How Teachers Can Fight Fatigue
Teaching, when done properly, is physically, mentally and emotionally exhausting. Fatigue is inevitable when you’re responsible for children who don’t have an “off” switch and always hope to be engaged, and you’re dealing with the relentless demands of crafting engaging lesson plans, grading papers and communicating with families.
You’re bound to find yourself dragging from time to time. Rather than ignore the signs that you’re growing fatigued — being in a bad mood, losing the ability to pay close attention, having little patience with people — it’s best to follow some simple steps.
Listen to your body
Long before you realize it, your body has great ways to tell you that you’re fatigued. A sore throat, feeling sluggish, having a tough time getting out bed, and restlessness when trying to fall asleep are all signs that something isn’t right.
Trying to get more rest, going to bed earlier and using the weekend to sleep a bit more are good strategies, but if the symptoms persist, go for a thorough checkup with your doctor. Another sign of fatigue is that it starts to seem like all the people you encounter are being unkind to you. If that’s the case, it’s not their fault. It’s yours.
Don’t be your own worse critic
The best teachers always work harder, do more than is expected and feel guilty when they take their foot off the accelerator. If you’re not feeling well and you’re emotionally drained, give yourself permission to slow things down a bit.
This doesn’t mean you walk away from your responsibilities, but rather that you prioritize what is important and take care of that first. Don’t be hard on yourself for lightening up a bit. Trust me, those around you like you best when you’re happy and healthy.
Take a technology sabbatical
Our always-plugged-in lives give many of us a special kind of technology fatigue. We tend to jump from Facebook to Twitter to email to Instagram to the next bright shiny thing.
Put the phone or tablet away. Make a deal with yourself to leave your phone in your work bag during the commute home. Use a regular alarm clock and leave your phone in another room. You’ll see almost immediate results.
Find the stash of old letters
One of the best pieces of advice I ever got as a new teacher was to keep an envelope filled with the cards and thank-you letters from students and parents. The idea was to turn to this stash of good news when times were tough.
Perhaps a child was giving me a particularly hard time, or the winter seemed to drag on forever. Pulling out the old pile of letters to read (and eventually share with my own children) was a great way to help recharge my flagging spirits.
A common axiom in the world of endurance racing is that it’s better to be 10 percent under-trained for a race than 1 percent overtrained. The idea here is that beating your body up to the point of breaking it down does not help you win races.
This same concept applies to teaching and fatigue. You will be far more effective if you lean toward being better rested, more positive and a better colleague than the grumpy, tired person who lives in the classroom down the hall.