It’s stressful being a teacher.
This is a world that few others can understand. You’re essentially a stand-in parent to 20, 30—or in my case, 150—children for seven or eight hours of the day. It’s hard not to get overwhelmed by all the well-meaning questions from kids or the phone calls and emails from parents. You’re also processing dozens of emails a day from staff and administrators, in addition to lesson planning, grading papers, teaching, consoling students, and doing behavioral management.
At least a couple of times a year, I find myself sitting at my desk and just staring, wondering why I don’t try a different career—one will a lot less stress involved. In these moments of weakness, I find that I turn to my Emergency Teacher Toolkit (aka my reset button). These might be small items to many, but they’ve helped me get back on track time and time again.
I hope this inspires you to create your own emergency kit. Only you can know the best items to put inside—the things that will help ground you, inspire you, and give you hope. But feel free to borrow ideas, too. Here’s what I have in mine.
1. Healthy comfort food.
Raspberries and/or blueberries are my go-to fruits for a recharge. They have great antioxidants that refresh your immune system and build energy. Another good option for me is sour dried apricots. While a bit pricey, I literally salivate over this treat that’s full of potassium, fiber, and antioxidants.
2. Joy Binder.
I keep a binder full of thank you notes, silly notes, photos, and memories that students have shared with me over the years. This always warms my heart. Keeping track of their silly statements or questions is also pretty entertaining.
3. A Cup of Tea.
One of the best things I stash in my classroom is an electric teapot and some calming tea. My favorite choices are Yogi Honey Lavender Stress Relief tea, Numi Organic Chocolate tea, and Caramelized Pear tea from Art of Tea.
4. A Sad Movie.
This one you might want to save for when you get home. But I like to pick a movie that makes me cry. This is good for cathartic reasons. Releasing those tears for other sorrows make things really fall into perspective. I’m usually a sap for We Bought a Zoo, 50/50 and even Little Women.
Actually to be more specific, I prefer salty dark chocolate. I don’t need to elaborate here, but I just read a study that proves it actually lowers your blood pressure. So I’ll take that as another reason to indulge.
6. Lunch with a New Teacher.
The energy of someone who is new to teaching is infectious, and they can often give you a healthy new outlook on your class. A good teacher BFF can also provide this. But don’t overlook the importance of connecting with new teachers.
It sounds really simple, but it completely works. When a study was published recently about the calming effect of nature, I thought to myself—well duh! Greenery is calming and like a sedative to the anxious mind: refreshing and naturally comfortable, smells and all. My usual go-to places for nature include state parks, national monuments, and national parks. For me, the greener it is, the better. It doesn’t matter whether I’m on food or bike, this is my catharsis, my release, and my solution to an over sensitized mind.
Don’t forget to have copies of your toolkit in your desk and at home. Also, it’s a good idea to share your plan with a colleague. This way, they can help you know when and how hit that reset button. As teachers we know that one in five will burnout in their first five years of teaching—don’t let yourself be one of them.
Follow this teacher and her travels in nature on her blog.