The 5 Options Exhausted Teachers Have

For most teachers, another school year is in the books. If you’ve been off for a couple of weeks, you have probably already started to forget the suffocating exhaustion you felt over the past ten months. If you’ve just begun your break, then you’re probably still catching up on sleep, relaxation, and your favorite Netflix shows. But one thing is for sure: if nothing changes, you’ll be just as tired next year as you were this past year.

If this is you, then you really only have five options.

1. You can persist.

My suspicion is that most teachers choose this option. They put their heads down and keep going. They accept that they’re going to spend much of the school year stressed out, beaten down, and just plain physically whipped. Some may have made peace with it, while others grudgingly accept it as part of the job; after all, they know plenty of teachers in the same boat. These teachers will return in the fall, and the fall after that, and the one after that, and they’ll keep on keeping on, plugging away and doing their best, all the while wishing things could be different but not taking any steps to make them different.

2. You can neglect.

Those who don’t persist may neglect their responsibilities. These are the teachers who hang on to their jobs but have allowed the spark they once felt for it to flicker and die. They’re the ones that give the rest of us a bad name and offer critics of teachers’ unions just enough fuel to keep their criticisms burning. Unfortunately, we’ve all known a teacher like this, either as a colleague or from our days as students. These teachers have been tired for so many years that they’ve given up hope of things ever changing and they’re counting the years to retirement. They do as little as possible and hope to be left alone. Don’t be this teacher.

3. You can quit.

Many teachers walk away, either from their district in the hopes that the grass is greener at a different school, or they leave education altogether. There’s no shame in quitting, especially if you’ve decided that your heart just isn’t in it anymore and you have something else you want to do with your life. And there’s certainly nothing wrong with getting out of a profession that’s harming your mental and/or physical health or in taking your talents where they might be more appreciated. My friend Dan quit a few years back and has never regretted it, as you can read here.

4. You can fight.

If the causes of your exhaustion were mostly external and you’re thinking of quitting because of them, then next year might be the one you decide to fight back. There are a lot of things that exhaust teachers — I wrote about four hidden contributors in my book Exhausted — and many of those things are the result of demands placed on you by others. Time is always in short supply for teachers, so when you’ve got unsympathetic administrators who require lessons plan while regularly gutting planning time, it’s understandable when teachers let their frustrations be known. If you’re on the verge of quitting, then you might as well see if you can’t first change your situation by bringing your concerns to administration. Nothing changes on its own, and if you’re about the quit anyway, then you have nothing to lose by knocking over a few metaphorical chairs on your way out the door.

5. You can change. 

If you’ve been exhausted every year you’ve taught, then it’s time to consider why and what you can do about it, since you know it’s untenable over a long career. Knowing that the only other choices you have are acceptance and suffering, submission and resignation, quitting, or pitching a fit (however diplomatic it may be), you might decide to look inwardly and control the only thing you can: yourself.

Chances are there is a mixture of external and internal factors contributing to your fatigue. There are ways you can satisfy the requirements of your job without pouring all your energy into it. How you do that is essentially the purpose of this blog and the subject of the books I’ve written. If this is the choice you will make — if you decide to try changing your mindset and practices — then I ask you to start by checking out my books Exhausted, Leave School at School and The Teacher’s Guide to Saying No. They’re quick reads that can put you on a more sustainable path.

For those who need more help and are serious about lasting change that will turn your career around, try Angela Watson’s acclaimed 40 Hour Teacher Workweek Club. Thousands of teachers swear by it; you can see what they say here. If you decide to give it a go, do so quickly so you can take advantage of the Early Bird benefits, such as these three free resources to help you spend your summer effectively and early access to the Facebook group so you can begin sharing best practices with other teachers who’ve decided to make a change.

 

 

How to Get a Refreshing Sleep Despite a Busy Schedule

Guest post by Dr. Omiete Charles-Davies

 

Getting a good night’s sleep is very important for your physical health, mental health, and overall quality of life.

With the hustle and bustle of our daily activities, a night of refreshing sleep may seem like a luxury. Not getting between 7 to 9 hours of sleep as recommended by the National Sleep Foundation can affect your level of productivity and energy levels.

