Written by Maureen Connolly
This past weekend, I took a roadtrip with my 8-year-old daughter, Anna. When her iPad hit 20%, she asked for a charger. It was important. She didn’t want to lose where she was in her game. Hitting 20% meant she needed to get on this recharging thing! If she let the iPad get to zero, she might lose the progress she had made. This would be frustrating. This would mean she had wasted time. This simply would not be acceptable when there was a perfectly good charger within reach.
Anna’s logic for and sense of urgency around making sure to recharge that battery got me thinking about teachers and our need to recharge. These days, most teachers are trying to push forward even though their battery indicators have turned red. This doesn’t make sense! It takes way more time and effort to power up again when we allow our batteries to die out. We lose progress. We lose momentum. We get frustrated.
What if, rather than pushing through, we commit to recharging?
The following list starts with ways to recharge alongside our students and moves to ways to recharge with colleagues/friends and individually. The suggested moves are relatively small but make a big impact on our battery charge.
10 Ways to Recharge!
Recommit to good habits
Remember at the start of the year when you committed to greeting students at the door each day? Today is the day to recommit to that! Maybe you wanted to start each day with a song. Play that funky music friend! Think back to the start of the year and any fresh idea that you wanted to implement regularly. Today is the day to restart that commitment. You can do it! Enjoy the positive energy this yields for you and your students.
Reserve time for grounding
Remember, you aren’t the only one struggling who needs to recharge! Students are rushing from one class to another, thinking about their after-school activities, balancing family and friends, and just trying to squeeze in some time for fun! To recharge together, try some grounding exercises. Take a deep breathe together; ask students to take a moment to think about what they are going to do next; connect with a quote that gets students (and you) feeling centered and ready to learn.
Revisit class agreements
Likely, at the start of the year, you and your students created class agreements. Nothing sucks the life out of our batteries like the time and emotional effort that goes into reactionary classroom management. Revisit your class agreements with students. Ask them to consider whether they are working for all of you. Just the reminder of these agreements may help students (and you) “live” what you agreed. You may want to revisit these with a focus on increasing energy or stamina. Ask your students: What is draining us? What is energizing us? How can we modify our agreements or the ways we “live” our agreements to increase our energy?
Refresh your classroom setup
Your classroom is your home for so much of the day. How is the space working for you and your students? Ask students to help you think about desk arrangement, classroom library organization, supplies and displays. How can the setup of the classroom be more efficient, more exciting, more charged? Remember, many students are creative and strong, and they like being helpful. Engage them in this process. Take a bit of time to plan and assign “Mission Classroom Makeover” roles before diving into action. This will make the work more efficient and more likely to result in recharging.
Reinvent the wheel
Typically, when thinking about how to increase energy, I would advise teachers not to reinvent the wheel. That said, when we get into a habit of falling back on what we know, sometimes we can get into an energy slump, so for this recharge tip, I am suggesting you choose one lesson or unit that you want to change up. Keep the stuff that works (don’t reinvent the entire wheel!), and add some new materials or strategies. As you consider what to revamp and what to add, please note that the increase in technology skills thanks to virtual learning is great, but tech has become so prevalent in the in-person classroom that you may want to focus on ways to incorporate more face-to-face, kinesthetic, and interpersonal learning.
Reconnect with colleagues and friends
Talk anything but school with a colleague or friend. (Bonus if your colleagues are your friends!) OK. If talking anything but school doesn’t seem realistic, vent and then talk anything but school. Venting lets you “get it out and move on.” Sometimes the moving on takes more time than others, but without the venting, it would take even longer! Once you get that out, enjoy a chat that doesn’t focus on work. Remember, you are more than this role! Think you don’t have time? C’mon! This is important! Make time. You can commit to one lunch a week with a colleague or making one call a week to a friend during your commute.
Reread a favorite book, article, or blog post
Consider creating a teacher reading group where each member leads a conversation on an article that has had meaning for them. Note, these readings don’t have to be new. They can be rereads of things that had meaning for you in the past and deserve revisiting. Focus on sources that provide you with active next steps that you can take in your classrooms.
Rethink your To Do list
A paper To Do list can feel great! Many of us enjoy that feeling of accomplishment when we get to cross something off our lists. (If you could see my swirling cross-outs that put a dent in the page, you’d know the intensity of joy this brings me!) However, along with that joy we get the guilt of the things left on the list, or worse having to transfer tasks to a new list when we run out of space on the page (ugh!). To be more efficient, try rethinking how you keep track of what needs doing. Rather than keeping a physical To Do list on paper, try scheduling tasks in your calendar, so you have a set time for getting them done. If you are like me and like the joy of crossing things off that To Do list, keep a paper list too. Just be sure that you have a set plan for when you will accomplish the tasks you add.
Retreat from your classroom. Commit to stepping away (for real!) and not thinking about school at least one day over the weekend and at least an hour each night. Teachers’ minds are always “on.” We are constantly thinking about new ideas or ways to adapt things for our students. Take the time to slow down and treat yourself to some time away. And then re-treat yourself to some more time!
Remind yourself that you are awesome!
You chose this profession because you knew you could make a difference! You knew you’d be good at this! Remind yourself of the great things you’ve done with your students. And Click HERE to share those great moves with colleagues by becoming a Toolbox Book contributor. (BONUS! All survey completers will be entered into a drawing to win a $50 Amazon gift card!) Note that each of the moves above start with “re” because this is about recharging our batteries. Most of us come into each school year energized, excited about what is ahead, batteries fully charged. It’s around the mid-year point when we need to get back to those early-year feelings and energy levels. We need to return to what energizes us by “plugging-in” to our values and positive professional and personal choices. Here’s hoping you make time to recharge!