10 Years of Teaching: How Do I Keep My Sanity?

Five years ago, I wrote a series of seven articles called “Questions That Will Save Your Career” that still remain among the most visited articles on this site. When I wrote those, I had successfully completed my 5th year in education. This summer, after 10 years, I am revisiting some of these older concepts. Today, I revisit How Do I Keep My Sanity?

  1. How Do I Keep My Students Quiet?
  2. How Do I Keep My Students Engaged?
  3. How Do I Keep My Students Interested?
  4. How Do I Keep My Students Learning?
  5. How Do I Keep My Students Away From Me?
  6. How Do I Keep My School Administration Happy?
  7. How Do I Keep My Sanity?
  8. 10 Years of Teaching: How Do I Keep My Students Quiet?
  9. 10 Years of Teaching: How Do I Keep My Students Engaged?
  10. 10 Years of Teaching: How Do I Keep My Students Interested?
  11. 10 Years of Teaching: How Do I Keep My Students Learning?
  12. 10 Years of Teaching: How Do I Keep My Students Away From Me?
  13. 10 Years of Teaching: How Do I Keep My School Administration Happy?
  14. 10 Years of Teaching: How Do I Keep My Sanity?

Don’t you ever fear that you’re going to burn out?
Burnout is a real threat to teachers. That’s why there are articles like these on this site:

Clearly burnout is a major factor with teaching. So it’s vital for teachers to take proactive steps toward maintaining (or reclaiming) their own sanity. Five years ago, I suggested the following:

  1. Eliminate clutter
  2. Eliminate distractions
  3. Set office hours
  4. Find something else that you enjoy, and do it
  5. Make friends outside of education
  6. Give
  7. Read 25 Tips For Less Stress

    To these, I would like to add:

  8. Take some days off
    One band director I worked with told me that her principal had advised everyone on staff to take a “mental health day” once a month. As hard as it is to pull away from the classroom sometimes, it’s vital for your mental health to do that. We all get behind on personal business from time to time. Take a day to pay bills if you need to and get back on target. Or to get the oil changed in your car or just to go get a professional massage. Whatever it is for you, take a day to take care of you.

    The kids will be rude to the substitute. The sub won’t follow your lesson plan. Your classroom will be out of order. Your desk will be moved. Nobody knows what happened to the goldfish. Be ready for it. Here’s where the next key comes in…

  9. Don’t take things personally
    Kids are kids and kids will act like kids from time to time because kids are kids. No kidding. Even the most mature 12-year-olds occasionally act like 12-year-olds. Go figure! Don’t take their immaturity personally. They are just being who they are. And that’s okay. Your boss didn’t assign you bus duty on Friday afternoon because she doesn’t like you. It’s just how things happened. Deal with it and move on. It’s not personal. And if it is, the only way it works is if you take it personally.
  10. Detox
    I realize a lot of teachers cannot leave their work at work or else they would never see their house. But if you must take your work home, at least have one clean room! One place you can go where work doesn’t follow you. Maybe a nearby lake or forest too. Whatever works, but get away and spend some time with your self. Sometimes. Not all the time.
  11. Lighten up
    One of the best pieces of advice I was ever given was during my sixth year when I was working at a new campus with a much more experienced band director. Very often he would just tell me, “Lighten up, Joel.” I don’t know that there is one specific thing I did, but overall I lightened up. And ya know what happened? The kids started responding better to me. It’s sort of the culmination of many other tips and tricks and you finally just let go and lighten up. And things begin to flow. Try it this year in one area where you struggle. Don’t check email all the time. Don’t answer the phone while you’re teaching. Be more patient with your kids. Something. LIGHTEN UP and see what happens!
  12. Work out
    Whatever it is, do some sort of physical activity regularly. Even if it’s just going for a hike or walk. Something is better than nothing. And the endorphins seem to give you much more clarity in your mind.
About Joel Wagner 522 Articles
Joel Wagner (@sywtt) began teaching band in 2002. Though he had a lot of information, his classes were out of control. He found himself tired, frustrated, disrespected by students, lonely, and on the brink of quitting. He had had enough. He resigned from his school district right before spring break of his second year and made it his personal mission to learn to be a great teacher. So You Want To Teach? is the ongoing story of that quest for educational excellence.

1 Comment on 10 Years of Teaching: How Do I Keep My Sanity?

  1. Personally, I've only begun to unwind and relax after years in the profession, teaching secondary school children.

    I found it difficult to switch-off; the daily workload was always extendable; there was always more work that could be done — I wanted to be the best teacher I possibly could. I'd say, only in the last two years have I begun to find the solution to this problem. There are three things that I found to work well:
    – Separate room: I finally got round to clearing out the spare room and turning it into a study. I set a certain amount of time each day aside, that is study and reading time. All reading, study and schoolwork is confined to the study; nothing leaves that room.
    – Vitamin and rejuvernation pills: I don't know if it's a placebo affect or not, but it works for me. Since I started using the <a href="http://www.buyrevidox.com/">revidox anti-aging pill</a> and other vitamins tablets, I've managed to feel refreshed after long days in the classroom;
    – Hit the gym: Each day I hit the gym before and after work. I also play rugby on a Saturday. This allows me to get my aggression out, hang around with different people and totally switch-off into another world for a short period of time. A hard work-out or game, allows me to totally forget about all the other problems in the world– I recommend this especially.

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