Sustain and Strengthen Your Calling

Around November of my 4th year of teaching, I knew I was burnt out. I was exhausted from the beginning of each day to the end, my lessons lacked their usual spark, and most importantly, I felt unable to connect to my students in an authentic way. "Joy factor" received the lowest rating in my most recent evaluation. Losing joy had repercussions for my classroom, my relationships with my students and my colleagues, and for my well-being overall. I turned to self-care practices rooted in mindfulness.

By taking a few moments during the day to breathe, center myself, and move intentionally, I was able to "wring out the sponge" of the stress I had absorbed. I could respond rather than react to my students. Unchecked stress wreaks havoc on our ability to focus, empathize, cope, or manage our emotions - a recipe for disaster for a teacher. Mindfulness offered tools to shift my approach and my mood.

By February, something had changed in my classroom. I was sending fewer students into the hall or to administration for behaviour issues, and I noticed I hadn’t had a “back and forth” with a student in weeks (a miracle for many high school teachers like myself). Nothing in my classroom had changed regarding behavior expectations or procedures, no new rules or fancy incentive systems were introduced. The only thing that had changed was me.

Here are some of the ways I easily integrated breath, movement, and focus - key components of Dynamic Mindfulness - into my day:

  1. In between classes, I took at least one minute to do a pose and breathe. Here is a resource for movement that might support you as well.
  2. During class, if I had a particularly challenging group or individual, I would take a moment to stand tall and take 3 intentional deep breaths before redirecting any behavior issues. This pause helped me reconnect with my thinking brain instead of reacting emotionally.
  3. During my lunch break, I always took at least ten minutes to lock my door, put away my phone, close my computer, and spend a few moments resetting through a quick Dynamic Mindfulness practice. This break also helped open up conversations about prioritizing self-care with students and other colleagues.