Keep That Bounce: 5 Ways to Nurture Your Resilience as a Teacher

Keep your head up!

Sponsored By Apperson

From the morning scramble to the final dismissal bell, teaching is high-impact and high-intensity work. As a special-education teacher,I’ll never forget the days that started out calm and quiet but quickly escalated with student temper tantrums and the frustration when a child said he “still doesn’t get it,” even as IEP meeting paperwork loomed. Those are the days when you have to breathe deep and draw from your reserves of energy, optimism and a good sense of humor.

Let’s face it, teaching takes resilience—the ability to “bounce back” from an unanticipated change or disaster. Fostering resilience will help you keep your head up as a new teacher and keep you going in the years ahead. The more you nurture your own grit and resilience, the more you’ll be able to help do the same for your students.

Here are five incredibly important pillars of resiliency and ways you can strengthen them:

Strengthen your school relationships.
It’s not how many relationships you have but how strong and stable they are. When our personal relationships, marriages and friendships are strong, we laugh more, feel more supported and are healthier. At school, mentoring a new teacher—or finding a strong mentor—improves confidence, increases motivation and builds optimism.

What You Can Do:
Nurture your relationship with your colleagues, especially the ones who really “get it.” If you are having a hard week, reach out to your coworkers. Prioritize a happy hour, group outing or Saturday movie night. Even a short coffee break in between lesson planning on a weekend can make an important difference.

Emphasize the positive.
The ideas we hold about ourselves, along with our values and core beliefs—create the foundation that we use to respond to change. When we approach the world positively, we’re better able to learn from mistakes, handle challenges and follow our instincts. Operating from the belief that you’re an important part of your students’ lives and that you can tackle whatever challenges come your way is important for your day-to-day resilience.

What You Can Do:
Take time to reflect on how you benefit your students’ lives as well as how teaching benefits you. Keep this front and center by writing those benefits on a piece of paper and putting it in a place where you’ll see it every day. That could be tucked into your right-hand desk drawer or on a Post-it on your computer. When you keep the reasons you’re teaching front and center, they’ll bolster your mood and confidence when you need it most.

Take the initiative.
In the face of challenge, resilient people act purposefully and creatively, often finding multiple solutions for any problem. As teachers, we’re masters at this. Think of all the ways you’ve solved disagreements between students or taught and retaught concepts. The ability to take the initiative through problem solving, laughter and setting limits translates into our being able to respond to change and handle difficult situations. In particular, by being able to take initiative in a way that’s meaningful for you, you’ll expand your impact on the people around you.

What You Can Do:

Try to reframe how you think and communicate your frustrations and it’ll impact how you feel. Rather than saying “I can’t reach this student,” reframe it as “I’m frustrated with how long it’s taking for the student to understand.” Saying “I can’t” puts up a roadblock, while identifying the frustration creates an opportunity to move forward.

Make time for laughter. Laughter is like a reset button: It reduces stress and helps clear our emotions. Take one week and jot down all the funny things that your students (or coworkers or parents) say. Then, in a moment of frustration, take out that list to reset your mood.

Keep priorities in focus.
Stay in the classroom long enough and you’ll be inundated with requests—everything from managing the book fair to spearheading a district committee.

What You Can Do:
During particularly busy times, or when you’re feeling overwhelmed, make a list of things you want to do (manage the book fair), things you have to do (enter course grades), things you can delegate (ask a parent volunteer to help organize the next Grandparents Day), and things you can stop (it’s not imperative that the kids have an extra quiz in math—let’s make that a practice sheet).

Keep emotions in check.
Self-control is the ability to manage our emotions in productive ways, so that we control our behaviors rather than letting our emotions run the show. The fifth time a student breaks a rule or the moments after you get a maddening report from your principal are the moments when self-control is most important. Controlling how you respond in that moment makes all the difference.

What You Can Do:
Think outside the box. Particularly for recurring frustrations, sit down either in a quiet space or with a friend and brainstorm: What is the problem? Who can you ask for help? How can you find humor in the situation? What new approaches can you try?

  1. by Samantha Cleaver
  2. This is the first blog in the three-blog series “Building Resilience in the Classroom.” Thank you to Apperson, our sponsor for this series.
  3. This blog article is adapted from Building Your Bounce from the Devereux Center for Resilient Children, a partner of Apperson in supporting teachers in integrating social and emotional learning into their classrooms. Learn more about Apperson’s support of social and emotional learning.