We all have those not so great days.
Even the most enthusiastic of teachers needs a little TLC from time to time. But sometimes we feel like taking care of our teacher selves means short changing our students, so we put ourselves last on the list. That doesn’t have to be the case. Teachers can take care of themselves and still give their students what they deserve in class. In fact, teachers who practice self-care are better teachers overall, and they are more enthusiastic in their teaching when they have reserves of energy and strength to draw on. So whether you are trying to avoid those down days or need a pick-me-up because you are in the middle of them, here are five strategies for taking care of your students while also taking care of yourself.
5 Ways to Boost Your Attitude When You Need Some TLC
Do Something You Enjoy
Whether it’s cooking or playing kickball, doing something you enjoy in class can be a nice pick me up when you are feeling discouraged. For me, I love to play games. On those days when I just need a little something more, I’ll bring in a board game, dice game, or card game and teach my students how to play. Though I may not always be able to tie it in to whatever content we are currently covering, sometimes I can. And on top of that, there is always a language element to whatever game we play, so tying into grammar or language skills is always doable. Sometimes it’s learning new vocabulary with Scrabble, and other times it’s the grammar of questions with a simple game of 20 questions. Giving instructions is always a good way to talk about the imperative form in English. Or use the conditional with if-then statements that explain how something is done (like what happens when you make certain moves in a game). Whatever you do, don’t feel guilty about “treating” yourself to a fun activity in class. Odds are that some if not all of your students will like that activity as well, and you won’t have to feel guilty if you focus on the language aspect of your fun activity.
Set up Independent Learning Centers
I am such a proponent of independent learning centers, and for more than one reason. They let students learn at their own pace, focus on language areas where they need extra help, and create a low key atmosphere in class. Oh, and they also happen to give you a little down time during your classroom hours. Any teacher knows there is never enough time to do all the planning, teaching, gathering of supplies, evaluating, and grading that a good teacher needs to accomplish. By giving your students some time at independent learning centers, they are meeting their individual specific language needs as well as giving you some time to do those things that always seem to fall through the cracks. And even if you don’t have something specific you need to accomplish, being able to spend some one on one time with students, giving them feedback and assessing their language use as they the centers, might be all you need to remember why you started teaching in the first place.
Write It Down
Sometimes they days just feel like we are going through the motions, never really accomplishing anything. The next time you need a little encouragement and a reminder that you are making a difference, try writing down five to ten things you and/or your students have accomplished in the past month of two. Then follow up by writing five to ten things you want to accomplish in the next coming months. Sometimes we just need to see that we are making progress and have a goal and direction. Writing down accomplishments and setting goals will do that. If you want an even bigger boost, try asking your students to list five to ten things they have accomplished so far this year. You can be sure that their list will include plenty of things you helped them with along the way.
Learn Something from Your Students
You may be the resident expert in the English language, but that doesn’t mean you know everything there is to know. Your students are a great resource for learning about culture, hobbies, and career fields. When you are feeling close to burn out, try scheduling some time for your students to share what they know with the rest of the class. You might have a class discussion or assign short presentations to each of your students. Let them simply talk about the things that interest them. They will get valuable speaking practice, and you will get a break from being the know it all in the classroom.
Sometimes all you need to make the day seem brighter is a little sunshine. For most classes, there is no reason why you can’t take your students outside. Sometimes just a change of scenery is enough to inject you with energy, and you can go on with your class just like you had planned, but under the big blue sky. If you need a little more of a pick me up, there are plenty of activities you can do with your class outside that still focus on language learning. Have students go off by themselves and write about what they see. Send students on an alphabet scavenger hunt – finding one thing for each letter a to z. Just take your class outside and let them read books. Nothing gives quite the same energy as feeling the breeze in your hair and the sun on your face.
If you are feeling or have felt discouraged, take heart.
You are not alone. We all have those moments when we just don’t have the energy we want. Take a moment. Take care of yourself. And your students will benefit from having a teacher who is more refreshed and ready to tackle the next English lesson.