We’ve been talking about the importance of teacher self-care for a while now. We know that it’s important to take time for ourselves and to do simple acts like drinking enough water, getting enough sleep, and taking deep breaths when stressed. I try to practice these things regularly, though I admit to needing reminders from time to time (OK, often). What if we used self-care techniques not only in our off time but in the classroom as well. Couldn’t our students benefit from some self-care practices?
3 self-care practices to use in the classroom
Here are three self-care practices that can help in the day-to-day experience in your classroom—and that have the potential to impact your students long after they leave school (they may just help you, too!).
When energy is ramping up and your class is getting loud, change the mood. Instead of shouting at the class to pipe down, get quiet yourself. Speak in calm quiet tones, under the noise.
Instead of getting anxious and adding to the high energy, take a few deep, calming breaths. Don’t ask your students to breathe with you. Just breathe. It won’t work all the time, but I’ve talked to teachers who feel the mood shift as they breathe and slow down. They find that without prompting the students nearest them start to breathe too. The room naturally starts to calm and quiet down.
And if it doesn’t work to calm down the kids, you’ve quieted yourself and are better equipped to address the situation in a different way.
Breathe and get grounded
Breathing is a powerful activity and one you can practice with your students to help them feel calm and grounded. Try this before a test, a public performance, or other stressful activity.
Have students place both feet on the floor to feel grounded. Ask them to close their eyes or lowering their gaze to help instill a sense of calm. Then have them breathe slowly: inhale for a count of four, and exhale for a count of six. Do this for one minute. End with a positive mantra or statement about the next activity.
Change your mindset after a mistake
One of the ways to deal with a teacher bad day is to change your mindset and think positive. This is a valuable lesson, one you can teach your students directly and through modeling when you make a mistake.
So next time something doesn’t go as planned—maybe a lesson turns out to be confusing or a science experiment doesn’t give the results you expected—talk about it. Talk about how you can learn from things not working. Admit “This wasn’t clear. I’m going to rethink it, and we’ll try again.”
Your kids learn that it’s OK to make mistakes, that in most cases there are do-overs. They learn not to get defensive or defeatist.
You can teach mindset change. Maybe you outlaw the word can’t in your classroom. Instead of “I can’t add fractions,” a student says “adding fractions confuses me.” Maybe you go back to the breathing exercise. “Let’s all take a deep breath and try again.”
Some positive ideas to use are:
- That didn’t work becomes Let’s try something else.
- I don’t get this becomes Can you explain it again?
- I can’t do this becomes I can do this, but I need more time.
- I can’t do this becomes I’m feeling stuck. Can you help me?
- I’ll never get this becomes I’m going to get this.
Mindset work can feel awkward at first, but over time, we develop more positive thought patterns and it gets easier and more natural.
Do you use any of these techniques yourself? Have you tried them in your classroom? I’d love to hear how you are using self-care in your classroom and how it’s working.
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