What to Do in the Summer: Academics

With summer vacation quickly approaching, this is the time of year when we tend to get many questions from parents about what academics should be done over the summer. We are big proponents of letting summer time be a time for play, fun, relaxation, and exploration. This can be a great opportunity for kids to explore new things, discover a passion, focus on another interest or develop a talent.

If a child is struggling and needs more support in a particular subject, we would suggest doing some academics. However the only time we would suggest getting any kind of tutoring is only when it is actually needed. There should be no rush or pressure to be ahead in school. Depending on the child, it might actually take the joy out of learning and that would be a shame.

If a child ends up being ahead naturally and is really interested in a particular subject, that’s great. You can definitely support them in this area without pushing them or MAKING them do extra work they do not want or have to do. In this case, the child should be driving it and you are either letting them do their thing or finding ways to support their curiosity.

There are things that kids can do to practice skills that are fun and rewarding for them. The key is to keep it light so that it doesn’t seem like work.

Reading

Summer is a great time for kids to discover new interests, and reading is a great place to discover new passions. Kids should learn early on that reading isn’t only for school. Reading for pleasure can be a wonderful, and good for the soul, free time activity. Going to the library and checking out books with your child is a great way to promote reading during the summer. Checking one out for yourself to read will demonstrate to your child that reading is fun, not a chore.

Journaling

It is great for kids to learn how to journal at a young age. They can write about their summer adventures, add in pictures, illustrations, or make it into a scrapbook. Not only will they learn to and begin to reflect on their day, but it allows them to practice their writing skills. While you should tell them to just write and not worry about spelling and punctuation, the more practice they get with writing the more they will grow as a writer.

Writing letters

Writing letters to family members that live in another place could be a fun activity, especially if they were expecting a letter back in the mail. If you go on vacation, you can have them write postcards to their friends or teachers. Again this is a fun way to promote, support, and build writing skills.

Things you can do in moderation

Practice Multiplication Facts

Multiplication facts are often introduced in 2nd and 3rd grade. It is helpful for children to practice multiplication facts during the summer so that they do not forget them and to keep the momentum going as they transition into the next grade. There are a variety of ways to help children practice and memorize multiplication facts. Practicing with flashcards a couple of times a week is one way, but there are also apps that make it more game like. Keep in mind that it is easier and more fun to practice these for 15 minutes a day than for 1 hour once a week.

Review

A little practice of more complex mathematical concepts, such as long division, multiplication, or fractions, whose algorithm is new to students or consists of multiple steps might be beneficial for students for whom these proved to be challenging during the school year. We only ever recommend it as a way to strengthen their math skills and return to school in September with better understanding and more self confidence in math.

Overall, summer should be about rest and relaxation. While a little bit of practice here and there is a good idea, if your child is having a blast at summer camp, a relatives house, at the beach, or anywhere your family decides to spend summer, do not stress about academic summer work.

Our big motto is that everyone should strive for balance. Summer brings great balance to children. The school year is long and full of lots of learning, responsibilities, sport games and practices, and projects. Let children have the summer to be children, eat ice cream, dig holes, swim, play and climb. Those are the main homework assignments we assign our students at the end of the year, and that is what they need to be doing during summer.

Parent Involvement

Unlike any other time in history, parents have access to so much information on parenting and children. They want to make sure that they are doing a good job as parents and that their children are thriving. To do so, many parents are incredibly involved in every aspect of their child’s life. Some researchers call this style of parenting “intensive parenting,” and it is a common form of parenting among upper-middle-class households. According to an article in The Atlantic, intensive parenting includes “Supervised, enriching playtime. Frequent conversations about thoughts and feelings. Patient, well-reasoned explanations of household rules. And extracurriculars. Lots and lots of extracurriculars.”

There does seem to be some positives in this style of parenting, and we understand why many aspire to achieve this level of involvement in parenting. However, as we have written in previous posts before, our jobs as parents and teachers is to raise and educate children who will grow up to be strong, resilient, balanced, well adjusted adults. As you can probably imagine, living a life where your parents constantly step in to solve all troubles, problems, or issues as a child causes some trouble as children grow into adulthood.

