By Susan Jerrell, TOFT Founder
Show yourself grace. Teachers are some of the most compassionate, forgiving people I have ever met. They nurture and care for classrooms full of kids daily. Teachers love and support their colleagues. They freely give others second chances and the benefit of the doubt. However, teachers are notoriously hard on themselves. It’s time to stop the unrealistic expectations and time to show yourself the same grace you show others.
Give yourself permission to show yourself grace
It’s okay to make mistakes
When your students make mistakes, you tell them it’s okay and that the purpose of making mistakes is so that they can learn from them. You encourage them to shrug it off, move on, and not let it make them feel bad.
However, when teachers make mistakes the instinct for many is to blame themselves and to feel like they aren’t doing a good job. But here’s the truth, you, like your students, are not perfect. Everyone makes mistakes, and it’s okay.
It turns out that students are very forgiving when you do make a mistake, especially if you admit it. It makes you human, and students like humans. In fact, it is often a relief for students, especially when you admit the mistake to them. When you make a mistake, model for your students how to try again. You are teaching them resilience and learning that yourself.
You tell your students that mistakes show they are trying and learning. It is important that you set realistic expectations for yourself. The next time you make a mistake, don’t dwell on it. Accept it, correct it if you can, and move on.
Feel your true emotions
Teachers are not robots. You have emotions and feelings, like everyone else. Sometimes you have a bad day. Accept that you are not having a good day and go with it. How you respond to those feelings can be a teachable moment. Students are watching and learning from everything you do.
Do you want students to cover up their emotions or do you want them to learn how to function in spite of those emotions? They learn emotional behavior from watching it. If you are feeling sad, it’s okay to tell them. You don’t need to burden them with the details, a simple comment like, “I’m feeling sad, tired, frustrated… (fill in the blank) today, but this is what I am going to do about it…” can go a long way to helping you acknowledge your feelings and allowing students to learn how to regulate their own emotions.
Most students, by nature, are empathetic and understanding. They are also very intuitive, and they will quickly pick up on the vibe you emit, even when you think you are hiding it well. Your modeling will give them permission to share or embrace their own emotions.
It is also important that you show yourself the grace to feel those emotions fully. Whether it is with a colleague, a friend, a spouse, a good cry in the car on the way home ,or a three mile run, get those emotions out so you can move one. And don’t feel bad for feeling them. Remember you are human and humans feel.
Embrace your hot mess
Some days you just don’t have your act together no matter how much you try. Maybe you left your laptop at home, forgot your lunch, locked your keys in the car, overslept and arrived late to school.
You know what it’s like on those days you’re just a hot mess. You feel frazzled, anxious, and out of sorts. You’d really like to go home to hide under your blankets or at the least get a do-over.
This is when you need to take a deep breath and show yourself grace. Tell yourself, “I am far from perfect, but I’m here and doing my best today!” Small affirmations can go a long way in boosting your mood and overall outlook.
Also, remember students do not expect perfection, and when they see you are not perfect, it gives them permission to not be perfect. This relieves a lot of stress from all of you. Just admit to them what is going on and laugh with them about it. This will make you feel better and them too.
Allow yourself ‘me time’
Teachers have a natural instinct to be nurturers. The result is that you often take care of everyone else, and rarely give yourself permission to take time for yourself.
The truth, however, is that you need that me time. Show yourself grace and take the time to take care of you. Self care is not selfish or indulgent. It is necessary so you can continue taking care of others. So before you feel guilty about taking time for yourself, remember you are refilling your cup so you can continue pouring out to others. You not only deserve it, you need it.
Another important aspect of allowing time for you is to set boundaries between work and home. Many times, teachers’ own expectations are to do everything they can to help their students. Often that means blurring the time you devote to your work life and the time you set aside for your personal life.
This article give 5 helpful ways to set work boundaries. It is important to remember that no one realistically expects you to work 24/7, so you should not expect it from yourself. Teaching never ends, so no matter how hard or long you work, you will never be done. Give yourself the grace to stop work and set aside time away from school.
Remember teachers, show yourself the grace you show others. You need to treat yourself with the same love and respect you show others. The next time you are beating yourself up, remember that you are a teacher doing the best you can, and that is good enough.