Cynthia Mathews: Doctor of Curriculum and Leadership, Author, Teacher, Playwright, Blogger.
As a school teacher, you endure a lot, don’t you? You most likely embrace the responsibility of managing 25 to 100 students on a weekday basis and are responsible for students’ safety and their developed mindsets, yes? These pertinent responsibilities stand in front of the spread umbrella that hosts numerous other mini-scenes in education that you as teacher are evaluated by your school administrators, yes?
If duties are neglected, you, as teacher, could bring about serious trouble for yourself and possibly endanger your tenure teaching career. Yet, in spite of the monumental tasks that you endure continually, the one crucial scene necessary for a full successful act in your school day is teacher self-care.
You, as teacher, are human. You may relent on your superpowers occasionally—without losing total control, of course—when you are pushed in a no win-win situation by attending mandatory staff meetings, by motivating ongoing student apathy, by enhancing curriculum for rigor, and by participating in employee collaboration that may or may not be effective in school decision making [?].
An awareness of a sharpened saw relies on the quality of your students, your instruction, and your professionalism. Your responses to students shoud depend on situations. Not every situation deserves a response: Some responses are better left unsaid, and a swift turn back to instruction is more productive. Instruction is the goal, for students must learn, so revert to instruction whenever the feeling of a rift raises its head, for it is professionalism that will save the day when the ambience becomes uncouth. Professionalism–proper dress, proper speech, proper student direction complement the “sharpen the saw” concept. If the sharpened saw method is midway or lesser in these areas, you may find it helpful to step back to reflect on the actions necessary to take for self-care to spring forward.
“Sharpen the Saw,” coined by Franklin Covey (1989), is a strategy for you to recharge yourself. Your greatest asset is YOU, right? Thus the renewal in your physical—eating sensible meals and exercising regularly by walking or stretching—and resting by sitting quietly or napping—is crucial to your serenity in life.
Equally, the renewal of your social/emotional mindset—your connecting with positive individuals, ones that will promote your excellence as you promote theirs—your connecting with time for reading, writing, learning, and teaching–ideas that will promote cognitive growth–are imperative for your social and emotional well-being.
The renewal of your spirituality—your spending time in nature—enjoying the sun, the breeze, the climate—will provide the energy you need to meet your daily goals, and your meditating for soul direction and your listening for complete understanding are ingredients necessary for you to sharpen the saw, for you to take good care of yourself, for you to manage the many scenes you encounter under the umbrella of a school day.
Sharpening the saw increases your capacity to produce and handle school challenges. If a student disrespects you as teacher, for example, your understanding the physical tenet of “resting” from the situation, especially, if the disrespect can be channeled through effective, moral guidance, is the key you need to unlock the disrespect before you react. Simply teach to correct, not to complain or to overreact.
Moreover, sharpening the saw gives you a balance in nutritional value. Taking the necessary time to renew yourself through proper eating gives you space for learning about the foods to eat and the foods to avoid . . . Taking care of your body is a blessing to the Almighty who bestows strength in you to appear fit and capable of maneuvering throughout your life. You must be able to move about with agility and grace when the time presents itself to do so. “sharpening the saw” will help you be poised in this manner.
Ideally, a healthy self-care strategy should include an activity of sharpening the saw. You can make sure that every element of your overall health and beauty routines are well taken care of by providing your body and mind the nutrients necessary for you to be at your best.
Research reveals 40 percent of teachers report feeling high stress everyday during the school year, and few of the causes of the stress include lack of resources for teaching, student behavior problems, administration expectations, or your own personal weight and health problems, which can slow the process of your high-performance (education article). As a teacher, you have the choice of going through life oblivious of your well-being or partaking in healthful activities to live an energized, vibrant life.
Every day provides a new opportunity to recharge yourself, for there is no need to hit the wall with frustration. It takes desire, knowledge, and skill to be in charge of your life physically, socially/emotionally, and spiritually.
In essence, be aware of your energy levels and realize action steps that work for you, and use them to sharpen the saw and to maintain the self-care that is necessary to be your best self, to be your best endorsement of being a teacher.
Below are 12 simple, useful strategies that will help teachers look and feel great.
1. Do not take personally every negative situation that happens during a school day.
2. Keep a full length mirror in classroom to remind yourself of your professionalism, your health, and your physical appearance.
3. Take vitamins as an added boost.
4. Walk briskly to appear busy: It sends a signal of importance.
5. Be a lifelong learner—especially learn about Health and Mind fitness.
6. Train yourself to remain calm in all hostile or troubling encounters.
7. Read “Ecclesiastic” and “Proverbs” of the Bible for quick tips to live by.
8. Dress professionally and stylish where appropriate.
9. Wear colors that enhance your appearance.
10. Take naps.
11. Reflect on self-care strategies that will work for you.
12. Sharpen the saw.
7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Franklin Covey (1989)
Why Teacher Self-Care Matters and How to Practice Self-Care in Your School (Education)