A Mural That Matters

By Sara Barsaloux

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, I had to move classrooms mid-year to accommodate all my students. A temporary wall had to be put up to separate my new classroom and the library. Since the wall is temporary, we could paint it!

Due to the political climate in our country, this year I wanted to make Martin Luther King Jr. Day more meaningful for students. That is why I created our Mural Project. Before beginning the project, we learned about what Martin Luther King Jr. did for our country and talked about the similarities between Dr. King’s movement and the Black Lives Matter movement. We discussed how far we need to go as a country to live out Dr. King’s dream and how we can all be activists. We learned about what it is like to go to a march and even made our own picket signs about issues we are passionate about to share with the class.

Our final project included each student painting their own section of the mural. We started the project by having students brainstorm what each of their dreams were. Then the students sketched out their mural. After this, the students created a presentation about their dreams and their mural. Finally, each student got a chance to paint their mural onto our temporary wall.

The mural provides the students a daily reminder of what they are working towards. The students love showing it off to other students and staff. This project also helped students to develop a stronger understanding of what they want to achieve as well as how they can support their peers in our classroom.

Sara Barsaloux teaches fifth grade in Glendale Heights, Illinois.

“Distance Learning”: Can an Oxymoron Illuminate Joyful Teaching?

By Shelley Sherman

Today’s blogger is Shelley Sherman, who was the author of the article “Nurturing Joyful Teaching in an Era of Standardization and Commodification,” which appears in the January-March 2021 issue of The Educational Forum. This article is currently available free online.

Movement. Energy. Spontaneity. The spirited staccato of a classroom discussion. A touch on the back. A subtle gesture. A warm, encouraging glance across the room. Distance learning cannot replicate the interpersonal dynamics and joyfulness of school communities where rich learning takes place moment-by-significant-moment in the classroom. What’s more, everyday experiences in many now silent hallways, gyms, cafeterias, and playgrounds play a significant role in learning, too. Can meaningful teaching and learning and the joy attached to them be experienced in the artificial glare and virtual reality of an electronic screen? Yes. And no.

During these fraught times, highly committed, caring teachers find paths to communicate their care and dedication to their students, animate and energize learning, and continue to persevere no matter the context. Such perseverance can yield joy in unanticipated ways for teachers and students, even at a distance. The fortitude of indefatigable teachers is fueled by passion for their work, the commitment to their calling. Where there appear to be no options, dedicated, talented teachers find them.

But distance learning also suggests a contradiction in terms. Learning brings us closer to, not farther away from, new understandings. It strengthens, rather than weakens, capacities to think deeply, and cultivates, rather than hinders, habits of mind that cross disciplines. A teacher’s capacity to nurture meaningful learning’s ineffable features, to coax gradually that which may be tentatively unfolding, is handicapped by physical distance. The realization of these aspirational aspects of teaching and learning is what makes them so profoundly joyful.

And distance is not the only barrier to experiencing joy for teachers or for students. The commodification of education, the notion that education is something to be delivered, has already taken a toll on teacher morale and co-opted teaching autonomy during the normal academic school year. Those who suggest we have to use distance learning to teach new “material” liken learning to a commodity. In many instances, teachers feel the pressure to maintain the pace of curriculum expectations regardless of the significant challenges to do so in a virtual environment.

Joy is attached to both pedagogy and relationship in teaching. How, then, can these anxiety-laden times provide a space for reflection about what teachers do have control over in classrooms, virtually, albeit with considerable limitations, and, with unlimited possibility, in-person? Serious-minded teachers cultivate trust and nurture mutual respect gradually, one student at a time, and, simultaneously, build a collective culture of trust and respect across a classroom of individuals who regularly engage with one another in both intentional and serendipitous ways. The limitations of distance learning and closed schools in creating such a culture bring home the ways in which teachers can make a profound difference in their students’ lives, and vice versa, when schools are open. The moment in which we find ourselves invites timely reflection about sustaining a vision for joy.

Questions such as these widen the lens on such reflection: How do I see each and every student in ways that are unique and personal?  How have I made a positive difference in the life of a particular student? When have I said something harmful?  Something that has impacted a student for better rather than worse?

As David Hansen (2018) suggests, finding oneself in the role of teacher means finding oneself in the practice. It includes experiencing personal fulfillment and joy in distinct ways and recognizing one’s shortcomings as well as one’s strengths (see Sherman, 2020).

There is no better time for those who see teaching as a calling to reflect upon how being present with each student as a unique human being, moment-by-moment, day-by-day, sustains the steady, joyful heartbeat of their practice. There is nothing virtual about it.

