You’ve heard the saying, “you can’t pour from an empty cup” —that if you don’t take care of yourself, you will be unable to take care of others. This is especially true in education, as teaching is a socially and emotionally demanding profession. In order to be at your best to effectively meet the needs of your students, you need to take care of your own social and emotional needs.
Dealing with all of the stress involved in the day-to-day expectations and demands of teaching takes its toll on teachers. For new teachers, especially, it is important that you not only understand the need to care for yourself, but also have tools and strategies to “fill your cup.”
- Seek out a mentor. Find an experienced teacher at your school, such as a teammate or another teacher you connect with, and ask questions, share your concerns, get advice. Your mentor can help you navigate the demands and challenges of the classroom, and provide the support you need so you know you are not alone.
- Create a new teacher support group. Who are the other new teachers in your school building, district, or surrounding area? Commit to meeting regularly over coffee (or over Zoom) to support each other, offer advice, and share ideas for what is working well in your classroom.
- Ask to observe experienced teachers in action. The more you observe, the more you learn. Watching experienced teachers teach provides you with more ideas for instruction, teaching strategies, and classroom management.
- Use your Professional days to attend Professional Development in your areas of interest or need. If you need more help with classroom management, seek out PD that will provide you with tangible strategies for improving your classroom management. Look beyond district workshops to other trainings in your area, online, or at local universities. Ongoing training and support can help you feel more equipped and prepared for the challenges you face during your first years of teaching.
- Join social events at your school to develop relationships and connect with other teachers and staff members. Is there a teacher book club you can join? An after-school exercise program to become involved in? Other social events created by teachers you can attend? Not only do these build connections, they also boost morale.
- Take your personal and/or sick days! Even though missing a day of school can feel like more work due to all of the planning involved, it is imperative that you have time away from school to promote your own well-being. Having a “mental-health day” away from school can help you be more focused and ready when you return to the classroom.
As a new teacher, you will be better prepared to help students if you take advantage of self-care opportunities and fill your own cup. You will also be less likely to burn out. Ultimately, your students will benefit the most, because a supported, thriving teacher is a more effective teacher!
Dr. Sarah J. Kaka is an Assistant Professor of Education at Ohio Wesleyan University, and is the Director of the Adolescent to Young Adult and Multi-Age Licensure Programs. She teaches intro to education, secondary and middle school methods, social studies methods, and supervises students in the field.
Dr. Jennifer A. Tygret is an online course developer and instructor for the Department of Education at Illinois College. Her research focuses on the preparation of new teachers, trauma-informed teaching, and best practices in elementary and higher education. She creates and teaches elementary reading courses.