This level of parental involvement has begun to reach the business sector as young adults begin their careers. In the New York Times Article When Helicopter Parents Hover, Even at Work, “Within that group of employers, more than 30 percent reported parents submitting a résumé for their children; 15 percent reported fielding complaints from a parent when the company didn’t hire their child; and nearly 10 percent said parents had insinuate themselves into salary and benefit negotiations.” These parents are submitting resumes for, sitting in on interviews, and calling employers on behalf of their adult child to negotiate salaries and promotions. It sounds absurd, but it is happening today.Adults have to be responsible for a variety of things and life is full of surprises, conflicts, and obstacles that they have to navigate and work with. Unless children learn how to deal with and work through the bumps in the road then they will not know how to do this as adults. Thus they will have to rely on parents to continue to solve issues for them.

During childhood, intensive parenting includes constant communication with teachers, yearning to know every little thing that happens in class, supervising all recreational activities, scheduling and attending all extra curricular activities, and wanting to control every social situation that their child encounters. Again, we wholeheartedly understand why this appeals to parents. Parents are charged with caring for and raising someone who is quite literally the sun and the moon to them. We get it. They want to make sure that their child is doing fine, is happy, and thriving across all situations. But if an adult is always present in the life of a child doing everything for them, solving all their conflicts, and speaking on their behalf, then how will the child learn conflict resolution, coping mechanisms, responsibility, and independence that they will need as adults? Children will grow up, and it is up to us to teach them the tools to use when they reach adulthood. If we, as parents and teachers don’t do this, then we have failed them.

Here are a few things we can do as parents and teachers to help our children develop the tools they will need as adults.

1) Let children attempt to solve their social conflicts

Social dynamics are hard for everyone. Children will struggle with friendships and collaboration. That is normal. Before you step in and take charge of a situation, allow your child to try to talk it out with their peers. Children are very good about speaking about their feelings with others, listening to each other, and mediating conflicts. They might need a mediator, so you can let the teacher, coach, or counselor know in case they are needed. Letting children talk, and figure out social dynamics with their friends on their own might be uncomfortable for them, but it’ll help them gain the experience to be able to navigate social dynamics as they grow into adulthood. Not all relationships are perfect, and they need to learn how to navigate them.

2) Give children free unplanned time

21st century children are constantly being stimulated by technology, intensive reading programs, flash cards, and many extracurricular classes. This is so much so, that many children often struggle with being bored. They do not know what to do when they have nothing to do. Sometimes it is good to not have a schedule, plan, or device readily available. Giving children some time to do whatever they want will help develop their creativity and bring balance in their life. We highly recommend it!

3) Teach children to talk to the teacher themselves

Children as young as 5 can, and should, speak up for themselves. If there is an issue in the classroom, let your child talk to the teacher. If they have a question about an assignment, don’t understand a concept, would like to discuss their grade, or would like to share a thought or opinion, encourage them to speak to their teacher.  If they are on the younger side, we recommend an email before hand or as a follow up to make sure that they did indeed speak to the teacher and what the conversation yielded. However, having children stand up for themselves allows them to learn how to speak to authority figures. So that when they grow up, they are able able to speak, negotiate, and stand up for themselves in the workforce.

Of course we are firm believers in balance. Although children need to learn the tools to collaborate, resolve conflicts, speak up for themselves, and be independent by trying, and possibly failing, with using different techniques, they will still need parent and teacher support to guide them. We also understand that children need support from the caregivers in their lives. Parents can always communicate to teachers and let them know that they want to partner with them to help support their child in learning independence and responsibility. Teachers are always willing to partner in this endeavor, as it is their goal too.

Resources:

Social Class, Gender, and Contemporary Parenting

Being left out hurts: Moms, stop ‘social engineering’

‘Intensive’ Parenting Is Now the Norm in America

http://ceri.msu.edu/publications/pdf/ceri2-07.pdf

Why are Teachers Quitting?

It seems that more and more we are reading articles and seeing in media reports that teachers are leaving the teaching profession more than ever before. According to the Wall Street Journal, teachers are quitting at record numbers. In the span of a year, one million teachers made the decision to leave the classroom. We are personally seeing and feeling this along with our colleagues.

