7 Things to Keep Teachers Happy

Being a teacher does not come stress free. With the pull down of troubling students, standardized tests, criticism from parents, and pressure from administrators, we all need some ways to deal with the stress. Here are 7 things (in no particular order) that I do to keep me happy and revived each day for my students.

I know what you're thinking, "I need to plan for next week! I need to catch up on grades! I have to prep centers!" Yes, you do. But not on the weekend. (I will discuss how to get everything done during the week in a moment!) There is a reason the work week has two days off. Use them. Take care of the work you have to do around the house, sleep in and have a lazy Sunday morning, spend time with you kids, go to your local farmers market . . . I could go on and on. The point is, use your weekends to relax and take care of yourself. Staying happy is important for you and your students. Getting burnt out during the school year is not helpful for anyone. It only gives you gray hairs, early wrinkles, and unwanted stress. I don't know about you, but I have yet to drink from the Fountain of Youth. So use your weekends to enjoy life outside of your career.

These people are your lifeline and you need them. Everyone (no matter what field they are in) needs their close circle of support of family and friends. A great way of building a habit out of keeping in touch with those who care is to, for example, make a set day such as Tuesday evening or Sunday afternoon to set aside time with a certain group of friends or family members. I, for one, have a "Sunday Night Blues" evening with my brother, which helps my Monday mornings immensely. If you happen to have family or friends long distance then make it a priority to set aside time for those precious phone calls. Some of my best friends live across the country and my time on the phone with them is absolutely necessary. Also, don't be afraid to vent to these people, that is what they are there for, aside from talking gossip, sports, politics, or what ever fancies your interest. But even more importantly to take from all of this is to make spending time with family and friends enjoyable.

During special trip to Crater Lake in Oregon with close friends of mine, I got to share their child's first camping trip experience. Making time for these moments are important to staying happy. After all, life is about memories and moments, not hours spent shuffling through papers, planning, and answering emails that can wait.

This is an important one. Make a time that you will leave your classroom every single day. For example, I will not stay in my classroom past 4:00 PM. And keep to it. The only acceptation, of course, may be that once in a while necessity to attend an after school IEP or 504; but nonetheless you will be amazed how much work you will get done with a time limit and soon it becomes natural.

Keep a small routine in the morning to help you feel more organized and ready for the school day. Each morning when I wake up the first thing I do is push the button on my coffee machine then feed my dog and cat. My routine continues in the morning and as soon as I know it I am ready for school. Having a small morning routine makes my morning pleasant and allows me to feel more relaxed when the bell rings and students pile into the classroom.

This is a no brainer but I know so many teachers who are not active. Moving your body releases endorphins which relieves stress, which of course is healthy. Now when I say be active it does not necessarily mean you need to go run for continuous miles daily, climb Mt. Everest, or swim until your body is shredded. Instead, start simple and build yourself up. Take a walk for 30 minutes after dinner, find a community yoga class, or join a gym (most gyms give educator discounts and you can bring some coworkers!) Exercise is one of my biggest stress relievers. It keeps me happy. Developing the habit is undoubtedly difficult, but once the habit is engraved in the Stone of Daily Routine, you'll feel great.

Again, I am lucky to live in the Phoenix area where there are mountains in my backyard. On the weekends there are endless options for me. Don't think I summit these peaks each day, although during the fall and spring I may; but even taking my dog for a walk or stepping outside for fresh air for ten minutes helps me stay happy.

Don't use the excuse, "I don't have time for a hobby!" Yes, you do. You don't need to spend hours in your hobby everyday, even just 15 minutes a day of enjoying an activity will boost your mood. For example, find a cozy book to read before bed, enjoy cooking dinner and experiment with new recipes, go camping for a weekend, or practice a new sport; at least then you're killing two birds with one stone with exercise. Even browsing Pinterest for 20 minutes can be a stress reliever. I may be guilty of spending hours browsing Pinterest... Whatever it is find a hobby or something you enjoy and do it often.

Cooking is a great stress release for me each day. On the weekends I get to spend more time in the kitchen whipping up something special.

No excuses here. Be outside each day. Living in Arizona this is easy for me as there is good weather year round. But I did grow up in Chicago and you can still be outside everyday, just bundle up in the winter. Go outside with your children, go for a run, take the dog to dog park, or simply sit in a park with a book. There are endless options for being outside which will increase your mood and overall happiness. And that's what matters most -- your happiness!

I would love to hear from you! What are some things you do to help combat the stress of teaching to stay happy?

Happy Teaching!


How Gardening Changed our Classroom Community

Building a strong foundation for a welcoming classroom community is imperative to every classroom. As teachers, we all know this, but how do we reach the highest level of a successful classroom community? As individual and talented teachers we all have our different strategies, tips, and tricks. Most of these are activities done in the beginning of the school year. Laying out expectations, norms, routines, and practicing character building skills. However, building a strong classroom community is a year long process, it never stops.

One thing that has helped the community in my classroom is taking part in a community garden. My class and I are fortunate enough to be at a school that has this as a resource.

Visiting the community garden provides an opportunity for our class to work together in a real life situation, plus it gives us an opportunity to be outside! Working in the garden allowed students to work with their hands to produce something tangible such as vegetables and fruits. 

Students always brought out their Garden Journals each time we visited the garden to record progress of their plants. (Yay for informative writing!) 

You can find this Garden Journals by clicking here or on any of the pictures.

These Garden Journals helped students understand the different stages plants go through while growing and having a deeper understanding of the plant life cycle. Students loved seeing and feeling the differences from week to week. They were able to work together and share what observations they made. Ah... students working together.

You can find this Garden Journals by clicking here or on any of the pictures.

Seeing progress in a project students worked on together gave my classroom a feeling of accomplishment. Students were proud not only of themselves, but of each other also.

Not only did students study plant life cycles, but we had to work together to decide where each vegetable would be planted and how to go about planting. This was good review for plant parts and needs. After making a plan, students were able to draw out a map of our garden bed.

You can find this Garden Journals by clicking here or on any of the pictures.

Students were able to record observations at their level. Some students drew all pictures, some wrote phrases, while other students used complete sentences. Again, this was  time students were able to work together and help one another.

You can find this Garden Journals by clicking here or on any of the pictures.

After a week or two of having our gardening routine I noticed a different energy in our classroom. I saw students helping one another, I heard students using words of praise, and I noticed less playground issues.  I attribute this to students being able to successfully work together on a project that was their own.

I would love to hear from you about how you keep classroom community strong through the school year!

Happy Gardening!

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