Roughly halfway through my first year of teaching, I began lamenting the fact that there were very few practical resources for a first year teaching about life outside of the classroom. I began to compile a list of all the things that I felt a first year teacher should know going into one of the most difficult yet rewarding chapters of their lives. But, somewhere along the way I lost that list.
Regardless, going into my fourth year of teaching, I have picked up far more tips and nuggets of wisdom that I am alway eager to pass on to others. While I am far from a veteran teacher (usually still feel like a newbie) I am excited to pass on some of my keys to living a somewhat balanced life as a new teacher.
I was blessed to have the opportunity to attend Loyola Marymount University (Go Lions!), a Jesuit institution in Los Angeles. Prior to my first day of class, I had never heard of what a Jesuit was, I was simply drawn in by the promise of a good education, beautiful campus, and close proximity to the beach. Throughout my six years at LMU (undergrad and grad school) I was exposed to the concept of Cura Personalis. This philosophy is rooted in the idea of care for the whole person. In order to lead a healthy life one must seek to enrich the mind, body, and spirit of themselves and those around them. While Cura Personalis is clearly inspired by scripture (see 1 Corinthians 12:12) it is a beneficial paradigm for people from all walks of life. Regardless of your faith background, I have recognized that as a teacher, this care for the whole person is essential.
Taking Care of Your Mind
As a new teacher, it is overwhelming to dive into your subject matter and curriculum, pedagogy and classroom management techniques. Oftentimes, it can feel like there is no capacity for any type of learning that does not directly contribute to your teaching, and bingeing on Netflix is an easy stress outlet. While there is something to be said for destressing, it is equally important to continue to persist in the pursuit of knowledge and wisdom. By continuing to seek education in all of its forms, you not only benefit yourself, but also your students and school community. Pursue depth of knowledge in topics that you are interested in, even if it does not directly connect with what you are teaching. You never know when that comprehension may come in handy down the line. Below are a few suggestions for enriching the mind.
Taking Care of Your Body
As a teacher, you cannot continue your college lifestyle of staying up incessantly late to complete work, eat ramen on a daily basis, or rely on a flexible schedule to get yourself into the gym. It is crucial to consistently set aside time to exercise, at least three times a week. When I used to be extra motivated, I would get up at 4:30AM to head to the gym for an hour, but unless you are a natural morning person, it is difficult to sustain that. Nowadays, I typically head to the gym straight from work, changing at school before heading over so that I have no excuse to go home and get stuck there.
My other coworkers take 30-60 minutes each morning to go on a walk before work, which is great time for both exercise and reflection. Here are a few more tips for keeping yourself in shape:
Taking Care of Your Spirit
One of the most common complaints of new and old teachers alike is the constant feelings of never doing enough, feeling overwhelmed by their multitudes of responsibilities, and simply getting burnt out. Mental health and self-care as a teacher is essential, as it can be the difference between a two year teaching stint and a teaching career.
Taking care of your spirit can mean different things to different people, but it ultimately comes down to sensibly prioritizing your personal care needs in a vocation that asks you to put everyone before yourself. Try out the following resources to intentionally get away and give yourself some me-time:
The Importance of Community
I can say without hesitation that I would not still be teaching if it were not for the resilient support of my community that I have received from day one. Teaching can be a surprisingly lonely job when it is treated as such, especially if you do not have the benefit of having a tightly-knit staff.
Recently, I rediscovered the necessity of community when one of my students had an accident and passed away after several days in the hospital. During that time, I received support from my close friends, my girlfriend, my church community, all in addition to my staff and students themselves. Had I tried to handle this burden on my own, I would have quickly crumbled under the overwhelming weight of leading my students, and myself, through the tragedy. Unfortunately, there is not a good app for developing true and meaningful relationships in community. It requires you to be kind to others and take the initiative to get involved.
As a new teacher, it is important not to forget about maintaining a good work-life balance. Take care of your mind, body, and spirit and get involved with your community!