References

Hansen, D.T. (2018). Bearing witness to the fusion of person and role in teaching. The Journal of Aesthetic Education, 52(4), 21-48. https://doi: 10.5406/jaesteduc.52.4.0021

Sherman, S. (2020). Evolving enactments of personal fulfillment and service in teaching. In D. De Marzio (Ed.), David Hansen and the call to teach: Renewing the work that teachers do (pp. 13-26). Teachers College Press.

Shelley Sherman is the author of Teacher Preparation as an Inspirational Practice: Building Capacities for Responsiveness, for which she received the award for Exemplary Research in Teaching and Teacher Education from the American Educational Research Association in 2015. She has published numerous articles about teacher responsiveness and the moral dimensions of teaching and is Associate Professor of Education Emerita at Lake Forest College.

KDP Staffers Receive Recent Honors

Christopher Whited, CAE, Kappa Delta Pi’s Chief Experience Officer, was named the 2020 Association Professional of the Year at the 19th Annual Indiana Society of Association Executives Society’s Top Association Recognition (STAR) Awards. The STAR Awards celebrate the association management profession and the individuals who power success in their associations.

Christopher recognizes the need to serve and provide value to our members. A few key strategies he has implemented include: videos telling member stories and testimonials, an Onboarding email campaign, more integrated content (such as relevant resources to members across a variety of communications channels), as well as virtual learning, community building, and networking events for chapter leaders and members.

His efforts have paid off. In the month of September alone, KDP membership recruitment was up 98 percent as a result of efforts Christopher led. Despite declining enrollment in teacher preparation, Christopher’s team continues to open new chapters at institutions and build thriving local communities of teacher candidates (including with non-traditional programs), which allow us the opportunity to better achieve our mission of inspiring and equipping teachers to thrive.

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In addition, Samantha Tarlton Procento, KDP’s Assistant Director of Advancement, has been selected as one of 11 women joining the Impact 100 Greater Indianapolis 2021 Impact Young Philanthropists program. This program offers women early in their non-profit careers membership in Impact 100, while enriching the grants process with fresh perspectives and technical expertise.

“Sound the Alarm—I Need Help”: Teacher Self-Care Tips

By Natychia Redmond, Chervontá “Taye” Pugh, and Christel Young

Being an educator is a calling, and with that calling come many demands that seem never-ending. Lesson plans, websites or blogs, lunch and carpool duty, after-school clubs, faculty meetings, department meetings, parent conferences, and emails—the list goes on and on! Not to mention you still have to take care of your own needs: What’s for dinner? When will I have time to complete this home project?

At some point, it feels like there’s too much going on! You’re stressed out and you know you’re not operating at full capacity (Schussler et al., 2016). So what are you supposed to do?

Educators are pros at pushing through! But the time to take care of yourself is not when you’re broken down and stressed out. You have to make self-care a deliberate part of your daily routine. Work it into your schedule from the very beginning of the year. When we think about taking care of ourselves, we battle with feeling selfish. True self-care is a selfless commitment you make to yourself—an investment in the health of your future and the futures of those you care about (Jeffries, 2017)! Take care of yourself at all costs or it may cost you your all.

Sometimes the hardest part about actually engaging in self-care is that it seems purposeless or overindulgent. You can’t get it out of your mind that you could be doing something more…productive. Remind yourself that rest is indeed the purpose. To help combat the feeling that you’re wasting time, try adding your self-care as an appointment on your calendar.

If you’re not accustomed to staying hydrated and getting quality sleep, start there! You can also try different activities to find what you enjoy. Then commit to incorporating those activities faithfully. Some suggestions include:

  • Entertainment: Music (Spotify and Pandora are cost-effective platforms), reading, movies (Netflix or a movie club), karaoke, learning to play an instrument, going on an outing (zoo, museum, garden or orchard)
  • Exercise: Running, walking, lifting weights, dancing, yoga, boxing, swimming
  • Arts: Painting, drawing, coloring books, crocheting, baking
  • Therapeutic Arts: Meditation, journaling, nature walks, therapy/counseling (your health insurance might cover personal counseling sessions), religious studies or services
  • Personal Care: Massages, pedicures, facials, relaxing baths
  • Unplug from Social Media and News: Preserve your space of peace and positivity!

When starting your path to regular self-care, you may have to ease into it, and that’s okay! Be sure to partner with trusted teachers and form an accountability circle. Working with a partner or a group, you can all help one another on your journeys!

