If you are often tagging #teachertired on your social media posts, then maybe it’s time you stopped joking about it and did something to change. Being tired is part of life, but if you are so tired that you cry in your car on a daily basis, then it’s time to break some bad habits.
This is not about judgment. This comes from love-because we have been there. We have cried in the car. We’ve stress eaten crappy food. We’ve taken out our tiredness on our family relationships. We’ve felt guilty for not being a good enough teacher, not being a good enough spouse, not being a good enough parent and not being a good enough cook (no one said it was rational). We often used humour to joke about how tired we were, but the real problem was that we kept letting it continue.
And we’re not going to let you do it anymore either.
This is your wake up call to end #teachertired.
Let’s break some habits that are causing you to keep living at your breaking point.
Boundaries-Where Are Yours?
If we had to guess, you don’t have many boundaries. It’s hard to have boundaries when you’re a people pleaser (and teachers are notorious for being people pleasers).
But frankly, if people are walking all over you, it’s your fault. Sorry, this is hard to hear. And we know it’s hard to hear because we needed to be slapped in the face a few times before it sunk in.
There’s a saying: Givers need to set limits because takers never do. We’re going to credit Irma Kurtz (because frankly lots of people have ripped this off and we had a hard time finding the actual origin) with this nugget of realness. Think about it. Takers take. They don’t care that it hurts you or your relationships.
You need to be your own boundary superhero. Be Boundary Hunter the Boundary Hero! Stand up to those time sucking leeches that make you cry in your car.
Here are some ways to start setting boundaries:
Parent Communication: set office hours that are reasonable. Maybe you’ll check email for an hour before or after school. The rest of the time you’ll answer it during your next available office hours. Set this up TODAY! Explain that you want to honour your students’ family time by not interrupting them in the evenings. In return, you’ll answer any emails outside of office hours the next you’re sitting down to the computer. Parents might be annoyed at first, but when they realize you aren’t at their beck and call all day and night, they suddenly stop sending you constant emails.
Also, if your school is saying you have to use your personal cell phone to communicate with parents-think about this-the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act. This allows any parent to see all communication about their child anytime. If this information (including photos) is on your phone, they have access to your whole phone. And they can “FOIP” you years after the student has left your school.
Ask your administration for a device to use for parent communication. It can be something you can email on or if your administration insists on text message, something you can text through without giving out your personal information (like Seesaw or Remind).
If this is not an option, explain to parents, that you cannot use your personal device so you will have to communicate by (school email, written notes etcs). Let your principal know that your personal phone is not available to be used at school. You may even need to leave it in your car. It’s worth it-remember-boundaries!
At home: You’d be amazed what a conversation with your family can do. Take a look at what you are doing for others in the home and what they are doing for you. Depending on the age of your children or who you care for in your home, can they be doing more on their own.
My mom did my laundry until the day I moved out. She was obsessed with laundry, ironing and all things folded, but I digress. So, once I moved out and went to do my first load of laundry, I didn’t even know where to start. I drove my laundry back home to get a lesson. That lesson would have been much easier when I was younger.
So, I taught my kids to do their own laundry when they turned thirteen. Did they ruin a few things? Yup. But, I went from doing fourteen loads of laundry every Saturday to three! That was eight hours of laundry! And as a side benefit they learned to not leave their clean clothes on the floor or that everything needs to be washed even if you wear it for thirty seconds.
Let your family help you with the things they can do. And let them do it wrong. It’s healthy. You’ll have more time and they’ll become more self-sufficient. Win-win!
If you’re looking for more ideas, you should read our post Save Your Time.
Comparison is the thief of joy.
If you look at social media and it makes you anxious because “look at everything I’m not doing!” STOP! I hate to ruin the magic of the gram, but you should know that it’s mostly staged, filtered, VSCO versions that are carefully crafted.
We know this because we are guilty of doing it, too. In fact, we don’t even show our classroom (partly for privacy reasons) because we don’t want to make anyone feel less than (not that you wouldn’t enjoy laughing at the mess).
So, if looking at Pinterest, Instagram or Facebook don’t inspire you, turn them off. Your mental health will thank you.
But, if you follow the right kind of people who are positive but realistic (hint hint-us) then social media can be a great place to connect with like-minded people. And there are great communities out there for real teachers to talk, but don’t get sucked into the “complain about your students/admin/classroom” drama. It’s just not worth it (and it can get you into trouble professionally).
