Tags: work-related burnout, burnout, pandemic teaching, virtual teaching, online teaching, education, teachers, perserverance, elementary teaching, mental health, positive attitude, classroom management, growth mindset,mental health support for teachers during covid, role of teachers during pandemic, impact on teachers during covid, teacher wellness during pandemic, tips for teachers returning to school during covid
I wasn’t born to “just teach.” I was born to inspire others, to change people and to never give up; even when faced with challenges that seem impossible.
~ Sunil Singh
Message from Dana: I’m very thankful for the support my blog has received. As I have shared my insights with you, my heart is overwhelmed with gratitude because of your continued support. While I am a teacher and draw on professional experiences to inform this post, I hope these insights and tips apply to people in various fields and life situations during these challenging times.
So, once again, we are faced with another “pivot” in Ontario, Canada. We have recently wrapped up another session of virtual learning (“for now”) and are back to in-person instruction starting this week. Ready or not, the day is quickly approaching. The decision to resume in-person learning brings about many mixed feelings. As teachers, we are excited to see the kids and our colleagues, but we also may feel anxiety, fear, and stress. Our deepest desire is for everyone to be safe and for this pandemic to be over “like yesterday!"
Several months ago, I purchased a variety of inspirational t-shirts for work. I intended to use the messages printed on these shirts as a reminder to remain calm and collected during this difficult season. These t-shirts got quite a positive response and did wonders to lift my spirits. Coincidentally, these optimistic messages held the secret to helping me strive to be the best teacher I can be each day. From this experience, I have personal insights I would like to share with you.
T-shirt One: Teach, Love, Inspire
Remember How You Started and Finish Strong
Please do me this favour. Take a deep breath, close your eyes, and reflect on these questions. Remember when you first started teaching? Do you recall the inner go-getter who strived to change the world one student at a time? Maybe you are thinking, “Who me?" I say to you, “Yes, you!”
You had big dreams. You were so motivated. You were so passionate about your calling to teach. You spent hours setting up your Pinterest-worthy classroom and preparing super-engaging lessons. You were born to "teach, love, and inspire" those precious students who were lucky enough to be on your class list and You. Were. Pumped!
So, where is that keener now? Upon self-reflection, do you find yourself comparing the teacher you are today to what you deemed to be the best version of yourself as an educator? Well, news flash: that incredible educator is still there, but you are delivering instruction under ever-changing scenarios while being just plain tired.
Please remind yourself we are not operating under normal circumstances. When it feels like your enthusiasm and passion for this profession may be waning, please know that you are valued and matter. You still bring so much to your classroom. You are in this career for a reason. You STILL have what it takes to be an effective and dynamic educator. Please be patient with yourself. The passion is still there – you just may need to search a bit deeper to find it.
T-shirt Two: Coffee, Teach, Repeat
Find What Fills Your Soul
Take care of yourself. You need to be at your best right now, and that is no easy task. Seriously! I am drinking more coffee than I ever have (true story), and I am fine with that! Naps and Netflix are also some of my favourite ways to decompress. Losing myself in a series for a little while is very therapeutic. Fill your tank daily because you cannot give your best to those kids if you feel physically or emotionally drained. What makes your heart sing? What soothes your soul? It could be exercise, prayer, faith, mindfulness, naps, coffee with a friend, listening to podcasts, reading a good book, or perhaps listening to music. Whatever it is that fulfills your spirit and motivates you, please, please, please, do more of those things. Allow yourself this treat. You deserve it. The days are long and hard, so permitting yourself to be off the clock to take care of your mental health and engage in activities that bring you joy is the medicine you need right now.
T-shirt Three: Hey, Teacher Friend
Teach More Than the Curriculum
Teaching may look a lot different these days, but there is still so much good happening in our classrooms. Relationships are forming, learning is happening, laughter is still in the air, and precious experiences and memories are happening each day. The students may be behind academically, but that is okay.
Let’s get creative, try new things, and think outside the box. While academics are always important, we need to be equally concerned with students’ emotional and physical well-being. Above all, it is critical to display love to each student and make them feel safe. We should remind them that they have a family at school, and together we will get through these crazy times. Teach them that it's okay to be afraid sometimes because it is normal to feel this way. We should teach them that feeling frustrated or angry about the fact that there are so many rules is understandable. You are still a HUGE part of their lives. Often you are their safe place. You can spend up to 6-7 hours a day with them, and you are a powerful influence in their lives. They look to you for leadership. Even though it feels like we are literally "building the plane as we fly it," these days, show up as the true leader you are, and I know you will figure out what works for you and your students.
Dana Romualdi is a Canadian elementary teacher, social worker, blogger, author, motivational speaker and recording artist. She has a passion for helping others and spreading much needed encouragement. She lives in Canada with her husband and two grown children. When she is not working or blogging she enjoys drinking coffee, watching Netflix and reading great books.