Although I’m obsessed with teacher self care, March is the hardest time for me to work with teachers as a mentor to world language teachers transitioning to CI rich methods.
It’s probably one of the most difficult times of year for countries with summers off: the last stretch before the end of the year, but the stretch is still pretty long and students can feel it.
They get snarkier than ever and downright disillusioned with life bursting outside your window and the same old happening inside your room.
My apologies for the bleak picture, it gets better.
This is the #1 reason I moved our community’s annual free conference to the spring – mark your calendars for Apr 20-23rd y’all!
Because there’s no reason to be shy about it, this time of year is (in my humble opinion) the toughest time to teach. It’s also the hardest time of the year to talk about teacher self care or adopt good self care habits.
That’s why the guilt crushed me when my colleagues were rotating subs for 4 weeks for me in March 2019.
I was on the couch, unable to move from pain, for several long weeks with a mystery migraine that wouldn’t quit.
Someone else had to teach my rowdy classes for me.
My Painful Teacher Self Care Life Lesson
This was the start of a long illness to health journey, stemming from a mixture of family trauma and teacher burnout.
It left me scarred with still almost daily headache reminders of what ignoring my physical and mental health cost me.
So yeah, March for me is still a rusty old enemy. Even though the flowers are beautiful 🌷
However, I’m grateful for the lesson.
It made me the health conscious person I am today who’s a little obsessed with wellness and teacher self care . (Teacher self care planners, anyone?)
The State of Teacher Wellbeing in Post-Pandemic Teaching
Truth be told, each and every one of you went through similiar teaching during and post-pandemic.
I can hear it in your voices when you talk to me about the teaching profession:
The yearning to love what you do again. The scars.
So nowadays when people mention the word “burnout”, my initial reaction is UGH. That’s not even the start of what’s happening to teachers.
But on one of my favorite programs – the Daily Jay – (a mini show about meditation and wellness on the Meditation app Calm), the fresh perpective on burnout was too good to keep to myself.
A Much Needed Shift in Teacher Self Care & Burnout
This wisdom is huge for teachers:
Jay shares that burnout is not always from doing too much – it’s also from malnourishment. When your brain and heart feel starved of the fulfillment they crave.
This is HUGE for teachers. So much of what you experience in the classroom is EXHAUSTING and not.what.you.signed.up.for.
What Teacher Wellness Means for World Language Teachers
This is the main reason why I believe so strongly in a proficiency & community based approach to teaching:
🔥🕯️it feeds your teacher soul by nourishing the parts that get starved:
❤️ community and meaningful relationships because the student is the center of class
🕯️ excitement and true pedagogy because each class will be different, interactive, playful, and curiosity-driven. Why? Simply bc you’re providing input and talking with students instead of talking AT them.
you actually see empowerment, growth, and real progress that sticks instead of joyless memorization
Teachers Need More Nourishing, Fulfilling Moments at Work and Less Lip-Service
All of this to say that Jay’s perspective resonated with me.
You don’t always need a break, do less, or to deep relax mode to engage in quality teacher self care. (Although that’s bliss.)
What administrators need to do is #1 top priority STOP putting things on your plate and start investing in your teacher wellbeing with MEANINGFUL resources like therapy, not reminders to drink water and take bubblebaths. (although those are awesome, they’re a bandaid after surgery.)
If you’ve tried that common self care wisdom and it’s not recharging you, you might need to instead feed and nourish the parts of you that are getting starved.
Rejuvenation Ideas for World Language Teachers
When your class feels so blahhhh you can’t stand it, you might me overworking a part of your teacher heart or teacher brain.
Have you been practicing input-based lessons and you’re overdrawn on conversation and constant interaction?
Switch to a project, a novel, or a video instead and give everyone a change of pace.
Are you SO over your traditional textbook but you’ve been grinding through just to keep your head above water?
Try switching out just 1 present & practice activity with an input-based one. ditch the idea that you can switch overnight and relish in the joy
of how freeing that one activity is. Your brain craves real pedagogy and student interaction.
Bogged down by out-of-class responsibilities and paperwork from admin or the district?
Half-ass or drop altogether one thing and don’t ask permission. No seriously – watch how little consequences actually happen, and how few
people even notice.
Are you just over everything?
Take a day off, give only 30 mins to your sub plans, and don’t answer any emails.
It’s actually OK if 1 day is dumpster fire while you’re gone. It’s not your fault that your school has zero backup plan for teachers not being at work. You’re overwhelmed and overdrawn. your heart needs time to think and care about something else.
Your health needs to take priority over systemic failure if you’re going to make it long-term in a failed system.
How I Changed My Approach to Teaching & Self Care
After I returned in April post health breakdown, I knew my classroom days were limited.
At first, I tried using worksheets for the first few weeks to get back on my feet.
Which served its purpose in the early days of healing, but I soon felt like a substitute teacher in my own class.
Students were falling apart as much as was since class no longer had purpose.
I knew I couldn’t teach like that for another year, so I had to figure out another solution.
The next year, I switched schools and adopted a watered-down version of proficiency that allowed class to progress, be full of life, and still be easy on me to teach.
An Adapted Proficiency Model for World Language:
The watered-down version of proficiency consisted of:
🔥life giving culture and community based lessons
😮💨 restful long projects for me to take breaks and students to do the work
🎈 about 50-60% target language
🎯 fun games and exciting tech
🥰 lots of conversation both in French and in English
🐌 a much slower curriculum pace
🎁 TPT lesson plans to claim back some planning periods, yeayuh!
📚 asking my principal for funding to get class novels so that I didn’t have to make new lessons every day & lots of reading time in class
✌️ ignoring as much outside of school responsibilities as I could get away with & still fulfill my reqs
⏰ left work on time every day (which sometime meant i had to scramble for 20 mins before students walked in the door- it was still fine, and kids
still got to novice mid).
A Shift in Teacher Self Care: Parting Thoughts
What does all of this mean?
It means pay attention when class gets blahhhhh. Your brain is telling you something important – don’t ignore it.
It also means that you might be burnt out from being completely overdrawn on an aspect of teaching in addition to doing too much.
Do a quick gut check – does your heart feel malnourished?
Are you craving a different experience instead of simply rest?
Proficiency reignited my spark for teaching early on in a burnout phase.
Later on after a major health crisis, it brought me joy in the classroom when things were at their toughest.
Taking care of my health and emotional wellbeing shockingly made me a better, more prepared teacher than more lesson planning ever did.
Being tuned in to what I needed – be it rest, a challenge, a change of pace, or more interaction – also made me more responsive and ready for the demands of snarky March students.
Feed your teacher brain 🧠 nourish your teacher heart ❤️ and listen to your soul 🕯️ because you are so much more than your job and you deserve to be healthy and happy.
Truly and sincerely rooting for you,
Devon @ La Libre
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More Teacher Self Care Resources
This philosophy of teacher satisfaction and joy at work is woven into every aspect of my handmade teacher self care planners. Shop the collection of teacher lesson planners with self care here
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