For many of us, our day to day activities and busy schedules can keep our minds churning and over thinking, preventing us from getting the sleep that we need.

Making some adjustments to your day and nighttime habits can have a great impact on how well you sleep. This article aims to tell you how to get a more refreshing sleep despite having a busy schedule.

How To Get A More Refreshing Sleep

1. Be In Sync With Your Circadian Rhythm

Getting in sync with your circadian rhythm is very important in getting a refreshed sleep. Having a regular sleep-wake schedule keeps you more refreshed than sleeping the same number of hours but at different times. The following tips can be helpful.

  • Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day as this helps to set your internal clock and optimize your sleep, an alarm clock might help.
  • Limit afternoon naps to about 15 to 20mins. If you have trouble falling asleep at night, long naps in the afternoon can only make it worse.
  • Do activities such as washing dishes or getting clothes ready for work the next day if you feel sleepy before your bedtime. This will prevent you from sleeping too early, waking up later at night and be unable to go back to sleep.

 

2. Control Your Exposure To Light

A naturally occurring hormone called melatonin is controlled by your exposure to light, this hormone regulates your sleep-wake cycle.

It is secreted more when it is dark, making you feel sleepy. Too much light exposure decreases its secretion, making you more alert.

Here are some tips to control your melatonin levels:

  • Expose yourself to bright sunlight during the day as this affects your alertness. Let as much natural light into your workspace during the day.
  • Avoid bright screens like television, phones, and tablets within 1-2 hours of your bedtime. The light emitted from these devices can be very disruptive and prevent you from falling asleep on time. Listen to relaxing music or audio books instead.
  • Make sure the room is dark when it is time to sleep.

3. Exercise During The Day

Regular exercise helps to improve sleep at night. For a night of better sleep, the timing of your exercise needs to be right. Exercising too close to bedtime can interfere with your sleep pattern.

  • Finish moderate to vigorous workout at least three hours before sleep time.
  • Low impact exercises like yoga or stretches can help promote sleep.

4. Eat And Drink Smartly

Your eating and drinking habits during the day play a huge role in how well you sleep.

  • Reduce your intake of caffeine and nicotine especially close to bedtime. It is important to know that caffeine-containing products like coffee can cause sleep struggles even up to 10 to 12 hours after taking it. Smoking can also disrupt your sleep pattern.
  • Avoid heavy meals at night, try to eat dinner early in the evening. Very spicy or acidic foods should also be avoided as these can cause heartburn.
  • Avoid taking alcohol before bedtime.
  • Avoid drinking too many liquids near your bedtime because it results in frequent trips to the bathroom during the night.
  • Cut back on sugary foods, they can interfere with the deep stages of sleep.

5. Relax And Clear Your Head

Stress and worry from a very busy day can make sleeping at night very difficult. When you eventually sleep, you may find yourself waking up to think, making falling back to sleep a struggle. These steps can help you relax and make you stop worrying.

  • Learn how to manage your time effectively and handle stress in a more productive way.
  • Try not to overstimulate your brain during the day because it becomes hard to slow down and unwind at night. Set aside specific times to check your phones or social media and focus on one task at a time.
  • Leave office work at the office. If you really have to bring it home, try and finish up at least 2 hours before bedtime. This also applies to school work and homework.
  • Try leaving the office on time so you can also avoid traffic and get home on time.

6. Improve Your Sleep Environment

A regular and peaceful bedtime routine is very important as it sends a signal to your brain that it’s time to shut down. Your sleep environment can also make a big difference in the quality of your sleep.

  • Keep your room dark so that you can fall asleep on time. Also, make sure that your room is cool with adequate ventilation and quiet. If you can’t avoid noise, try using earplugs or a sound machine.
  • Ensure your bed is comfortable and these includes your bed covers, pillows, and mattress. You don’t need to break the bank for this, you can get a good budget mattress.
  • Reserve the bedroom for sleeping and sex. Try not to watch TV or use your computer in bed. This makes it easier for the brain to shut down and falling asleep becomes a breeze.

7. Get Back To Sleep

Waking up briefly at night is normal but falling back asleep may be a struggle, especially if you have had a busy and stressful day. The following methods can help you go back to sleep.