The question often asked is why is this happening? We will tell you why we think this is happening. The teaching profession in the 21st century burns you out quickly. It does not matter whether you work in a public, charter, or independent school, teaching is hard and the demands and expectations placed on teachers coupled with low pay and lack of respect makes different professions more appealing.

The astounding thing about this recent trend in teachers leaving the profession in high numbers and early on in their careers, is that it seems to be a rather new phenomenon. Think back to your school days, we would guess that you probably had teachers whom had been teaching 15, 20, maybe even 25 years. Even as far back as when we began our careers, our mentors had been educators at the same school for 15-20 years. These experienced educators, whom we learned so much from, were tired and ready for retirement, but they did not appear to have the exhausted burnt out feeling that many teachers feel today. They and their counterparts were not leaving teaching at the rates of today.

So, the real question is: what is so different today than teaching in the recent past?

We asked a few of our teacher friends, and this is what they said:

Administration

  • Out of touch administrators
  • Administrators who value parents over teachers
  • Constant internal communication and no action
  • Not asking teachers for their opinions before implementing new policies or curriculum
  • No priorities, just long to-do lists
  • Unrealistic responsibilities placed on teachers
  • No support in the classroom with behavior issues
  • Lack of school psychologist or therapists
  • Large class sizes
  • Limited Prep Time
  • No breaks during the day
  • Possibility of being laid off
  • Leadership tends to be reactive rather than proactive
  • Pressure to teach to the test
  • Lack of autonomy


Parents

  • Over involved parents (AKA Lawn Mower Parents)
  • Constant access to teachers through email
  • Mean emails from parents
  • No boundaries
  • Callout culture

Kids

  • The effects of technology on this generation of children
  • Disrespect from students

Other things to consider

  • Low Wages
  • Lack of respect from society
  • Emotional stress that never leaves us

Teachers have always had to balance students, their parents, and administration. However, it use to feel that the accountability was placed on the child if a challenge came up at school. Teachers, parents, and administrators would work together to come up with a plan to support students with their challenges. These days it feels like there has been a shift in this dynamic and much of the accountability is placed on teachers. This shift has left teachers in a position to constantly try to please parents, even if it means going against what we know is right for our students. While many parents are supportive and truly want to partner with teachers, the over involved parents can make it very challenging and unpleasant. Relationships with parents can make or break a school year for a teacher.

If schools want to retain great teachers, we need strong administrators who believe in balance and boundaries. We need strong leaders that have experience being teachers themselves. We need them to set clear expectations for teachers and have boundaries with parents. We need to have office hours so there isn’t constant access through email on nights and weekends. We need administrators who trust us and support us when a challenge comes up. We need to have priorities rather than a never ending to-do list. We need to have realistic expectations and fair compensation.

Teaching has always been a hard job. However, in the 21st century the demands placed on teachers without the respect or economic compensation that equates the immense and most important work done by teachers is too much. Unless there is a paradigm shift in society in regards to teachers, we are going to continue to lose wonderful educators in our classrooms.

Mentor Teachers

We all began our journeys in education as assistant teachers. It was a great way to get our feet wet, experience a real classroom, and understand what teaching was really like. Our experience in this position was absolutely wonderful. Not just because it gave us the passion for teaching, but because we were learning from master teachers for a few years before we became lead teachers. When the time came for us to take charge of our own class, we were more prepared for the challenges of teaching because of our mentors. We were lucky enough to be surrounded by teachers who had decades of experience and still had the passion and spark for teaching. They showed us that they also respected us as educators and believed that we too had something to offer.

Always remember that it is okay to ask for help, to not have all the answers, and to seek advice from others. You don’t get an award or a bonus at the end of each year that states you “did it all alone.” Just as we encourage our students to learn and grow from each other, it is just as beneficial to learn and grow from your mentors and colleagues. It is essential as a teacher to seek knowledge and growth. To do it often and without hesitation will benefit you as a teacher and person and will also benefit all the students you teach.

Quite often it is easy to disregard older or more experienced teachers, as outdated and old fashioned. While we are sure that there are some teachers that are, for the most part, experienced teachers have a wealth of knowledge and experience that a novice teacher can benefit from. These are the people that have already walked the path that you are in. Chances are they have dealt with that student behavior, given that assessment, or had that challenging parent. They have experienced many administrators and can advice you on how to deal with a challenging one. They know what to expect and they can give you advice on how to deal with challenges that arise. Our mentors never disregarded us as inexperienced and naive and that made it all the more comfortable to go to them when we needed advice or wanted to bounce an idea off of them.

