for them to practice that deep self-reflection.

Once class starts and I’ve taken attendance (by doing a visual sweep with my seating chart, never by calling out names on the first day) and ensured that every student has completed the Google Form, I then distribute the name tent templates. I walk students through folding them and filling them out with me modeling, step-by-step with my own name tent. This ensures that I capture all the right information on the name tents (which I will be looking at every day) and also helps the students get to know me on that first day, beyond just a list of my hobbies and preferences.

While I definitely think that sharing hobbies is a great way for students to get to know me and for us to find common ground, I think most students would find it much more compelling, meaningful, and relatable to know that their teacher, for example, is adventurous, prefers big-picture information, and prefers collaborative work. It gives them, in a broad sense, an idea of how the class is likely to go, and every student wants to know that on the first day, whether they realize it or not.

First, I have students fold their name tents in half to make the “tent” shape. I point out the pre-printed sentence starters and explain that we will be using these a lot during in-class discussions and that I expect the students to use them throughout the year. I tell them that they will learn more about this as we go along and that they will get lots of opportunities to practice.

Next, I have them write their official, rostered name (first and last) on the inside flap near the crease. This helps me match the name tent with the student on my roster in cases where the rostered name is very different from their preferred name.

Then, I have them draw lines to designate the 4 corners of their name tent, making a triangle in each corner, like this:

Next, I ask them to write the name they want me to use to call on them in class, in big, visible letters in the center. I encourage them to decorate their name if they want to, but to keep it simple as I will be relying on these name tents to learn their preferred names.

I give lots of examples of what I mean by preferred name: “So if your full name is Matthew and you want us to address you with the name Matt during class, write Matt on this part. If your full name is Isabella and you want us to call on you as Izzy, write Izzy. If your full name is Jonathan and you want us to call on you as J-Dog, put J-Dog on this part. If your full name is Suzanne and you want us to call on you as Mark, put Mark on this part. Use the name that you want me and your classmates to use when we address you in this class.”

I deliberately go from a relatively common ‘go by’ situation (Matthew to Matt) through progressively more uncommon situations (nicknames to gender-non-conforming names) to normalize the idea that all names are welcome and it is up to each person to decide how they want to be called. It sets a norm that students’ preferred names are honored in this class. Even if a student may not yet be ready to share their preferred name, normalizing it in this way sends a powerful message to ALL students.

Once students have completed their preferred names, I invite them to write their preferred pronouns underneath their names. I give my own personal example (she / they) as I write it on my name tent. I remind them that these are the pronouns they want us to use in class. Again, it sends the message that all students are in full control of how they want to be addressed and that their wishes will be honored. Any inappropriate snickering or harassing comments are addressed simply and swiftly: “That’s not funny,” or “That’s disrespectful/hurtful,” and I redirect the student to follow directions.

After they complete their names and pronouns, I direct them to color-code their corners, according to the 4 pieces of information they shared in the Google form. We do this together, one corner at a time, with me modeling, starting with the upper left:

  • Upper left: red (cautious) / blue (adventurous)
  • Upper right: green (work alone) / stripes (work in groups)
  • Bottom left: yellow (big picture) / polka dots (details)
  • Bottom right: heart or smiley (love to read) / frowny face (don’t like to read)

I use this Google Slides presentation to model through it with them, as well as my own physical name tent.

As we work through coloring our corners, I give students lots of examples of what each attribute looks like in a classroom, and also remind them to think back on what they put on their Google Form responses. For those students that feel they are in-between attributes (i.e. cautious in some situations and adventurous in others), I invite them to color-code their name tent corners accordingly – maybe by dividing their corner triangle in half and using a different color in each half, or by blending the colors, etc.

This is intentional because comparing what they chose when there wasn’t a third option (on the Google Form), with how they chose to express their “in-between-ness” on the name tent tells me vital information. Perhaps a student chose “cautious” on the Google Form but colored their upper left corner half red and half blue. This tells me that they probably tend towards caution but can be adventurous in certain contexts.

Or maybe they colored their upper left corner purple, which indicates to me that they might not always be the first one to volunteer, but they’d be willing to put themselves out there if they felt safe enough. And so on for the rest of the corners. By moving from a strict binary (on the Google Form) to a bit more room for nuance (on the name tent), this tells me a lot about students’ personalities in a few key areas and gives me a chance to see them with more complexity.

This may seem like a lot of information to process but by creating a template for the name tent, I now have a quick “at a glance” overview for each student. During the first few weeks I can use the color-coding on the name tents to decide which students to call on, and when, with relative confidence before I’ve really gotten to know them.

If I need a student volunteer I can glance around the room for any blue corners (indicating adventurousness) and invite one of those students to be my volunteer with relative confidence that they’ll be game for the task, rather than randomly calling on a student and hoping I haven’t just made my shyest student feel put on the spot – which can be incredibly damaging in those early days before relationships have been established.

If I glance around the room and see a majority of green corners (indicating a preference to work alone), then I can quickly adapt my planned small-group group activity to accommodate that (for example, changing it to a silent discussion or gallery walk). And I can also use that information to intentionally plan specific activities over the course of the year that foster collaboration, so my “loners” can learn some collaboration skills in a way that is constructive rather than forced, as well as prioritize individual activities in planning so that my students feel that their learning experiences are a match for their personalities.