  • Do not stress over the fact that you can’t fall back asleep as this only encourages your body to stay awake.
  • Relaxation techniques such as meditation can also help you go back to sleep. Remember that the goal is to be relaxed and not just to sleep.
  • If it is worry or anxiety that has caused you to wake up, make a brief note on a paper and try not to overthink. Tomorrow is a new day to resolve it.

Teachers Should Not Feel Guilty About Taking The Summer Off

It’s that time of year once again. The time of year when teachers try to convince people who don’t teach that they really don’t have summers off.

Teacher Nicholas Ferroni, who enjoys a large Twitter following of mostly fellow teachers (it might have something to do with his looks, though his pandering to teachers probably doesn’t hurt), got an early jump this year when he asked teachers to share with him all the work they’ll be doing this summer.

He’s calling it #NoSummersOff and he’s been sharing videos of teachers explaining how many humps they’ll be busting between this year’s final bell and next year’s welcome-back-to-school-time-wasting-PD-day.

Ferroni explained that the campaign is “not intended for sympathy or to complain, but to crush the myth that only NON-educators believe: teachers have summers off.”

But why do teachers feel the need to crush this myth instead of embracing it?

I believe it’s because of guilt, that feeling teachers seem especially susceptible to.

Teachers who don’t work over the summer might feel guilty because we live in the most overworked country on the face of the planet.

  • In the U.S., 86 percent of men and 67 percent of women work more than 40 hours per week.
  • According to the ILO, Americans work 137 more hours per year than Japanese workers, 260 more hours per year than British workers, and 499 more hours per year than French workers.
  • According to the BLS, the average productivity per American worker has increased 400% since 1950.

We embrace work. We glorify busy. We live in a culture where work is valued much higher than leisure. People regularly brag (although they mask it as complaining) about how many hours they put in on the job. Even when they have opportunities to take breaks, they refuse. According to Glassdoor, Americans use only about half their vacation time. Just one in four uses all the time they’re entitled to. 10% take no paid time off at all.  When they do take a vacation, 56% of surveyed workers admitting to checking in with the office during it.

The idea that we teachers could have two months free from work feels like a luxury that we should not indulge. And so a lot of us work, not because we really need to, but because we’re surrounded by people who work too much and who place too much value on it. In short, we’d feel guilty if we took this time for ourselves, so we don’t.

You can see this guilt in the explanations teachers give for why they’ll be working this summer. People only go out of their way to explain their actions this much when they’re worried about what others think, and we teachers are forever trying to convince non-educators that hey, we work summers too! We’re essentially saying, “Look! We’re just as foolish as the rest of you!”

As teachers, we also suffer from the feeling that we can never do enough. This guilt follows us around like a new puppy and it’s reinforced almost daily. There is rarely a lesson that goes perfectly; some student always needs more help. No matter how much time we put in, we could always put in more to make the lesson, or the bulletin board, or the student materials just a bit better. With new research and new technologies and new instructional methods, there’s always more for us to learn.

Another book to read.

Another conference to attend.

Another Twitter chat to join.

Given all we don’t know and can’t yet do as well as we would like to, how can we justify taking two months off every year?

I don’t know. But I do know that other professionals don’t feel the same way. They don’t feel the need to justify their perks. CEOs rarely bother trying to convince non-CEOs that they’re actually worth the outrageous amounts of money they’re paid. Business execs feel no shame over their season tickets and access to the company luxury box. Doctors don’t feel bad about their summer cottages.

Let’s call time away from the job what it is: a perk. And let’s stop apologizing for it. Let’s stop being guilted into giving it away. Instead, let’s embrace it.

The next time a non-educator tries to make you feel guilty for having two months off by asking, “So, what are you going to do with all that time?” smile and say, “As little as possible. It’s great!” Then tell him, “I hear there’s a teacher shortage. You should become one!”

Instead of videos of guilted teachers talking about how many classes they’ll be taking, or the curriculum they’ll be writing, or the lessons they’ll be planning, I’d much rather see a string of videos of teachers explaining how they will be taking the summer for themselves and their families. I’d rather see them proudly doing nothing on a beach, or visiting national parks with their kids, or catching up on their favorite Netflix shows while eating a giant bucket of popcorn.