Teachers with a lot of experience also have great project ideas that they have done in their classes over the years. We still use some of the projects that our mentors created and left to us to use in our own classrooms. Some have been updated for 21st century skills, and they are still engaging and relevant. Both parents and students love them. Experienced teachers also have classroom management systems that they have been developing and perfecting for years. Use these! One of the best things is having systems in your classroom that really work. Why spend time creating everything from scratch, when you know great people that have great systems? Of course you will think of great things too along your teaching journey that you can pass along to others.

At this point in our career, we are now considered experienced teachers. Something that we still cannot believe! However, we absolutely love helping and mentoring new teachers. We try to make ourselves available to new teachers, support them, advise them, and sometimes even console them.

Teaching is a wonderful and challenging career, and having someone who has walked in your shoes is so incredibly helpful. We will never forget all the teachers who mentored us, even today in our classes, we feel their energy and continue to share their ideas with our students. Find great mentors and never let go!

Teaching Children Self Care

A few weeks ago, we posted a blog on Balanced Children. We want to revisit this idea with a specific focus on how to teach self care to children. Just as parents and teachers need to practice self care for their own benefit, we also need to teach kids how to CONSISTENTLY and INTENTIONALLY engage in self care activities. Teaching kids how to take care of themselves now, will equip them with the tools they need later. Kids need to learn how to manage stress in healthy ways.

Exercising

Encourage movement any chance you get! You don’t need to put your child in every after school sport for them to get exercise. You can encourage and model exercise in ways that don’t cost anything. Take walks, ride bikes, go on a hike. Encourage kids to dance, jump rope, roller skate, and hula-hoop. They also have free websites that encourage movement like GoNoodle and plenty of free kids movement videos on YouTube. Modeling the fun in exercise and movement for children will set them up to continue the practice as they grow up.

Laughter

Find every opportunity to laugh with your children. Laugh when things are great, but also try to find laughter when things go wrong. Children are going to make mistakes and if you laugh with them when they make simple mistakes like accidently spilling their milk, they will be less stressed about always having to get everything right and will be more open to taking different risks.

Encourage them to play fun games that make them laugh. Here is a great list of games that encourage laughter from Deep Fun. We also found a great list of board game that the entire family can enjoy from Toy Notes.

Reading

Help your children find books that they enjoy. Of course we want our kids to read “educational” books too. However, finding a book, an author, or series that your child enjoys to read for pleasure is wonderful for children.  If your child is reading something that they are interested in, then it is making them feel good. Reading for fun is a great way to help kids manage stress. It is pretty easy to setup a little cozy reading space with pillows, blankets and some of their favorite stuffed animals. There is nothing like forgetting the stressors of the day by getting lost in a good book.

Teach Mindfulness

There has been a big buzz around this word “mindfulness” in education and business recently. Mindfulness helps teach kids how to regulate their emotions. It can improve their ability to pay attention, can help them calm down when they are upset, and can help them make better choices. There are apps and websites that lead you through short mindful moments. Head Space is one of those options. They even have a series for kids. We have used these in the classroom, and students and teachers alike enjoy the mindful moments.

Mindfulness isn’t something you should force and definitely shouldn’t be used to punish kids when they have done something negative. Our advice is to keep it simple and help your children develop an awareness of thoughts, how their body is feeling, and what is happening around them at different moments. Often times, it seems like we (not just kids) are always wanting to focus on what is coming next. It is important to teach kids an awareness of what is happening right now.

Another component of mindfulness that is really wonderful in teaching self care to kids, is to focus on gratitude. This is really easy because you can do this anytime. It could be part of your bedtime ritual, dinner time talk, or you can encourage a gratitude journal. They have some excellent gratitude journals for kids on Amazon!