Using the color-coding also helps me redirect behavior in a personalized, effective way in those early days before I’ve really formed relationships with students. For example, if during a silent reading task a student is distracted, a quick glance at the name tent might provide some insight. If they have a frowny face on their name tent, indicating that they dislike reading, that can help me address the behavior appropriately (perhaps by quietly suggesting that they listen to the text). Or if their name tent shows that they love reading, but also that they prefer collaborative work rather than individual work, I can suggest that they do a shared read-aloud with a partner instead.

I can make this very transparent for students as well, to model SEL self-awareness and help students see the relationship between who they are and how they learn, in a way that goes way beyond a simple “learning style” label and teaches them to advocate for their learning needs.

For example, after explaining an activity, I might say: “For this activity, you have the option of doing it alone or with a partner. Think about what you put on your name tent for that preference and let that guide you. Maybe you prefer to work alone but want to get better at collaborating (or vice-versa). You can decide if you want to use this activity as an opportunity for that or not.

Think for a minute about what you’re going to choose – working alone or with a partner, and why. Be prepared to explain your choice. Maybe you’re going to choose to work alone, but your friend wants to work with you. You may need to be prepared to say, ‘I’d like to work alone on this activity because I want to focus today,’ or whatever your reason is.”

I give them some time to make their choice, and then I release them to do the activity. The name tent corners give students an anchor to understand how they interface with learning, and how to make sound decisions about how they will learn. In this way, they take ownership of their learning and increase their self-awareness skills.

On the back end, I’ve set up my Google Form to auto-format the data spreadsheet by color-coding the cells according to students’ responses. This makes it really easy to see any whole-class trends (for example, is this a class that loves to read, for the most part?), and also to have a quick at-a-glance record of students’ pronouns and the contexts in which they can be used.

I alphabetically sort the data by student last name to match my roster, and color print this spreadsheet after the first day or two. That way I have a whole-class visual even if I don’t happen to have the class in front of me with their name tents (for example during my planning period). I can also use the spreadsheet to write students’ preferred names & in-class pronouns directly on my seating chart, below their picture so that I can be sure to always refer to each student appropriately. I usually keep each seating chart in a manila tab folder (one class/chart per folder).

I print out the seating chart (with student pictures) for the first day, and have students use that to find their seats. After the first day, once I have their Google Form responses and their name tents, I hand-write their preferred names and pronouns on my seating chart. Then I staple that seating chart to the inside of the manila folder, with a sheet of transparency over it. On the inside of the other half of the folder, I staple my color printout of the Google Form spreadsheet, with “Confidential” written on it. This way I have all the critical student information handy at a glance in one place. Substitute teachers have shared with me that they appreciate having all this information available as well.

As an aside, you may be wondering why I put transparency over my seating chart. That’s just to make attendance easier for me – during bellwork, I can do a quick visual sweep of the room, mark absent students right on my seating chart with a dry-erase marker, and then enter it into my school’s attendance software. I can also mark down any other key information such as tardies, if a student left the room to go to student services, if I notice I may need to make a seating chart change, etc. It makes it easy for me to keep track of individual student needs on the seating chart, that I can address after school or during my prep period, and erase the dry erase marks at the end of each day.

Strategy #2: Create an “SEL Station” for students, and give them routines for using it

This is another strategy that needs quite a bit of prep during your initial classroom setup but can be easily automated once it’s done. There will be some legwork at the start of the year as you teach your students the expectations and routines for using the station, but just like all classroom procedures and routines, it should run itself for the most part (although you may need to re-teach these expectations and routines periodically throughout the year, just like with any other routines) once they are taught.

Just by having this available in your room on the first day, and pointing it out to students, communicates powerfully to them that they are in a classroom with a teacher who sees them as a whole person, and who cares deeply for them. Since we usually spend the first days/weeks of the school year gradually introducing and teaching expectations and routines anyway, this can be a part of that process.

Your SEL Station does not have to take up much space. Depending on your classroom situation it could even be a small crate or tub rather than a designated physical space if you teach in a shared classroom or on a cart. Your SEL station or tub should have a selection of items that students can access when they need emotional regulation. You know your students and your teaching context best, but here is what I have in mine to give you some ideas:

  • Curated short meditations on YouTube, accessible via QR code
  • Curated playlists on YouTube, featuring adorable puppy videos, calming nature scenes, etc; each accessible via QR code
  • A few small containers of Play-Doh
  • A few quiet fidgets and manipulative brain-teaser puzzles
  • Coloring books & colored pencils/crayons
  • Short, uplifting picture books
  • Glitter bottles
  • A deck of cards with various yoga poses
  • A set of workout dice

If your teaching space does not allow for an actual physical place for these items, you can just keep them in a tub and label them accordingly. If your classroom and budget have room for it, you can also add a couple of comfy chairs, maybe a lamp or rug, or some plants – anything to create an inviting space.

You may also want to consider setting it up in such a way that students may have a little bit of privacy while still being visible to you – perhaps in a back corner that you can still supervise, or by setting up a short bookshelf or small lattice room divider. Setting up some privacy, if it’s possible for your teaching context and space, helps students feel safe being emotionally vulnerable.

