Physical and emotional exhaustion
Cynicism and detachment
Feelings of ineffectiveness and lack of accomplishment
Doesn’t sound good, does it? And it certainly doesn’t sound like what we envision when we sign on to educate a child–in either a homeschool or a traditional school setting. And yet these signs of burnout can rear their head from time to time and cause a major barrier to our effectiveness with our students.
That’s why this edition of School Hacks is just for you: the mom or teacher in this equation (get it? Math jokes!). Because sometimes, if you have one or more students who are struggling (in math or any subject), it can lead to the kind of stress that makes us want to bag the whole process. So this week, I wanted to remind you that taking care of yourself while you do this big job is fundamental to everyone involved in your classroom.
Now, I’m a mom, too, and I know how hard this can be. It’s always tempting to put the next urgent thing ahead of anything resembling self-care. But please allow me to be like the flight attendant on the plane: you have to put on your oxygen mask first, in order to be able to care for the younger people around you.
Here are some simple things that can leave you feeling refreshed and ready to power through the next day, week, or semester.
Focus on the Essential. Or, as Queen Elsa would say, “Let it go, let it go!” If a subject is not fundamental and no one is enjoying it, consider dropping it. It doesn’t matter if the other family loves it, if you don’t, who cares? Sell the curriculum and move on. Take the time to dive deep into a subject you really do love, or need to beef up. This might just give you some much-needed breathing room and everyone in your classroom can benefit from that.
Get Back to Basics. You know what else is essential? Basic care for yourself. Make an honest assessment of whether or not you are really taking care of yourself. Maybe you need a (or several) really good night’s sleep. Maybe you’ve stress-eaten your way into some bad nutrition habits. Maybe you’re drinking way too much coffee, and way too little water. We’ve all been there, but it doesn’t do any of us any good! Some basic maintenance can go a long way toward combatting burnout.
Go somewhere else. Okay, so a vacation might not be in the cards for you right now. Same here! But you can still get away–without leaving the house. Take a few minutes to read a fiction book or watch a show that *you* want to read or watch. Not what everyone else is reading or something that you think out ought to read, but something that will bring you happiness. It can be as deep or as shallow as you want, but there’s something about getting into someone else’s story that can really refresh your brain to tackle the tasks you need to.
Change it Up. School–especially if you are homeschooling– doesn’t have to be the same thing all day, every day. Use math games when your kids need a break from the usual math routine. Bake something and discuss fractions and measurement equivalents while you do so. Head outside when the weather is nice enough, for a subject that works well there. Ask a friend who has some knowledge on a subject you’re studying (or one that you’re not!) to come lead a talk with your student(s).
Reach out. It’s really important right now to stay connected to your tribe, your cheerleaders, your supporters. Ask for encouragement. Ask for help. If some of the most basic self-care tasks seem out of reach for you, it’s really, really, really okay to ask someone to help you do them. Likely there is someone in your circle who would be happy to watch the kids while you get a solo coffee, or put them to bed so you can turn in early, or even watch that fun movie with you.
If you haven’t heard it in a while, let me say it to you: You are really, really, really important to the people who are learning math from you. Burnout can affect your classroom and your entire family. So this is my gentle encouragement to recognize the signs, stay ahead of it, and take care of yourself. Here’s to more energy, more patience, and more maintenance of yourself this school year!