Outdoor Time

Get your kids outdoors! Spending time outdoors helps with the obvious, like getting sun exposure which gives us essential vitamins, and it encourages exercise, which we discussed earlier. But these aren’t the only benefits. According to the Harvard Health Blog, spending time outdoors also helps kids develop executive functioning skills, encourages risk taking, promotes socialization, and gives children an appreciation for nature. There is space for kids in nature to get in touch with their creativity. They build forts with sticks, play hide and seek, climb trees and rocks, or if the weather allows it, have snowball fights. This generation of children are over scheduled and plugged in since infancy. Spending free time outdoors is essential for development and will fuel adventure and creativity in kids.

Foster Friendships

Last week we wrote about our Teacher Tribe, and how cultivating a group of people who understand and support you can enhance your life. Friendships are important for children too, feeling a part of a community or group gives children self esteem and people to talk about their feelings to, other than their parents and teachers. This is especially important as they reach the upper elementary grades, where adolescence is on the precipes. You can ask your child’s teacher about who your child is playing with, or any recommendations about children with whom they might have a connection with. Setting up play dates and times outside of school where your child can make connections with other children is important to foster these friendships.

Manage Screen Time

This is probably one of the most difficult self care tools for parents to manage and model. We live in a world, where devices are in our hands and surrounding us all day. Everywhere your child goes, they see people staring into their devices, and this has been their world since birth.  By around 1 year old a baby knows to slide to unlock a phone, by 2 or 3 they know apps and can get onto Youtube to find the videos they like. Devices are fun, they are a distraction from the real world, however, as teachers, we cannot stress enough, how important it is to manage screen time for your child.

“Kids and teens age 8 to 18 spend an average of more than seven hours a day looking at screens. The new warning from the AHA recommends parents limit screen time for kids to a maximum of just two hours per day. For younger children, age 2 to 5, the recommended limit is one hour per day.” (CBC News) The best way you can do this is by modeling for your child. Put your own devices down and talk, read, play, or exercise together. Engage them in other activities that do not involve devices.

Sleep

Sleep and mental health have a close connection. We are all guilty of scrolling instagram at bedtime, but more and more studies are showing that to improve sleep you should stop using a device up to two hours before bed. If you can’t swing that, even 30 minutes to 1 hour will help improve sleep. Having a device box or a location where kids put their devices at a certain time, will help set an expectation for the family that can help improve sleep for everyone.

For more information visit The National Sleep Foundation website

All of these things that we are talking about seem very basic and obvious. And most of these things naturally took place when we were kids. We didn’t have devices and we were always outside playing. We didn’t call it self care for kids, we just called it being kids. As our world continues to evolve and advance, we need to take steps to ensure that we are aware of the effects that these changes have on our kids. Many studies are showing kids and teens are depressed and stressed and unable to handle normal things that life throws at them. We need to take a step back and make sure we are giving our 21st century kids the basic skills they need to manage stress and practice self care in this ever changing world.

Self Care for Parents & Teachers

Many times when you are taking care of children, your own needs might get pushed aside. Whether you are a parent and have kids of your own, or you are a teacher and spend your days taking care of other people’s children, it is essential to carve out time for yourself. If you are both a TEACHER and a PARENT it is even more important to prioritize some time for self care. Sometimes it may feel impossible, so we wanted to share some helpful tips when creating space to take care of you!

Spending Time Away From the Kids

If you are a teacher and don’t have kids, your time out of the classroom is your time to take care of you. Don’t feel bad taking those personal days, or calling in sick once in a while. Your class will be okay. As we mentioned in our post about balance, you will always have work to do, so try to limit your school work at home. A teacher’s to do list is never ending, you don’t have to work every single weekend and evening. Take your home time to rejuvenate. Your students will benefit from you taking care of yourself.

If you are a parent of school age children, your time is when your kids are at school. It is really important that you know that it is okay to plan adult only activities on nights and weekends sometimes too. You might miss your children, but they will be okay without you for a weekend or evening.

If you are both a teacher and a parent, you need to get really creative to find some time for yourself. Guilt can be a persistent unwanted visitor. Unfortunately in this case, it surfaces in both arenas: at home and in school. There could be guilt for leaving your sick child with a caretaker while you are at work, or guilt for leaving your students with a sub. Think of it this way: you’re watching the Superbowl. You need to use the restroom. Should you miss the game play or the commercials? IT DOESN’T MATTER, BECAUSE YOU HAVE TO GO! You need to be confident that whatever decision you choose to make is the best decision FOR ALL. Teaching and parenting both call for selfless thinking, but you have to remember that making yourself feel rested, relaxed and rejuvenated is a necessity. If that means finally using that floating holiday while your child is in daycare to walk the tempting aisles of Target for hours on end, do it.

