It’s hard to believe that back-to-school season is here. Many districts around the U.S. are now in session and others will follow over the next several weeks. And given that the pandemic is far from over, educators will be on the front lines, helping families navigate stress and uncertainty while also executing curriculum, supporting students, juggling safety protocols, and managing their own wellness. We cannot underscore the need to prioritize wellness for educators enough. And we heard about the wellness tips educators need … directly from the source.
Last month we experienced the joy and magic of our first in-person professional development since the pandemic shut the world down in early 2020. The experience was designed to help educators understand the connection between wellness and work, to provide space for healing and rest, to offer opportunity for collaboration with other educators, to help educators understand the importance of creating antiracist, equity-centered classrooms, and to give educators practical teaching strategies and curriculum to support the voice, power, and leadership of every student.
Sound like a tall order? Perhaps, but we know that wellness for educators is a crucial yet often overlooked priority. Here are four wellness tips for educators … by educators, inspired by feedback from our participants.
Put wellness on the calendar
Back-to-school season is a busy time of year, which means it is crucial to block out and protect time on your calendar. One of our educators shared, “It had been a long time since I had scheduled self-care like that. I appreciated every moment of it.”
Take a few minutes today to block out wellness time on your calendar. Any time is better than no time so it could be periodic 15-minute walks during the week, a 10-minute meditation at the end of your lunch break, or something more involved like an hour at the beginning or end of the week to reflect or connect with a friend. In our Oakland backyard we are working on creating a weekly Friday afternoon gathering for educators to connect, process the week, and find joy.
As you build wellness time into your calendar, think about pace and how to find ways to prevent the feeling of being run ragged. “I appreciated having the opportunity to relax, focus, and connect in a professional environment. Most professional settings I engage in are ‘go, go, go’-focused, which does not leave much room to really think about the purpose of the information being disseminated and connection among participants,” shared one of our educators.
Tap into wellness that will help you get out of your head
Most people are familiar with the feeling of your mind racing on to-dos or overthinking a problem. And the reality is, being too much in your head makes it hard to think clearly. Educators appreciated the wellness elements of our program such as meditation and yoga that helped them tune into different modalities and breathing.
“I loved the meditation and the five elements workshop especially as the meditation allowed me to get out of my own head and give space for learning and healing. The five elements work was great because of the different modalities and the infusion of yoga practice,” shared one educator.
Connect with others
The African phrase “it takes a village” is well-known and matters especially for educators who will be holding so many concerns, logistics, and objectives for so many people during the school year.
One educator shared how the program fulfilled many things, including a sense of belonging: “All the discussions were rich and thought-provoking, the activities gave me ideas to bring into my own classroom and made me feel a sense of belonging in the institute, and the affirmations and mindfulness made me pause and reflect.”
Another participant felt connective power from both the participants and facilitators. “The group of women that I had the pleasure of joining for this institute were wonderful, but the connections and community would not have been possible without the intentional and thoughtful facilitation of Kendra and Catherine. I feel so empowered to take what I learned into my teaching.”
While so much is out of our control, the good news is that carving out little pockets of space for wellness and connection are crucial things over which we have agency. If we can give this to ourselves, then we can authentically teach the same to our girls. Thanks to people like Simone Biles and Naomi Osaka, we are already seeing the impact of a generation that values wellness and connection. Definitions of leadership now include words like “brave” and “authentic” and this evolution of what it means to lead will transform the lives of all our girls.