Ms. Christel Young is a doctoral candidate at the American College of Education. Her dissertation research topic focuses on the influence of housing insecurity on digital participation in higher education. She is currently serving as the Technology teacher at Tapp Middle School in Cobb County.

Mrs. Natychia Redmond is a high school math teacher at Lake Norman Charter High School in North Carolina. Her passion is to teach students the skills and knowledge they will need to be empowered to academically and socially transition into their next phase of life.

Ms. Chervontá “Taye” Pugh is a middle school math teacher for Cobb County Schools. She has a passion for integrating technology in the classroom for teacher efficiency and increased student engagement. She is proud to be a part of the Tiger Nation at Tapp Middle School.

References

Jeffries, D. (2017). Self-care: An ethical imperative for EAL teachers. TEAL News, 12.

Schussler, D. L., Jennings, P. A., Sharp, J. E., & Frank, J. L. (2016). Improving teacher awareness and well-being through CARE: A qualitative analysis of the underlying mechanisms. Mindfulness, 7(1), 130-142. DOI: 10.1007/s12671-015-0422-7

4 Tips to Maximize Remote Collaboration in Crises

By Lisa Polk

Massive change during times of crisis requires us to consider our priorities through a different lens. The decisive actions required during the COVID-19 pandemic were incomparable to patterns of previous crises. However, assessing available resources and considering possible solutions can help you navigate through uncharted waters. Limitations and opportunities that were previously nonexistent can be an asset in maximizing the needs of remote collaboration.

Onsite learning environments that aided teacher–student interactions during learning have evolved into a form of remote collaboration. We are holding meetings in online platforms that are unfamiliar and require new learning for some participants. Remaining flexible with priorities, responding reasonably, and allowing for innovation can help you maximize collaboration.

1. Prioritizing: Key factors in prioritizing include thinking about the purpose of a meeting and staying in focus. Before the meeting, communicate the agenda and goals, which you reach the desired outcome. Virtual meetings might only include a brief timeframe for action items, but you can accompany them with previously shared documents or follow-up emails for effective and efficient collaboration. Your priorities might not follow a common pattern from one week to the next, but if you stay focused on needs, goals, and solutions, you can have success.

2.  Responsiveness: Being considerate and responsive to the preferences and needs of others can help you maximize collaboration in a variety of learning environments (Evmenova, 2018). Accessibility and preferences might change for someone from one week to the next in remote learning, requiring flexibility for modes of communication and access to instructional materials. (Rogers-Shaw, Carr-Chellman, & Choi, 2018). Remaining responsive to the needs of others and flexible to change can help everyone collaborate effectively.

3. Feasibility: Prioritizing quality over quantity is a key factor in providing a feasible approach to collaboration. Offering feasible avenues of communication and remaining open to varied approaches can increase opportunities to connect with students and colleagues. Assisting with feasible access to materials, connecting to virtual meetings, or locating food services can help meet the needs of individuals as well as send a message of care and concern.

4. Innovation:  Share innovative ideas and optimal tools for solutions to current issues. If certain approaches provide multiple modes of access to learning, such as choice boards or familiar instructional materials, offer these as possibilities, and be willing to initiate action. Interact positively and listen while collaborating. It is a time to think outside the box and share expertise (Gustafson, 2017).

By being considerate and flexible, you can positively impact learning during times of crises. Being responsive to the needs of others can ease tensions and promote learning. Maximizing collaborative efforts can help further academic achievement, and you’ll be sending students and colleagues a message of value and concern. 

References

Evmenova, A. (2018). Preparing teachers to use universal design for learning to support diverse learners. Journal of Online Learning Research, 4(2), 147-171.

Gustafson, B. (2017). Renegade leadership: Creating innovative schools for digital-age students. Corwin.

Rogers-Shaw, C., Carr-Chellman, D. J., Choi, J. (2018). Universal design for learning: Guidelines for accessible online instruction. Adult Learning, 29(1), 20-31.

Ms. Polk is a doctoral student at Sam Houston State University. She has been in education for 29 years and is currently a K-12 Curriculum Specialist. Her research interests includes implementing instructional approaches that promote academic growth in all students.

The “Othered” Experiences of Minoritized Students in Three Countries

Today’s blogger is Dr. Christopher J. Cormier (Stanford University), who was the lead author on the article “Black Teachers’ Affirmations on the Social–Emotional and Mental-Health Needs of Learners: A Transnational Examination” (co-authored by Drs. Mildred Boveda, Funké Aladejebi, and Alice Gathoni), which appears in the January 2021 issue of the Kappa Delta Pi Record. Get free access to the article through the month of February.