Asking for Help

Don’t be afraid to ask for help from your family and friends. Many parents feel guilty about asking or taking help from family and friends. They feel that they must do it all and do it alone. Until very recently child rearing was a communal affair. Aunts, uncles, grandparents, and other extended family members helped parents raise their children. The next time a friend, grandparent, or uncle asks you if you need help or if they could babysit, say yes! Take the time to do something for yourself. We promise they are not judging you, they just genuinely want to spend time with your children and help you in anyway that they can.

Much like parents, teachers should also not feel guilty about asking or accepting help from others. As veteran teachers we love helping newer teachers. Not in a condescending “I know better than you,” sort of way, but rather in a “What can I do to help you?” way. However, all teachers should ask for help. Teaching is an all encompassing and overwhelming profession, if you do not advocate for yourself and your needs in the classroom, then no one else will. It is important to remember that your needs are your students’ needs.

Saying No

Part of self care is maintaining balance as we wrote about in our previous posts. Taking care of you might mean saying no to the endless events that come up on the weekends. People might get offended, feelings might get hurt, but it is okay to say no. You don’t need to have plans to say no to something. And you shouldn’t feel the need to come up with an excuse. People who know and love you won’t make you feel guilty about not attending every little thing.

For teachers this includes school functions. Teachers often feel the pressure to attend all the plays, festivals, dinners, picnics, and fundraisers for their schools. However, after a long day of teaching, sometimes a teacher just needs to go home and rest. There are a plethora of ways teachers are able to show their support for the school. The number one support we give as educators is the amount of time and energy we spend to make sure each student’s academic and social needs are addressed under our care. Your administrators, coworkers, students, and parents will understand.

Exercising

Exercising is a great form of self care. It helps improve physical and mental health. When you choose to exercise all the stressors of the day go away, and afterward they do not seem to be as bad as they were. “Exercise may actually help ward off depression and anxiety by enhancing the body’s ability to respond to stressors.” [Why Endorphins (and Exercise) Make You Happy, by Kristen Domonell.] If you can’t get away to do it on your own, it can be done as a family. Take a hike, a walk, or put on a fun exercise video. The kids can be included and then you are modeling self care and healthy habits.  

Time with Friends

Whether you are a teacher, parent, or both, it is extremely important to connect to other adults. It is a great way to model friendship to your children and students in your class. You can spend time with other adults with or without your children. If your friends have kids, great! Make it a party. If they don’t that’s okay too. These friends are happy to take you away from your responsibilities and give you a break. MANY people without kids WANT to spend time with their friends kids, mini versions of the people they love!

Connecting with a Partner

If you have a partner, self care could be done together with a night out, spa day, or a weekend away. Even if you plan a night to stay in and cook together without the kids, it is important to connect and check in with each other. Especially if you are parents, it is important that you take the time to figure out how you can support each other in self care. Allowing each other time away and sharing in the responsibilities will help maintain a balance.

It is so important to not lose ourselves in the busyness of caring for others. When you take the time for yourself you will be able to better show up and be present for others. When you regularly practice self care, you will be less stressed, happier, and won’t be harboring feelings of resentment.


Children Need Balanced Teachers

Expectations

Teaching has always been a multi disciplinary job. Because teachers are working with young people, teachers throughout history have not only taught lessons on content, but they have been psychologists, nurses, advertisers, friends, and so much more. The teaching profession has always been a stressful career. However, today more than ever, the expectations placed on teachers are astronomical.

In addition to what teachers have traditionally done, in recent years teachers have had a multitude of new responsibilities added to their already metaphorically overflowing cups.

