Some years ago, I had the opportunity to create a freelance project for a very prestigious organization. It was literally a dream come true for me. A once-in-a-decade project that I was passionate about and desperately wanted to create. So, after looking through my calendar, I selected four days and bent all my energy toward finishing this project. For four days I did almost nothing but work, but by the end of the third, I was completely and utterly burnt out.

I would eventually finish the project, and I’m very proud of how things turned out, but the experience taught me a valuable lesson. A person should not give 100% of themselves to anything. When you do, you keep nothing in reserve for yourself, and this leaves you empty of passion, creativity, motivation, and so much else! This lesson is especially relevant for teachers, who too often find themselves stretched beyond their limit. But with so many new challenges and responsibilities cropping up, how can educators afford to take time for themselves?

Giving Yourself Grace

There’s a quote from George Johnson which states, “Before you give your time and energy to the world, you need to energize yourself.” The reality is terms like “work–life balance” exists for a reason. If teachers want to cultivate more time and energy, they must first cultivate a healthy lifestyle. Here are a few strategies to get started:

  • Be Curious and Creative: Our world is wonderfully interesting if you just look hard enough! Keep your eye out for fun facts that blow your mind and record them in a journal. Whenever you need a jolt of wonder, open it back up and revisit the facts that fascinate you most. Another possibility is to spend 15 minutes every day creating something. It could be anything you want: a drawing, a poem, a song, or a piece of origami. It doesn’t matter if it’s great or awful — the act of enjoyable creation will energize the rest of your day!
  • Stay Healthy: An active lifestyle really does contribute to overall wellness. Start small. Schedule 15 minutes in your day where you’ll hike, bike, stretch, anything that gets your blood flowing. Remember to eat right as well. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing. Start by replacing one processed grain with a whole grain, adding one salad a day, or cutting out caffeine after 4 p.m. By keeping it manageable and scheduling it regularly, you’ll make every day more energetic!
  • Have Some Fun: Play, connect, and laugh! Whether it’s board games or ball sports, chess or table tennis, filling your life with play will make it richer and more rewarding, and will fuel your fire to embrace all the rest of life’s challenges.
  • Don’t Mix Feedback and Grading: When students receive a grade, they don’t attend to feedback. So don’t waste your time doing both. If you’re providing feedback, don’t grade it. If you’re grading it, don’t provide feedback — instead, invite students to ASK for feedback if they are interested. This ensures that the feedback you do give is well-received.
Ready, Set, Relax!

If you found these strategies helpful, be sure to check out VAI’s free webinar where we discuss these ideas in more detail. These additional resources can also support teachers who are feeling frayed and give them space to pause, rest, and restore themselves. Remember, one way to find more time and energy when you’re hanging by a thread is to make your rope stronger! So don’t let yourself be overwhelmed, you deserve some time to simply be.

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