Once you have your station or tub set up, the next step is to create your expectations and routines for using it and prepare to teach them to students. You know your students and context best, so develop what will work for you. To give you some ideas, here is what works for me:

  1. Only 2 students in the space at a time.
  2. 10-minute maximum time per student in the space. Students are to return to the classroom activity once their time is up and try their best to catch up if they feel able. They are always welcome to visit with me during our school’s study flex/advisory period if they are really far behind, but usually, they can get what they need from a peer.
  3. Students do not need permission to use the space. They can start using it as soon as they enter the room, or if it’s during class they can just discreetly go to the area. In the past, I have used a small hand signal that has worked well as a “heads up” that they are going to the space but I haven’t always seen when students are signaling me, so I don’t really use this strategy anymore.
  4. No cell phones in the space. (I have a classroom tablet with headphones that they can use to access the YouTube videos and meditations via QR code).
  5. Students must sign in and sign out via a Google Form when they use the space. This is to capture data that I can share with student services, guidance counselors, parents, and other interested parties if need be (for example if a student is using the space daily it may indicate that more intervention is needed). In the Google Form, I capture the student’s name, date, how they’re feeling and why (in narrative, as much or as little as they’re willing to share), what tools they used, and how they felt afterward. This narrative is helpful for me and for student services, as well as to help students learn to reflect on their emotional state and what strategies do/don’t work for them. Over time this can help them learn coping skills and self-awareness.
  6. If after 10 minutes in the space, a student is still feeling escalated, they are to ask me for either permission to “take a lap” in the hallway, or for a pass to student services/guidance. I follow up with student services later as needed.
  7. Students not using the space are to respect and honor students who do: no staring, drama, discussion, or speculation. The expected responses are empathy and allowing.

Having these expectations on a poster (in student-friendly terms) in the SEL station is helpful.

It does help to do some of the SEL station activities as whole-class activities first – especially in the first weeks of school to help build community and reinforce the idea that your classroom is a safe place. It teaches the students how to use the resources in a low-stakes way, so that later when they are feeling stressed they already know how to use the tools in your station.

I highly recommend also teaching students to self-evaluate their feelings during this whole-class time. I like to do it as bellwork: students do a check-in as they arrive, for example, memes such as “Which Baby Yoda are you today?” or color-coding (Blue for sad or tired, Green for calm & ready to learn, Yellow for anxious or excitable, Red for angry or impulsive). Then as a whole class, I do 1 or 2 of the calming strategies together (play with Play-Doh, watch a puppy video, do a meditation, etc.), and then have them re-check their emotional state using the same prompt as when they came in.

You can also have them write or talk about their experiences and how the strategy worked for them. As they get more familiar with the procedure and the strategies you have available, you can allow for student choice in picking a strategy during the whole-class SEL time. Continue to reinforce that students can use the station individually anytime they need to and refresh expectations for its use as necessary.

This SEL station has worked wonders for students coming back from Covid schooling and has also been great for my students whose IEPs include strategies for self-regulation. It is a universal-level intervention that empowers students to exercise self-compassion, develop self-awareness and coping skills, cultivate empathy, and build resilience.

Strategy #3: Daily classroom routines (built into your weekly planning) that leverage SEL skills & content teaching at the same time (and streamline your planning!)

This is a strategy that saved me during Covid, and that I plan to keep in the future. I credit my French teacher colleagues (in the French Teachers in the US Facebook group) for the inspiration for this strategy, as many of them have provided ideas and/or do some version of this in their own classrooms. Each day of the week has a theme to help me focus my planning and narrow down the options for what to plan. The themes in my class are in French and linked to French-language acquisition goals as that is my content area, but the principle can apply to any content area. The themes are:

  • Lecture lundi (Reading Monday)
  • Méditation mardi (Meditation Tuesday)
  • Musique mercredi (Music Wednesday)
  • Jeux Jeudi (Games Thursday)
  • Vidéo Vendredi (Video Friday)

Clearly, some days such as Meditation Tuesday and Games Thursday lend themselves more readily to SEL skill development, but during Covid, I tried to intentionally build SEL instruction into each day’s activities. Here is how they work in my high school French classroom. I share them by way of example in hopes that they might spark some ideas for how they could work in your classroom.

Reading Monday: After greeting students and taking attendance, going over bellwork/announcements, etc; we begin our Free Voluntary Reading time. This is our routine every Monday. Students choose a book from our class library and read silently for 10 minutes. Then they fill out a reading response sheet that includes lots of scaffolded French language to talk about the book and their opinion of it, as well as a self-reflection on their comprehension level and any new vocabulary they picked up from the reading. This helps them process what they were able to understand, and talk about their book in French with a classmate.

We do partnered book talks using this sheet and it’s great for communicative practice in the target language. However, we also reinforce listening skills and conversational turn-taking. The sentence starters on the backs of their name tents help reinforce this as well. It builds students’ relational capacity while they are working on their French reading, writing, speaking, and listening skills.

Reading Monday has obvious connections for World Language or ELA classes, but it can also be useful for any content area. The goal is to have a classroom library of compelling, interesting reading material at a variety of levels, that students can self-select. You can build a classroom library around your content area, and set up your partnered book talk materials to facilitate reinforcement of your content.

Even if students choose reading material that is about something other than your current unit topic, they are still building content knowledge, strengthening reading skills, and developing interpersonal skills. When setting up your classroom library, seek out books at a variety of reading levels and on a broad range of topics that could be of interest to students; there will always be a way to connect it to your content area.

