Teaching Your Heart Out! It's what you do, and it has its price. The stress of teaching is real. The emotional labor is real. So let's talk about it.
In this post, you'll discover 5 sources of teacher stress, and we'll share a few tips and quotes to help you teach your heart out without the emotional labor wearing you down.
I Didn't Mean To Make Them Cry
A second grade teacher shared the story about her first year teaching. She was exploring tone and mood in a text, and she mentioned how authors come up with ideas.
She made her second-grade class cry.
In her words,
I began thinking aloud how Tomie must have felt about his two grandmas. How when he wrote, a tear might have fallen down his cheek. Then I asked the class how they thought he felt.
The class was engaged and paying total attention, which was something that didn't happen often at our school.
It was total silence, and I was about to continue...
Suddenly a boy in the back spoke up -
I looked up and saw it was the same student who wouldn't stay in his seat, never had his supplies, and often argued with others. I was anticipating an off-task remark. What I heard changed my life.
The whole class turned to watch him, wondering what he was going to say, and he simply announced, "My dad died. He was stabbed."
Then tears. First his. Then mine.
I didn't know what to do.
Events like this are common in teaching. If you're in a classroom you know this is part of the challenge. It's part of the stress of teaching.
You teach your heart out. You strive for each of your students to learn at high levels, and you know Bloom's taxonomy is the farthest from what many students need.
Many students come to class needing food, shelter, safety, and love. It's Maslow's hierarchy. And it can take a toll on you, the educator.
But you teach your heart out and meet those needs!
The Emotional Labor of Teaching
The emotional labor of teaching comes from many sources. Here are five:
- Passion to continuously improve.
- Student trauma and secondary trauma.
- Seemingly useless meetings and/or training.
- Challenging adult relationships.
- Pressures of tests, grading, and scores.
In addition to these five areas, it's not uncommon to find teachers using their own money to fund the school and curriculum, doing tasks far from their assigned role, and constantly going above and beyond to make their classrooms better for students!
It's difficult to predict the emotions that students are ready for or prepared to handle. It's impossible to know the trauma they bring to school.
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2 out of 3 students experience a traumatic life event before the age of 16.
In addition to the emotions they bring, you also bring emotion to the classroom.
You entered this wonderful profession to reach students, to enhance lives, and to share your passion for learning and teaching!
The emotional labor of teaching comes from the fact that before you reach the mind, you must connect with the heart. This can be even more true with challenging behavior (which often stem from stressful emotions).
Connection is the cure for challenging behaviors. It doesn't fix problems. It does form a relationship that can help you carry the emotional load that comes with teaching.
Let's talk about some ideas to handle the stress of teaching while you continue to teach your heart out.
“Teaching seems to require the sort of skills one would need to pilot a bus full of live chickens backwards, with no brakes, down a rocky road through the Andes while simultaneously providing colorful and informative commentary on the scenery.”
How To Handle the Stress of Teaching
Here are a few great ideas to help you reflect on your own wellness as a teacher.
“As we approach the start of the 2019-20 school year, teachers, do not forget about your personal wellness. In order to be our best for students, we have to take time for ourselves...guilt-free.”
Lauren Richardson, @richardson_edu
It can also be energizing as well as healthy to lead your students in positive work. Work that contributes to others.
Also, quick discussions about health, exercise, and food can help. Especially, as you incorporate brain breaks as a class.
“Talk to students about food. Walk the walk. Start a drink water challenge. Teach a cooking lesson. Get a local grocery store to donate produce. Get kids to research equity issues & support students taking action.”
Stephanie Smith, @eduhealthy
Sometimes it doesn't matter what you do - the emotional labor of teaching is intense. Sometimes the stress of teaching is immense. But for the rest of the times, strive to establish appropriate boundaries for life balance and personal priorities. Remain aware of you own emotions and manage them in healthy ways.
You really are the world for our students!
Teach your heart out, but don't let it wear you out.
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Mindfulness — a set of skills that helps us be more present, calm, and focused — can be a catalyst for social and emotional development and professional growth for educators. Here, Metta Karuna McGarvey, an expert on mindfulness, presents five simple steps that any educator can take to increase wellbeing, navigate challenges, and cultivate inner strengths.
Teacher Well-Being on Pinterest
Mindfulness for Teachers
5 Steps for Mindfulness
1. Build Focus
“For many of us, constant demands are deeply fatiguing and frustrating, making it hard to stay organized and get things done,” McGarvey says. To develop our ability to focus, McGarvey recommends taking one or two minutes several times a day to step away from our devices and get fully present. “Stretch, step outside, look out the window, concentrate on your breath — do just one thing, but do it with 100 percent of your attention.”
2. Slow Down
“This goes with building focus,” McGarvey says. “Take 10 or 15 minutes each day to just be. Meditate, do yoga, walk, make a cup of tea, take a hot bath, play with your kids or pet, or just sit and notice the beauty around you.”
3. Physical Fitness
“We all know it’s important, but many of us let this slide when busy. Adequate sleep is essential, as is limiting unhealthy food, caffeine, and alcohol, and eating fresh, well-prepared foods,” she says. These take discipline and time, but the benefits in energy and clarity are significant. Keep at it, urges McGarvey. “It takes a few months for your body to recover from poor habits and not enough sleep,” she says. “And for many, exercise only becomes pleasurable after doing it regularly for three to four months.”
4. Maintain Perspective and Lighten Up
Keep difficulties in perspective when things get grim by remembering to look for the good, strive for a light touch, or find an alternate perspective. Looking for the humorous side that accompanies many challenges can be helpful. “But there is an important balance here,” McGarvey says. “Poking fun at our own shortcomings can be a great stress buster, but remember not to poke fun or make jokes at the expense of others.”
5. Express Gratitude
“Each night before you fall asleep, contemplate three good things about your day or your life,” McGarvey says. Savor each one for a minute or two and let yourself feel deep appreciation.