And they shouldn’t feel the need to justify or apologize for any of it.

 

 

What Kids with Low Self-Esteem Say

 

A guest article from Chris, publisher of TeachingWoodwork.com

 

When the children in your class look in the mirror, do you think they like what they see?

What do they think about the world around them?

Do they think they are loved and valued or do they feel judged and inadequate?

It is normal for a youngster to lack confidence at times. However, if a child persistently struggles with feelings of worthlessness and incompetence, then there is a huge problem. They could be dealing with low self-esteem.

Low self-esteem is debilitating to young people. It makes them have a negative image of themselves that is completely removed from reality. They harbor harsh opinions and beliefs about themselves that when they persist long enough, cripple their lives.

Low self-esteem eats away at a child’s happiness. It creates fear and expects failure. Indeed, it can be physically, emotionally and psychologically debilitating.

While some signs of low self-esteem are easy to sport, others could be a bit obscure. However, the language that the youngster uses could be the clearest indication that they are suffering from low self-esteem.

Examples of Things young People say when suffering Low Self-esteem

‘I don’t deserve it.’ ‘I am not worth it.’ ‘I am stupid.’

Shame is a constant small voice at the back of the mind of a child who is dealing with low self-esteem. Shame makes them feel that they are:

  • Not worthy.
  • Not smart enough
  • Not slim enough
  • Not good looking enough
  • Not rich enough

Simply:

  • Not enough!

Shame induces the feeling of worthlessness in young people and crushes their self-esteem because they judge themselves by impossible standards.

‘I am such a loser.’  ‘I always knew I couldn’t do this.’  ‘This is so hopeless.’ ‘I do everything wrong.’ ‘I will never learn.’

Young people with low self-esteem are pessimists at heart. They only see hopelessness, and they are overly critical of themselves. Even before they try something, they already know that they cannot do it. Pessimism will make any young adult perceive a negative outcome when you and pretty much everyone else see it much differently.

Because of low self-esteem, you may also find they constantly make fun of themselves and uses derogatory words when talking about themselves. This is because they believe that other people constantly think about their shortcomings all the time. Hence, they feel it is better to make fun of these drawbacks themselves before the people around them bring them up.

Sorry. Sorry. Sorry.  Sorry.

A young person with low self-esteem will apologize for everything. They will almost apologize for breathing. They are always saying sorry. They will apologize for small things, for big things, and for things that are not even remotely their fault.

Someone bumps into them on the street, and they apologize; they sneeze, and they apologize; they don’t have a pen when you request for one, and they apologize…

They genuinely feel that everything that goes wrong is their fault. This is because they have a biased view of themselves. They are entirely unaware of their worth; as such, they only see their shortcomings and not their gifts and talents.

Low self-esteem also makes people believe that it is their responsibility to keep everyone else happy, hence the reason they keep apologizing. Apologizing continually is a way for young people with esteem issues to buy acceptance from the people around them. They fear that if they fail to apologize, other people will think negatively of them.

‘It’s not a big deal.’ ‘I was just lucky.’  ‘It’s God’s blessing.’ ‘I don’t know how it happened.’

Every child at least some point will work their tails off to achieve something:

And yet,

They will not take credit for it, accept praise or compliments. This is a clear sign of low self-esteem. The child has such low self-esteem that the idea that they have achieved something positive, or that they have portrayed a unique skill is unfathomable. It simply doesn’t gel with their negative self-image.

Young people that are grappling with low self-esteem don’t handle compliments well. They will say that they were just lucky or that they were only in the right place at the right time. Indeed, they will believe it. They have, unfortunately, blown their failures out of proportion so much so that it is deeply ingrained in their identity.

Now,

How do the students in your class react to your compliments? Are they proud, pleased and accepting of your praise or do they look uncomfortable and try to dismiss what you say? Do they deflect praise? Do they believe that they deserve to be acknowledged for their achievements?

A well balanced young adult might show modesty when they receive compliments, but if you realize that they genuinely distrust every compliment they are given, a deeper problem is at play.