For example, a comic book featuring a science-based superhero, or an image-heavy “coffee table book” featuring origami, would both be great additions to a math or science classroom. Dystopian or utopian science fiction stories (short stories, novels, or graphic novels) are great for history, social studies, or science classrooms.

Anything that kids will find interesting, that has a tangential real-world application of your content, is great. The important thing is to have a wide variety of choices (if you’re short on budget, ask your school librarian to help you curate a book cart for your classroom) that students can self-select each week; and then establish the weekly routine of reading and talking (or writing) about their chosen books.

I should point out that none of my Reading Monday activities are for a grade. We spend the first few weeks practicing my expectations for Reading Monday, and I remind students that the purpose of it is not for a grade, but to help them build their communication skills in French. I explain that it’s like cross-training for athletes.

For example, the football team would never do push-ups during a game, but they do push-ups regularly in practice. They don’t get points for their push-ups, but doing them regularly helps them perform better in the game. Our reading activities each Monday work the same way. This helps build intrinsic motivation and also removes the grade pressure from reading, for those students who have reading struggles.

Meditation Tuesday: Many students share with me that this is what they look forward to the most in our class, and it has helped them in other areas of their life. The premise is simple. Every Tuesday we do a French-language mindfulness exercise. I intentionally create meditations that are at the appropriate level for their language learning and also fit with what the class seems to need at the time (for example positive affirmations before a big exam, or seasonal-themed visualizations, etc.)

I don’t always write my own meditations: I also have curated a YouTube playlist of French-language meditations over time, for those weeks when I am really crunched. If you teach a subject other than a World Language, I imagine it would be relatively easy to find meditations on YouTube that would be appropriate for your content area, for example, nature-based visualizations in a biology class.

Meditations and visualizations can be a healthy and pleasant way to conduct a review or help students connect to the content in a mindful and different way. The meditation usually only takes about 10-15 minutes total of class time, and then the rest of the class goes according to whatever my plan is. In some very special cases, for example, following an emotionally-intense school-wide experience such as a lockdown drill, we’ve used up the entire class period on mindfulness activities instead of content, and I have never once regretted it.

Music Wednesday: This is another popular one for students, and lots of World Language teachers do some version of this. The idea is simple: I choose a French-language song for every Wednesday and we do one or more activities with the song. The song and the activities depend a lot on my students, their level, and the particular content I’m teaching that week, but it helps to narrow my focus when I’m planning.

Students love to hear music from French-speaking countries, especially if it’s current music that kids their age are listening to right now. Many students start to curate playlists of the songs we’ve studied in class, or they follow their favorite French musical acts on social media. It has also led to some lively classroom discussions about who the class’s favorite artist/song is, and new friendships have formed as students discover common ground.

The predictability of knowing that “On Wednesdays, we do music” gives students something to look forward to, and keeps my planning focused. Sometimes our music activity only takes up about 10-15 minutes, other times it takes the whole class period if I am able to plan lots of extensions and connections. This is easier to do if I can find a song that dovetails with whatever content we have on the docket at that time, but if I can’t, I have a file of 5 or 6 standard activities that will work with any song, and I rotate those. It makes my planning much more streamlined.

Games Thursday: Sometimes we play a whole-class review game, but usually I prioritize board games or card games that students can do in pairs or small groups. This way they are reinforcing turn-taking, teamwork, communication, and interpersonal skills – all skills that have suffered due to the isolation of the pandemic, and that are key SEL skills.

I have several class sets of games that I’ve purchased over the years, that are specific to my content area. Some are more language-based review games, some are culturally-authentic board or card games that French-speaking teens and families play around the world. Either way, it’s furthering my students’ content-area skills.

Depending on what we have going on, sometimes the games take up the whole class period, sometimes it’s just the last 20 minutes or so, after we’ve gotten through some additional content together. Sometimes the concept we’re learning dovetails perfectly with a game that I already have, so the choice for that day is that particular game. Other times I leave it up to students to choose their game based on what they need at the time.

I invite them to do some reflecting on what they need emotionally as well as academically in French class and suggest various games they might play in various situations. For example, “If you’re really feeling like you need to review adjectives and descriptions, I suggest playing ‘Guess Who.’ If you need to practice your conversational skills, try Headbands. If you’re feeling like you need lots of social interaction today, and want something a little more low-key, you might want to try 7 Familles…” etc. Then they choose their game and they’re off.

For some classes that maybe need a little bit of extra guidance in how to play fair, be a good sport, take turns, etc. we do some establishment of expectations and norms for games in the first few weeks, to build community and ensure a positive game-playing environment. Again, this helps streamline my planning and keeps me safe from “analysis paralysis” when planning, because I know that no matter what, on Thursday I have to plan something through a game lens.

Video Friday. This works just like Music Wednesday except that instead of a song, I find a video clip. This tends to be somewhat anticlimactic because I use video clips a LOT in class, but I try to make the Friday video clip a bit more substantial, usually designing the whole day’s lesson around it.

One thing I’ve found that makes this work really well is that I use Video Friday to teach a film. That way it doesn’t feel like we’re being “bogged down in a movie” like we might if I were to teach it all at once over the course of a week or two. I can stretch an entire movie out over a whole quarter or semester, by just showing it in 10-minute clips at a time every Friday, with instructional/reinforcement activities to go along with it. This helps the students really digest and process the film in smaller bites rather than zoning out during a full class period of movie-watching.