With the advent of technology, parents all over the world are granted constant communication about their child. This generation of children have grown up since birth with apps that communicate with parents. When children go off to school, many parents expect and want constant communication from their child’s teacher. So, teachers have to take a plethora of photos, run class social media accounts for their class, update a classroom website, write weekly blogs about what they are doing in the classroom, manage individual student blogs, monitor student email accounts, use several applications to send data home to parents, along with teaching, grading papers, reporting for recess or lunch duty, assessing and collecting data, writing report cards, emailing parents, differentiating lessons, planning field trips, making copies, and so much more. We absolutely love the new and wonderful ways to share and communicate with parents their child’s growth, however it seems that many new things have been added to the teacher’s plate, and nothing has been taken away.

With so much to do, in so little time, teachers oftentimes feel like they cannot take a breath. It is an overwhelming and depleting feeling. We feel that we are failing the most important people, our students. Teaching is not just about tests, data, photos, and grades. The most important aspect of teaching is the connections and relationships that we build with our students. As elementary school teachers we know that students will not remember the grammar or spelling lessons we teach, but they will remember the way we make them feel. If teachers are overworked and stressed, then their students feel that too.

Prioritizing

When teachers feel the need to do it all, they get burnt out. According to the National Education Association, more than 40% of teachers leave the profession within 5 years! If you want to remain a teacher for the long haul, take care of yourself and keep a work life balance. It is okay to say no, especially when your cup is already overflowing.

For teachers to have a balanced life and a balanced classroom, they must prioritize. Because there is such a high expectation placed on teachers, you have to learn that you will not be able to do everything. Pick the most important things for “right now” and leave the rest for later. You have to get comfortable always having a to-do list. As a teacher you will never have that moment of being “done.” Education practices are always changing and by nature, we are lifelong learners. Our schools and classrooms change every year. So even at the end of the school year, teachers are planning for their next group of students. Honestly, there will be things that you won’t EVER get to. And you know what? That’s okay. Most likely it won’t change a thing in your class and no one will know except for you. So be kind to yourself and make sure you maintain a balance for yourself.

Flexibility

Flexibility is one of the most important tools in the classroom. If we are not flexible, then the kids will not be flexible. Real life in the classroom is not how it is portrayed in the media. A real classroom is messy, loud, and not perfect. We plan lessons and projects, but things do not always go as planned. When the smart board doesn’t work, the internet is down, the copies you made were the key, and not the actual student worksheet (It happens!) students look to us and see how we react. Teachers need to remember that there is a solution to every problem, no matter how great. The solution might not present itself in the moment, but that is when we say “Oh well,” and do something else in the class. When teachers are stressed, students are stressed too. Being flexible and more importantly modeling flexibility to our students is important.

We remember the feeling of wanting to please everyone when we were new teachers. When you are in charge of educating young minds there are a lot of people with high expectations of you. In our first years of teaching we wanted our classrooms to be Pinterest perfect all the time and we wanted to be liked by everyone. With experience, we learned that neither of these were attainable all the time. Our classrooms will not be perfect all the time, you will not agree with everything that administration says or does, parents might not like you. Guess what? It is okay! As long as you are showing up for your kids every school day and giving each of those students not only the academic content they need, but you are seeing them for who they are and loving them for it, then you are doing an amazing job. Teaching is one of the hardest professions there is, and we are all doing the best we can for our children.

Why do Children Need Balanced Teachers?

When teachers aren’t balanced, their students aren’t getting what they deserve. Lessons are thrown together, the grading piles up and everything gets rushed because the teacher is just trying to survive each day. When you feel like you don’t have enough time, it is time to practice the things above: prioritizing and flexibility. Children need balanced teachers because they need people that are showing up everyday that want to be there. Overworked, unbalanced teachers end up resenting their job. They are tired, irritable, and impatient. Teachers that are balanced want to show up and be present for their students.

It’s important that teachers get the time they need to plan meaningful lessons for the students. It’s important that this time not be taken up by extra meetings, conferences, and a quick PD to teach this brand new program that administration decides needs to be implemented mid-year. Time to plan meaningful lessons should be a sacred time for teachers. When this time is mis-managed by administration, we are letting down our students. They are the ones that suffer.

Balanced teachers have the time and energy to run a functioning, healthy class. They have the energy to support that struggling student. They have the time to connect with that student who often falls under the radar. They have the spirit to tell jokes, have brain breaks, connect as a class community and make their class a joyous place to learn and grow.