Are You Being Manipulated?
In most jobs, when you do a good job, you get a pay raise or a bonus or the corner office. In teaching when you do a good job, you get more of the troubled kids, more responsibility or get put in charge of things (because you’re so good at it).
The wake up call for me was while I was sitting in my classroom at the end of the day. One of the more challenging students had torn the room apart and I was sitting at six o’clock a night trying to put the room back together so it wouldn’t upset the students the next day. I cried the whole time.
The next day I was called into the office and told how wonderful I was for how I’d handled the whole situation. I was told that I do such a good job with “these kids” that I should be rewarded. When I expressed that I could use a hand (no Educational Assistant support was provided in my classroom) with some of the challenging students, I was asked if I’d be interested in being an administrator.
When I looked into this further, it meant teaching my class as is (without any additional support) and I would have to write supply teacher plans one day a week as someone would be teaching in my class while I was working in the office (doing administrative tasks). There wasn’t a pay raise, but it would look good on a resume.
WHAT THE ACTUAL FUDGE?
More work, same pay, so I can go get a different job?
I politely declined. But of course other people thought I was crazy for passing up the opportunity. Remember this-if it’s not an opportunity to improve your life, then you’re probably being manipulated. Always take a look at what the other person is getting out of the arrangement (in this case, maybe it would appease me or they would get more administrative work done because I would be doing it?).
It’s ok to turn down opportunities if they are going to make more work for you.
Balancing Teaching With Personal Relationships
If you are blessed to have a teacher spouse that respects the fact there will be times you need to work later (concerts, report cards) then you are so lucky. Mr. Ninja understands there are four times of the year when I am too busy to be home every night for dinner (usually concerts or parent/teacher conferences).
If you don’t have someone at home who “gets it” you have to educate them about your responsibilities, but you also have to be honest with yourself.
Think about this: would you rather be making cute name tags and labeling your classroom library books or spending the evening playing a board game or watching a movie with your family? You picked spending time with your family, but you probably love making name tags.
It’s time to think about whether you’re putting things that don’t absolutely HAVE to be done above your family and friends. We know how hard it is. Especially when you’re so passionate about what you do, but the reality is that you can’t teach alone. You need your family to help you be a great teacher.
Make choices about what you have to do (planning, teaching, reporting), what you can delete (things that don’t HAVE to be done-cute name tags) and things you can delegate (what can you give to other people like volunteers/students to do-prepping materials or making pretty things-like those darn cute name tags).
Think of your time as a currency. Where do you want to spend it?
Is Everyone Else Before You?
Whether it’s working out, eating right, getting enough sleep or wearing clean clothes to work, are you making sure everyone else is taken care of before you?
Do you make sure the kids in your class have healthy snacks cut into the shapes of fossils so they match your science unit? Does your classroom match your shoes?
Are you going crazy doing it all?
Women naturally are caregivers (not to negate any male readers) and we’re raised to take care of everyone else. It’s in our DNA, but it’s slowly creating an unrealistic expectation that you should be able to do it all.
Nope. We’re all for feminism. That means you can do WHATEVER YOU WANT! If you want to get a nanny, or work part-time or stay home-you do you! And don’t let anyone tell you any different.
This applies in the classroom. You’re likely working fulltime and trying to raise a family (or maybe a fur baby) and if you’re like me you have wonderful in-laws that criticize you coming and going. Not working enough=not contributing to the family financially. Working fulltime=not a good enough parent.
There’s no winning, but the best thing we learned: other people’s opinions of you don’t matter. Who cares what they think?
It’s hard when nobody likes the people pleaser. We like you (don’t fall for that-it’s a trap!).
Stop worrying about what people will think if you put yourself first. Take care of you so that you are available to take care of others. You are worth it. And you are worth so much more if you are healthy inside and out.
Marie Forleo recently posted on her Instagram a quote that has stuck with us: If you don’t value your time, who will? We even wrote a whole post about doing less called Less is More: Teacher Wellness Strategies That Work.
Now is the perfect time to break some bad habits and put some new healthier ones in place. Don’t wait any longer. We have faith in you ninjas! Let us know how it’s going in the comments below.