Imagine a classroom of 25 fourth-graders. It's nearing the end of the day. Eyes are gazing out the window, minds are wandering into private daydreams, and the teacher at the whiteboard, realizing her history talk is mostly being ignored, experiences a personal meltdown. She does nothing drastic, but she does stop teaching, she assigns some quiet reading until the bell rings, and then sinks into her chair, near tears and feeling incompetent. Another failed day, she thinks.
What could change this situation? What could change ten, one hundred, five hundred teachers who feel over-stressed and unable to perform their daily tasks?
One educator in Baltimore came up with an idea that has been helping. Danna Thomas founded Happy Teacher Revolution, a national social-support network designed to alleviate the stress associated with teaching.
What are the principles behind this revolution?
- Choose ways to be more balanced. This means choosing to get eight hours of sleep at night. It could mean choosing to exercise at the gym three times a week. Maybe it means choosing to eat out with your spouse once a week. The choices focus on ways to balance the stress of teaching.
- An educator cannot give of himself fully until he is running at full capacity. Fill up all the tanks - emotional, social, physical, spiritual - so you can teach at your best level. Students notice the difference between an anxious, stressed-out person who is happy and responsive to his students.
- Teachers need more social-emotional competence than most people. An average person would not excel in a classroom every day. They require a higher level of social and emotional maturity, and managing dips in emotions can be difficult to do in the middle of teaching a math class.
- The revolution should begin at the top levels of the school. Principals and administrators need to practice and encourage healthy self-care choices, thereby influencing the whole school to better teaching and better learning.
While this is not an easy profession, being happy is even more difficult. But happy, relaxed, alert individuals are the ones who work most successfully in the classroom. Start a revolution in your own teaching career by practicing self-care and keeping your tanks full and ready at the beginning of every school day.
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