It also helps me plan film-related activities more effectively, as I can plan it out in bites over the course of the semester as well, often with really appropriate “just in time” lessons and activities that are responsive to what my students need at the moment. If I don’t have a movie in the curriculum, I choose a relevant video segment related to whatever we are covering.

Sometimes I “cheat” and use the music video from the song we did on Wednesday, but I approach it from the video angle instead of the music angle. For instance, instead of doing a listening cloze exercise with the song lyrics, I might have students do an identification activity where they watch the video and circle the French vocabulary words of all the objects they saw in the video, or identify cultural products/practices in the video.

I might invite students to work in groups to come up with an alternate ending for the video or stop the video before the end to make predictions. There are a ton of possibilities and it all depends on what my instructional goal is. I usually try to stick with video clips that are about 5-10 minutes long, because the important thing is what they DO with the video content, not the video content itself. The activities can take anywhere from 15 minutes to the whole class period, depending; but once again, it streamlines my planning and creates something predictable for students, which helps them succeed in so many ways.

The predictability piece is probably the biggest help to students. If a student is absent on a Monday, for example, they know that they at least missed the reading routine and can easily make that up because it’s a procedure that they know. If a student is absent on a Friday, their peers can easily help explain what they missed so they can make up the work easily (and it takes the pressure off of me to chase kids down for make-up work: they can handle it with their peers).

And of course meditation, music, games, and video clips keep a lot of students wanting to come back for more. It makes our class a place they want to be and keeps me from becoming too much of a “sourpuss” with my planning. It’s hard to get bogged down in a planning rut when you KNOW you have to plan for a game on Thursday or find a catchy song for Wednesday.

Strategy #4: Using a tool like Pope Notes to help students learn to communicate their needs, and help you respond to students’ changing stress levels

I learned this strategy from a middle school colleague. It’s similar to strategies you may already be familiar with for checking for understanding: for example giving students a red, yellow, or green card and having them hold up their card to indicate where they’re at in their learning.

The implementation is relatively simple. Print a class set of cards from this template, using colored cardstock. The template indicates which color to use (R= red, Y=yellow, G=green, B=blue, P= purple). Cut out the cards. The template also has larger-format cards that you can use on a bulletin board so that you and the kids can see what each of the colors represents. Have the cards available to students, separated into piles by color.

Once you have your cards ready, teach the routine to your students. Let them know they can take a card from the stack anytime they need to: when they come in, during work time, etc., and keep it on their desk. If their situation changes they can swap cards or even use multiple cards at a time depending on their situation.

As you are teaching, you can sweep your eyes over the room to see students’ cards. (It can be helpful to have the students stand their cards up using binder clips to make them easier for you to see). During work time, you can easily circulate around and check in with students who have blue or purple cards or check in emotionally with students who have red or yellow cards. Students should always return their cards to the appropriate pile at the end of each class.

You can extend this strategy if you like by having students keep a log of which card(s) they used each day, to help them learn self-awareness skills and coping strategies. This does not have to be elaborate and can even be done as part of an exit ticket process. This information can be helpful during parent-teacher conferences as well as when collaborating with colleagues to support individual students. Another possibility is to connect it to student reflections on their use of the SEL station described above, and/or to connect it to my 5th strategy, below: student reflection and goal-setting guides.

Strategy #5: Tools such as reflection & goal-setting guides, sentence starters, and anchor charts to help students self-reflect as well as give authentic, constructive peer feedback and cultivate compassion and empathy

This strategy probably takes the most effort to fully implement, but the good news is you can start with just one or two of the tools and gradually incorporate more as you are able. Some of the tools, such as sentence starters, you may already have in your toolbox; or if you’re using my name tent template you can use the sentence starters included on the template. Since students use their name tents daily, it can be easy for you to incorporate using the sentence starters in your lessons by encouraging/challenging the kids to use them during class discussions and partner work.

If you’re just going to do one strategy to start, I recommend starting with a quarterly reflection & goal-setting guide. Students keep their reflection & goal-setting guides (or you may choose to keep them in in-class student portfolios), so that they can view their progress as the year goes on. This can be a simple form where students self-assess on their academic progress over the past quarter.

In addition, create some prompts where they can self-assess their study habits and in-class behaviors. Although we should never grade on behavior, it’s important for students to see the relationship between their in-class behaviors and their success, and the reflection guide helps them do that. You may also want to provide some prompts to help students develop an attainable goal for the following quarter.

One thing I have found to be successful is to separate out goals and habits. Goals are where we want to go, but habits are what get us there. Most students need to work on cultivating habits, so providing a way for them to really focus on which habits they’re going to develop over the quarter can be very helpful.

Kids are usually great about setting lofty goals for themselves (“I want to get an A next quarter”) but they may struggle with how to get from where they are to where they want to be. The reflection & goal-setting guide helps them see the relationship between their habits and their performance, so they can develop actionable steps to apply over the quarter. For example: “I will make flashcards every time we have new vocabulary,” and “I will study my flashcards every day in study hall for at least 10 minutes.” Or perhaps, “I will sign up for teacher help during advisory time at least once a week,” or “I will contribute meaningfully at least once every time we have a small-group discussion.”

