Slice of Life #9: A Few Thoughts on Self-Care in Teaching

Self-care can be tough to practice regularly in a “lots-to-do-but-not-never-enough-time-to-do-it” profession. In the past two years, setting boundaries has been extremely useful to my social-emotional and mental health.

What kinds of boundaries, you may ask?

Well, let me start with my first year of teaching and what that looked like: I was still living in my college town, teaching in a nearby suburb. I taught high school, so I had 3 preps. Oh, and no classroom – I was on a cart. In addition to this, two of my classes were small-group reading interventions… so essentially, I was the school’s reading specialist. Yet I had no reading specialist certification, nor any of the pedagogical background I do now. Suffice it to say, I was scrambling for what to teach every day. My partner was still in college at the time, so I’d come home, watch Scrubs until dinnertime, get together with my partner, then head to the library to have a joint study-and-lesson-plan session until midnight. That was my life.

Flash forward to now: Teaching middle school with ONE prep is a blessing. Having spent three years learning the procedures and pace of my current school has helped me prioritize and build a schedule outside of my teaching. Some of those teaching lines I do not cross anymore are:

  • No checking email on nights and weekends
  • Only sharing war stories with my partner for about five minutes before we filter to only positive/constructive stories
  • Only grading at coffee shops, school, or public libraries – never at home.

And while I do lesson plan at all hours of the night, that’s the part of teaching I enjoy the most. Finding resources, reading up on pedagogy, putting together lessons that include movement and talking breaks to best engage my students – that work lifts me up. That work enriches my own life, as well as that of my students.

I also follow many Twitter and Instagram accounts that inspire me, and teach me new things every day. While these accounts keep me in touch with important movements in teaching, I have to filter who and what I follow. There are a lot of people using social media as their side-hustle to make money, and I don’t believe in sharing resources for the sole purpose of making money off other underpaid teachers. So… I unfollow. Many Instagram teachers also use the platform to share picture-perfect images of their classrooms, adorably well-behaved students, and cute uber-coordinated outfits. That stresses me out so much! I know these teachers aren’t always that perfect, but the fact that they don’t share their ups AND downs makes them unrelatable AND unattainable for me. I’ve had to unfollow those “perfect” accounts.

I prefer pedagogy accounts, ones who share anchor charts and news stories, who uplift marginalized voices in teaching, and who keep it real with problem-solving posts.

The accounts I follow remind me of what I love about this profession, and how I need to set boundaries for myself in order to have a full life outside of teaching. Because, while being a lifelong learner is a lifestyle, teaching is just a job. And I often need to remind myself to treat it as such and allow my lifelong learning influence my job, and not have my job stint my life.

To finish, here are some of those posts I’m talking about! Teach and Transform, Growing with Mrs. T, Read Like a Rockstar, and The Conscious Kidare some of my favorites.

15 thoughts on “Slice of Life #9: A Few Thoughts on Self-Care in Teaching

  1. This post is so full of truth. It is an incredible blessing to have one prep, and it is so important to set those boundaries for ourselves (I never grade at home. I might read papers or lesson plan, but I never do the heavy lifting of commenting and numbering at home), and to put boundaries between ourselves and those too-perfect teachers who promise we’ll be perfect too if we just buy the TpT unit! Glad you are finding time for self-care!


  2. Great thoughts here! I was also terrible at boundaries when I first started teaching. My guess is that most of us are. The work just never ends! But I eventually realized, hey, the work just never ends! And I need a life too. I really like your takeaways about learning as a lifestyle, teaching as a job.


  3. Great post. You make great boundary suggestions. It sounds as if you have been disciplined and found good balance (working at home only on what matters most to you, for example.). I hope many teachers read this and adopt some of your practices.
    And I was really interested in the portion of your piece about Instagram. I learned about it’s use in education, and drawbacks. Finally, thanks for the pics at the end- very fun and revealing.


  4. I’m sure I still struggle with boundaries now, but I think they are much more self-imposed. I’m a ‘rule maker’, so I think about what parameters I want to set and then I try and stick to them fairly closely. I go to work early and come home later, but I don’t usually bring anything home with me except a book or two I’m reading. I agree about everything you said about social media, but there are a lot of good people to follow, many of which are here in this writing group. Next week in my Friday Follow, I’m going to write about twitter. I post a lot of things from my teacher colleagues’ rooms. I think when I promote them, it’s not the same as if they promote themselves. Though they should do that too. The administration can’t be everywhere and lots of people would like to try their good ideas.


  5. I’m so glad you’ve set limits. I had to learn that the hard way too. We are all better when we have good mental health. I love how honest and reflective you are. Thanks for sharing!


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