‘It just happened.’ ‘I just ……’ ‘I only …’

Are there any young people in your classes that are defensive to a fault, believing everyone is out to get them? The moment they hear a ‘no,’ or a ‘but,’ they clam up. A young adult with low self-esteem finds it very hard to hear anything that they perceive as criticism because it reinforces their low opinions of themselves. They are touchy and take even light-hearted conversations to heart. They will strive to defend themselves even when the situation does not call for it.

Low self-esteem makes people hyper-vigilant that they will interpret any phrase, even a compliment, as a reproach. They will immediately begin to make excuses or explain themselves. Unfortunately, they will never grow if they do not learn how to accept constructive criticism.

If you notice that the young adult’s defensiveness is unhealthy, you need to have a discussion with them about criticism. Let them also have the right perspective: that some criticism is well intended to help them improve, while other types of criticism simply reflect poorly on the critic and they are best ignored.

‘Probably.’  ‘Most likely.’ ‘I may be right, but I am not sure.’  ‘I don’t know what to choose ….’ ‘Maybe …’

A child with low self-esteem finds it very difficult to make decisions. For them, it is more convenient to follow other people’s leadership. They find it challenging to speak for themselves or give their opinions. They also continuously question themselves.

Indeed, they would rather not have to make any decision about anything; at all. If they have to make a decision, they stress about it tirelessly, questioning and doubting themselves all the way. They also have a great fear of being wrong; so they instead use uncertain terms to ‘protect’ themselves.

‘I thought differently, but I agree ……’  ‘Everyone thinks so…’ All these phrases indicate someone who fears to express their personal opinion. They would rather agree with the views of a less incompetent person than risk expressing theirs.

Also,

They never argue!

Unfortunately, these young adults will never have an identity since only informed personal opinions make one a personality.

 

We cannot downplay the importance of high self-esteem for young people: having a good sense of self-esteem helps them to try new things, solve problems, take healthy risks and form meaningful relationships.

Our role in all of this

We cannot overemphasize the role of teachers in the formation of healthy self-esteem. Right from when the children are small, making them feel safe, valued and accepted makes them believe in themselves.

As they grow older, as teachers (and parents) keep encouraging them to try new things and utilize their skills, their self-esteem soars. Unfortunately, despite our best efforts, self-esteem may come more easily to some children than others. The good news is that even if a particular young person’s self-esteem is low, it can be remedied: with your help.

The problem-solving process starts with identifying the cause of low self-esteem. Once you have determined the cause, rectifying the situation is the easier (and even fun) part.

 

Read More from Chris: How to Build Self-Esteem in Children

 

Christopher teaches woodwork at the high school level and also runs the website TeachingWoodwork.com. He is passionate about helping the people (parents and teachers) around young people. You can see his latest projects and how he builds self-esteem in young people on his website.

 

,

Short-Term Gain for Long-Term Pain

Suppose you were offered the following choice:  $50 right now or $60 in six days. Which would you choose?

Now suppose you are offered $50 today or $60 in six months. Which would you take?

Your answer will likely depend on a number of factors, such as:

How hard up for cash you are.

Whether or not you’ve been given less than six months to live.

How much you trust the person offering you the money to return with it when he promises to.

And whether or not you believe you can invest the money and make more than the delayed option in the given timeframe.

Your choice will also depend on the fact that you’re human, and being human you likely prefer immediate gratification over delayed rewards. Although an extra ten bucks is an extra ten bucks no matter when it’s collected, robust research shows that most people take the smaller amount if they can have it now. Economists call this tendency to over-value immediate rewards at the expense of long-term intentions present bias.

Present bias explains why you’ve already broken your New Year’s resolutions. It’s why you blow up your monthly budget to buy that amazing purse during an Amazon Lightning deal. It explains why you destroy your diet when there’s a delicious pizza pie in front of you and also why you find yourself in a long line at the supermarket before dinner time with all the other procrastinators. It’s why one-third of Americans have nothing saved for retirement and why the average household owes about $7,000 in credit card debt.

Present bias also explains why good teachers get fed up and quit.

Short-Term Gain for Long-Term Pain

Suppose you are a principal who is offered the following choice: Help one child now or help many children over the course of 10 years? Which would you choose?

It seems obvious to help the many instead of the one and yet each year, thanks to present bias, principals do the opposite. They satisfy immediate needs at the expense of long-term benefits.

