Well-meaning advisers frequently tell newer teachers how important it is to practice self-care. But what does self-care look like for you during this unusual time? Here are some ideas for taking care of yourself this year.
Find new ways to connect with your colleagues. Most teachers agree that developing relationships with fellow educators is an important part of establishing a sense of belonging to your school community.
“The social aspect of teaching is important. You have to have someone you can talk to about your job, because trying to figure it all out alone is not good,” says Leslie Martinez, a fifth-year teacher at City-As-School in the West Village.
But with most teachers working remotely at least part of the school day, it can be challenging to nourish relationships you may once have established just by walking down the hall.
“Create an opportunity for yourself to be involved in your school,” Martinez recommends. There may be a virtual committee you can join or a smaller group of staff members you can connect with on a more intimate level. Martinez and her office mate hold 10-minute “coffee dates” on Google Meet to chat.
For Althea Benloss, a fourth-year teacher at PS 75 in the Bronx, sharing words of encouragement and “funny memes” with colleagues in a group text is a source of support. If you don’t already have a relationship with a trusted colleague, Benloss says it’s important to take the first step of making an overture — “even if it’s something as simple as sending an email with a question.”
Beyond your school, Martinez suggests finding an organization or association that represents like-minded educators in your field or subject. Check out the UFT’s professional committees or sign up for a remote professional learning session offered by the union.
“When I was a new teacher, going to the UFT’s workshops really helped me feel not alone,” Martinez says.
Establish work boundaries. You’re likely to find yourself working at home this year. It may be helpful to set ground rules for yourself about when and where.
“My workspace is my dining room table, but I make it a point to sit in a different chair than I would when I’m eating because I don’t want to be in the same spot that I’ve designated for relaxation,” says Benloss.
Make time for things you love. Managing your time as a newer teacher can be overwhelming, and this may not be the moment to take up a brandnew habit, even one that’s intended to rejuvenate you.
Instead, take some time to identify the practices that are already crucial to your well-being. Just as you might assign both optional and mandatory work to your students, make sure those self-care practices are mandatory in your own life.
You may even find that it’s possible to infuse your work at school with your personal interests. Martinez, who loves to read, launched a virtual book club at school.
“Take on projects you’re passionate about, and lean into the things you love,” she says.