Towards the end of each grading period, you can work this form into your routines, modeling for students and talking them through how to reflect on how last quarter went for them, and why; and what they’re going to reach for in the upcoming quarter, and what specific habits they will develop to achieve that.

You can also incorporate some partner discussions into this time, to help students build empathetic and supportive interpersonal skills, inviting students to use their discussion sentence starters to facilitate a meaningful conversation. In some classes, I’ve taken this a step further by having students find a partner with a similar goal to theirs, and having them become “accountability buddies” to each other. This fosters a sense of cooperation and helps students stay on-track with their new habits.

As the quarter goes on, when I have students engaging in work time, I can encourage them to work with their accountability buddy, or I might say something like, “Think back to your goal for this quarter. If you are trying to work on using your time more effectively or eliminating distractions, now is a perfect time to do that. We will have work time in a few minutes.

It can be tempting to browse YouTube videos or be on your phone during this time, but remember your goal. What habits are you trying to cultivate? Decide right now how you will use your time, and if it would help you to get support from your accountability buddy, ask for their help now in keeping you on-task, or whatever strategies you both agreed upon.” In this way, I make students accountable to themselves and to one another for how they use their time in class, which is much more motivating for students.

These strategies have all been a great help to my students and to me. I emphasize some tools more than others year to year, depending on my classes and our needs. Over time, experimenting with these strategies and refining them, I’ve seen my students become more resilient, more independent, and more empathetic.

This has made teaching much less stressful for me, and many students have commented that they appreciate how safe and welcomed they feel in my class. Over time I have started to center SEL in my teaching practice and let my content teaching grow out of that. As we all know from the very wise Maya Angelou, “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but they’ll never forget how you made them feel.”

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Changing schools as a teacher is a real challenge—here’s how I eased the transition https://truthforteachers.com/changing-schools-as-a-teacher/ https://truthforteachers.com/changing-schools-as-a-teacher/#respond Wed, 20 Jul 2022 17:00:11 +0000 https://truthforteachers.com/?p=148472 This year I changed schools. Full stop. That sentence is tiny but mighty. I had been teaching for eleven years; the last eight years at the same school, same grade level, and in the same classroom. To say I was content and comfortable at my job was true. I was meeting my professional goals and … Continued

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This year I changed schools. Full stop. That sentence is tiny but mighty.

I had been teaching for eleven years; the last eight years at the same school, same grade level, and in the same classroom. To say I was content and comfortable at my job was true. I was meeting my professional goals and in positions of leadership.

But to say I was meeting my personal and family needs at that placement would be untrue. As Angela Watson asked throughout the 40 Hour Teacher Workweek course, “Are you moving closer to living the life you want to live?”

Leaving my school and comfort zone was one of the toughest decisions I ever made. Through 40 Hour, though, I learned that I have to make decisions that prioritize my work-life balance. Most of the course taught me to make “small changes that add up to big results.”

All the small mindset shifts I made through 40 Hour lead to a big result: a new job.

I resigned from my tenured position, left my grade level chairperson post, and stepped down as the union rep for my building.

I accepted a position at my home school district that put my priorities as teacher, wife, and mom first. I made the choice that decreased my commute, put me at the same elementary school that my children attend, and allowed me to invest my time into my community school.

Even though I joined the 40 Hour Teacher Workweek Club almost five years ago, I find it still applies every year.

The foundation of my 40 Hour Teacher Workweek success story is two things: designing a classroom that facilitates productivity, and the list-making system.

Designing my classroom to facilitate productivity

Changing jobs drove me right back to my 40 Hour Teacher Workweek materials. When I started my first classroom, I had countless hours to invest in the setup and wanted to spend my own money. However, ten years later, I had more time demands as a mother of three and a desire to spend as little of my own money as possible.

I dove into Week One of the course: “Design a classroom that facilitates productivity” for the fifth time. I have listened to this lesson every year before school starts, including twice the year I started the course. The number of times I have relistened, reread, and re-annotated this lesson speaks to the power and importance of this first lesson in the 40 Hour Teacher Workweek. I was able to set up my new classroom with productivity at the forefront of my mind.

On my first day being introduced to my new classroom, I simply looked around. I took pictures of the space and inventoried the supplies and furniture. I made a quick map of the storage spaces and layout of windows, doors, and bulletin boards.

The second time, I reset the room. I moved all the chairs and bookshelves to one area, leaving all table space available. I took every book, craft supply, and file out of their current storage and stacked them in groups on the tables.

This is usually where mid-project regret syndrome sets in, as you look over the “mess” that you just made of your space. However, I knew a reboot would put my new classroom on a path of productivity.  I analyzed the supplies that were left to purge what was outdated or not needed. I asked my administrator what was required to stay and what could be moved to other new teachers or put in basement storage.

Then I made a plan. I went home and took the time to look at my map with the required and available furniture in mind. I prioritized the space by thinking: “What supplies will kids need to access? What supplies will I need to access every day / often / rarely? How can I track what supplies are used versus not used throughout the year to further streamline this space?”

The days of putting my plan into action were radically different than my first classroom setup. I got rid of all furniture that did not fit the needs of my classroom including my teacher desk! This meant setting boundaries around what was going to be in my classroom.