Beth Houf, principal of Fulton Middle School in Missouri and the coauthor of the book Lead Like a Pirate, once wrote that the reason great teachers are asked to do more is that’s what’s best for kids. She’s hardly the only administrator who believes this. And it’s hard to argue with such logic. When a needy student is right there in front of you, you’d have to be a monster to not want to help.

So principals move a struggling child from one teacher’s class into a more effective teacher’s room. They place more challenging students in the classroom of teachers who’ve mastered classroom management. They give the most competent educators the toughest intervention groups because those are the students who need the best instruction. They ask the most dedicated teachers to present at parent nights because they know those teachers will accept and that the presentation will go well.

They solve the problem in front of them without considering the long-term costs. They succumb to present bias. In doing so,  they make it more likely that their school and the future students who will attend it will suffer.

The Paradox of Success

In his book, Essentialism, Greg McKeown describes something he calls the “paradox of success.” For teachers, it works like this:

1. We start out focused on being the best teacher we can for our students. As young, overwhelmed teachers, we limit our efforts to what will make the biggest impact and we’re open to learning from others.

2. Because we are focused and always learning, we improve. Our success is noticed by our principals, who offer us additional opportunities. If successful with these, we become a go-to person who is offered even more opportunities.

3. The more we are asked to do, the less we’re able to focus on what led to our initial success. Our efforts are diffused as we are spread thinner and thinner.

4. We become distracted from our highest contribution, which is effectively teaching the students in front of us. We’ve undermined our own success by doing too much.

Some of this is on the teacher. Teachers need to get better at telling people no, which, not coincidentally, is the subject of my book, The Teacher’s Guide to Saying NOBut principals must also be aware of the dangers of the success paradox and present bias. Yes, your best teachers can help you solve your most pressing problems. Many of them will see your frequent dependence on them as a compliment and they won’t refuse your requests. But asking the same teachers to solve multiple problems will wear them out. It will make them less effective at their primary job. And it can, over time, drive them from your building.

I know a woman who was an amazing educator. She’d worked her way from teacher to principal of a Catholic elementary school in Wisconsin. Because she was so effective, she was asked to take on more responsibilities. Parents loved her, so she became the face of the organization. It wasn’t long before she was working 14-hour days while spending less and less time on her principal duties. She was relied on and she knew it. Her effectiveness became part of her identity, so much so that instead of admitting that she was overwhelmed and asking her boss for fewer responsibilities, she quit. Today, this talented educator works in a bank.

Combatting Present Bias

People have limits. That includes the most effective teachers. To keep them around for many years so they can help many students, principals should remember to fight present bias. They should hold off for the greater reward.

There are three ways they can do so. One study in Chile found that it wasn’t interest rates that worked best to compel people to save but peer groups and reminders. Those who announced their savings targets to others and set up text message reminders deposited money in their savings accounts 3.5 more often than those who were simply offered a higher interest rate. Principals who want to avoid overworking their best teachers can do likewise. Talk with other principals about what you’re intentionally doing to preserve your best teachers’ energy and set up frequent reminders or schedules so that you don’t return to the same people every time you have a problem that needs solving.

Forced commitments also work. One way to avoid giving in to present bias is to deny yourself the ability to act in the present. This is the concept behind automatic deposits and Christmas clubs. When the money isn’t there, you can’t spend it. By making it hard to access, you force yourself to delay gratification. Principals can force themselves to focus on the long-term wellness of their teachers instead of the short-term problems they want to solve by establishing rules for asking their teachers to do more. Keep a list of teachers who are already doing extra and forbid yourself from asking them to do more.

A third method is to imagine the future. In one experiment,  the faces of the participants were digitally scanned and altered to create a realistically aged version. Researches presented subjects with a hypothetical choice about their preferred retirement allocation. Those who saw the aged images of themselves chose to save more for their golden years. When tempted to approach your go-to teacher with a new problem for her to solve, stop and imagine your school without that teacher in five years. Picture yourself older. Envision a new batch of students.  Consider the problems that you’ll have to face and the very real possibility that there will be different people to solve them if you keep asking your best teachers to do more today.

 

Image source: Pixabay