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I advocated to my administration about reducing the amount of furniture while compromising on keeping required furniture from a previous Donors Choose project. I maintained the book bins used in my last classroom while spending money on bookshelves to better fit the classroom library. I purchased plastic bins to better store and access my personal book collection. I considered these investments in my mental health as this self-running classroom would benefit my productivity.

After cleaning, a few decorations, and the addition of plants and lamps, my new classroom has received compliments from colleagues and administration for having an open setup that focuses on student learning.

Once the focus on the physical space was done, I was able to free my mental energy to focus on my new students and planning.

Using a prioritized list-making system

It has been vital in this new placement to work in a way that does not cause me to burn out. I use the list-making system to keep on task.

At the beginning of the year, I bound a year’s worth of the 40 Hour program’s weekly to-do lists into a planner, with monthly calendars in between. The Weekly To-Do Lists are listed as “The 40 Hour Foundations” for this program and are definitely foundational for my life. This planner goes everywhere with me!

I store my curriculum maps inside the back cover and take all my meeting notes right on the list. If the meeting results in a task to be completed, I write it on the calendar and corresponding list. Whenever an email comes in with dates to remember, I write it down on the calendar and corresponding list then delete or file the email. I have been able to maintain a clean inbox!

In the back of my planner I keep a list of supplies that I have run out of or find lacking. When budget season arrives, I reference the list to best utilize the money allotted to my classroom.

Whenever I am feeling overwhelmed by too many tasks or unsure of what I should be working on, I notice that I have not been as diligent about my list. As Angela says, “You must get information out of your head and onto a list.”  I take a moment to return to the list and calibrate the needs of that moment and that day.

Everything else can be put on to-do lists for the upcoming days or even next week. I can feel the focus shift whenever I make diligent use of the list. This is also a way I take control of my weekend time with family fun or household chores.

I have yet to track my hours because I do not feel overworked. I have made my family a priority and left work at school most nights. The 40 Hour Teacher Workweek has become a way of living for me. I hear Angela’s words about lowering my expectations or batching tasks or giving kids ownership.

What is your reason for not joining? What is your reason TO join?

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How to rest & recharge as a teacher when you have a summer job https://truthforteachers.com/how-to-rest-recharge-as-a-teacher-when-you-have-a-summer-job/ https://truthforteachers.com/how-to-rest-recharge-as-a-teacher-when-you-have-a-summer-job/#respond Sun, 10 Jul 2022 17:00:34 +0000 https://truthforteachers.com/?p=148985 My first-year teaching let’s just say I learned as much about money as I did about education. I was not prepared for budgeting a 10-month salary over 12 months. I was a young professional at 23, still learning how to budget for myself. The school district I work for allows teachers to have their salary … Continued

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My first-year teaching let’s just say I learned as much about money as I did about education.

I was not prepared for budgeting a 10-month salary over 12 months. I was a young professional at 23, still learning how to budget for myself. The school district I work for allows teachers to have their salary split over 22 or 26 pay periods throughout the year after their first year, but that makes budgeting for the first year all the trickier.

I did the best I could with the knowledge I had at the time. I learned to track my expenses, and even figure out how much I could realistically afford to save each month. However, by March I started to think ahead to the summer months. I would have no income coming in during those months and no idea what kind of temporary work I could do to make ends meet.

That first summer, I ended up working two jobs. I worked a summer school program in the mornings, and I drove for a rideshare company during the afternoons/weekends. It was a difficult summer, and I did not feel completely prepared for the next school year. I felt I hadn’t had an actual “reset” from the year before. I felt exhaustion set in earlier that second school year. I made it through that year, but I also knew what I needed to do differently in the summers ahead.

Many early-career teachers cannot financially afford to “take off” for the summer months. Many more teachers have children and family members to care for who will still need full-time care during the summer months. However, teaching is a career that by design requires frequent recharging for both physical and mental wellbeing. The cost of emotional labor will sneak up on you one way or another, whether you start to notice more health problems than usual or start to struggle with your mental health more than years prior. To avoid this contributor to burnout, it is crucial that teachers know their limits and have strategies prepared to rest and recharge.

Whether you teach for 10 months with 2 months of summer break or teach in a year-round school with shorter, more frequent breaks throughout the year, the tips below will help you plan for making sure you are rejuvenated at the start of every school year, ready for each new challenge ahead.

Tip #1: Budget based on your needs

Making sure your finances are in order regardless of whether you need to work through your summer reduces the overall stress and pressure that you could feel during those off-contract weeks. Evaluate and adjust your budget every year as your income and expenses change. I use an excel spreadsheet that I’ve been adjusting for the past seven years as I’ve learned to budget better over time.

Make sure your budget matches where you are in your teaching career. Early career teachers have different financial needs than those who are 10-15 years in. If you are in the first five years of your career, you will want to see what financial services your district and/or teacher’s union offer and take advantage of those services. Many districts have partnerships with financial planning services and as a result, can offer teachers many services for free or low-cost.

Take advantage of pay-all year options as soon as you qualify if you can do so. This will take your salary and split it across 12 months so that you receive a regular paycheck during the summer months. This does mean your checks will be slightly smaller than they would be over 10 months, but if you can adjust to the difference in your monthly budget, the peace of mind is well worth it. Even if you still must work during the summers with year-round pay to make ends meet, knowing you will have consistent income coming in will give you more options when it comes to budgeting any additional income you earn during your off-contract months.

While I’ve had to work most of my summers for the past ten years, having a reliable budget takes a lot of the anxiety and uncertainty away when it comes to summer finances. I have a separate budget for the summer months when I spend my money differently than during the school year. This helps me stay on track when my earnings might be higher (or lower) than expected.

Tip #2: Apply for your job early and choose it carefully

Decide on what job you will hold during the summer as early as possible. The last weeks of the school year are stressful enough. Worrying about how you will pay your bills is not an added stress you need during this or any time of year! If you are looking for summer work, I recommend starting your search by March/April at the latest, depending on when your summer vacation begins. Choosing the right summer work for you is half of the process of making sure you can build in time for rest and rejuvenation.

Narrow down your options by availability and earning potential. Summer school often requires less face time with students and therefore less prep time on your part, making it a great choice for many teachers looking for summer income. The hours are typically shorter than the traditional school day, which makes it great for newer teachers or teachers with families and young children to care for.

If teaching during the summer isn’t what you are looking for, per diem positions in the corporate world are ideal for teachers since you can often choose the days you would like to work, based on the company’s demand. Curriculum companies love to hire teachers for professional development delivery. Colleges and universities also often hire teachers as adjunct professors since we are experts in internalizing and delivering content. Tech companies are known to hire teachers for trainings, presentations, and even sales! Know that you have options and a skillset that is more flexible than you might think.

#3 Plan to relax (don’t just hope it happens if there’s time!)

Once you know what your summer schedule and budget are going to look like, you can then move on to planning for ways to sneak in that crucial rest and relaxation time. While planning this out might seem strange at first, it is important to decide ahead of time how you are going to recharge your own batteries and keep your spirit-filled. This is more than just self-care. This is a deliberate decision to choose yourself and something that brings YOU happiness each day. This will remind you throughout the year that joy is not something to look forward to, but a state of mind to maintain full time.

You will want to decide on daily, weekly, and monthly re-charging activities. I recommend making your own list or choosing from the lists below and posting your list somewhere you will see it every day (perhaps somewhere in your kitchen or set reminders in your phone).

Ideas for daily restorative practices

This should be something you can accomplish in 10 minutes or less but spend more time on if you choose to. The key is to choose something that you enjoy, to remind yourself that you deserve to feel joy daily. Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • mindfulness meditation
  • take a brisk walk
  • coloring pages
  • make yourself a quick but nourishing meal or treat
  • care for a plant
  • write in a journal

Ideas for weekly restorative practices

This should be a hobby that you can carve out an hour or so for throughout the week or on the weekends. Whether that hour is all at once or spread out throughout the week depends on your schedule and family needs. The point of a weekly activity is to make time for something with a product that you will see progress in immediately and be able to enjoy for a long time to come.

  • tending to a garden/yard work
  • DIY project in your home
  • working on a side business
  • writing for a blog/website about a topic you love
  • take a longer walk or hike in a park
  • start a new exercise program you are excited about (yoga, rock climbing, kickboxing, martial arts, dance, etc.)

Ideas for monthly restorative practices

This should be something that you deliberately plan for ahead of time at the beginning of the month. You are planning for a day that involves you and your family or friends having FUN! There is no pressure to go all-out on these activities, go with what works for your family, schedule, and budget.

  • day/weekend trip to the beach/lake/camping
  • sight-seeing at local museums/zoos/aquariums
  • sporting events
  • festivals/concerts

Tip #4: Reflect on what’s working and set intentions

To make sure one school year doesn’t meld into the next, it is important to take time to reflect on the year prior and set intention for the year ahead. This isn’t something you need to spend a lot of time on, an hour or so of time set aside for this process is fine. Some teachers spend an afternoon or even a day reflecting, journaling, and setting intentions for their school year coming up. You can do this work at any time during the summer, it does not matter if it’s at the beginning of your break, in the middle, or toward the end. The process is simple. Choose a medium to capture your thoughts (journal, word document, vision board, collage, etc.). Once you have your medium, ask yourself the following questions and give yourself ample time to respond to each one thoroughly:

  1. What was your biggest success this past school year? To what do you attribute that success?
  2. Describe your favorite lesson that you taught last year in 10 words or less. What made that lesson amazing?
  3. What was the hardest piece of feedback you received this year? How will you put that feedback into practice next school year?
  4. How do you feel about your previous school year? Explain as much or as little as you need to.
  5. How do you feel looking ahead to next school year? Explain one thing you are looking forward to and one thing you are apprehensive about.

These questions are intended to give you time to reflect honestly and candidly for yourself. By engaging in this activity in writing, you can get those feelings out, positive, negative, or a mix of the two. You don’t want to assign judgment to your responses. Just get them out of your mind and onto paper or computer screens. Once they are written down, acknowledge them as your true experience of the last year and your honest expectations for the year ahead. Once you have a good handle on your feelings toward your work, you can make decisions as needed to improve your outlook.

While you may or may not be able to look forward to a true summer “off”, there are ways to make sure you can recharge your mind and body for the work ahead. These ideas are simple and don’t require a huge time commitment (unless you want them to!). I’m confident you can incorporate these strategies into your schedule for an intentional, restful, and energizing summer ahead.

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