The “othered” experiences of Black students in schools extend beyond the United States. A common misconception is that the racialized experiences these students face is a phenomenon experienced only by Black Americans, and not only in schools but also in the ethos of the societies in which they reside. However, although challenges Black students face in schools can, and often do, vary depending on the cultural context, the reality is the same. That is, these students face systemic barriers to their academic achievement, which often stifle their ability to be fully functioning members of our classes and schools. Thus, given that students spend most of their waking hours in school, the challenges they face in school can, and will, bleed over into their home lives and interactions with other members of society.

For the article that appears in the January 2021 issue of the Kappa Delta Pi Record, I was fortunate to work with three colleagues who are also friends and great collaborators on this topic. Each brings experience as a teacher and researcher to the piece. In this transnational narrative (avoiding a U.S.-centric approach), readers will notice that Black teachers often are expected to “fix” the issues of the students who share their racial or ethnic identity; however, we suggest strategies that all teachers can use for all students, regardless of whether they share the same backgrounds.

We believe that one major challenge in schools is that certain teachers are expected to “deal” with certain students because of a shared lineage. What I, even as a co-author, found fascinating is how that manifested differently in different countries—particularly in Kenya. During a late-night Zoom call with my colleague in Kenya, I was fascinated by all the things she related about the challenges Black students face in Kenya. A major takeaway for practitioners is that shared racial or ethnic identity does not necessarily equate to shared experiences, values, or even respect.

Co-author Dr. Alice Gathoni eloquently describes how being Black in Kenya has many layers. A major challenge in Kenya is being considered a minority if you are not a part of the dominant tribe in the region. Furthermore, the same hostile treatment that students wrestle with as “outsiders within” if they are not members of the dominant tribe is mirrored in Canadian and U.S. schools. By exploring Kenyan schools, we hope that practitioners, including school leadership, recognize that just having a Black teacher for Black students does not solve issues of inequity or address the social–emotional and mental-health needs of these students.

We focus on three dominant practices as we describe the nature of the ways in which Black teachers use their shared racial identity to support Black students’ social–emotional needs in each country represented in our article. We believe these are useful to practitioners as well as the scholarly community, especially to support the unique needs of students. The practices include (a) consider insider–outsider knowledges and within-group differences, (b) nurture individualized care and cultural sensitivity, and (c) understand the value of school–community relationships.

These strategies are often used by Black teachers, but do not require a Black teacher to use them to be effective for supporting the needs of not only Black students, but all students in schools. We are hopeful this piece will open dialogue about how all teachers—not just Black teachers—can support all students and, beyond the dialogue, lead to systemic change. We suggest using our article in professional development meetings and ongoing conversations regarding everyone’s responsibility to support students and not to rely on one group because that group mirrors its students’ cultural or gendered makeup.

Teaching and Trauma

By Sherrill Rayford

Dr. Rayford, a former high school English teacher, joined Kappa Delta Pi in college. She is a volunteer reviewer of KDP teaching scholarships. She facilitates a devotional group, and is an English adjunct. Her memoir, Teaching: Yakima Ball Vignettes, was published in 2019.

As a novice teacher, peers overwhelmed me with well-meaning advice: “Don’t smile until Christmas.” “Join the union.” “Never give your phone number to parents.”

The advice was often humorous, but I learned attributes of effective teaching from experienced colleagues. However, none of the mentors predicted trauma as an aspect of teaching.

The trauma I describe develops from events or mindsets that impact students’ ability to focus on learning, especially the acceptance of shortened lives or insignificance in society. Too many students I taught believed that they would not live for 18 years. They focused on repetitive violent treatment in society or traumatic incidents they experienced or witnessed in their neighborhoods. During a class discussion, I respectfully disagreed with a student who voiced the expectation that he, at age 16, would not live to be 18. I thought of my sons and the personal dreams I envisioned for them. I imagined those dreams for him, but prior events in his life made me understand why he accepted a shortened lifespan. After the discussion, I realized the significance of the artistically decorated “In Memorial” jackets students, the “In Memorial” tattoos on students’ arms and legs, and I began to ask for details of loved ones portrayed in the obituary programs students shared after attending funerals.

After 9/11, I read that teachers dutifully returned to school after traumatic events; however, that dedication may have limits. At times an administrative directive dictates how teachers should console students’ expressed trauma. For example, a student teacher I supervised was emotionally upset by a principal’s directive to forbid Black students from posing questions or discussing protests that occurred in the summer of 2014. The traumatic incident was partially aired through social media in real time. That same traumatic incident was fresh in the minds of students and staff in 2015 when I retired from the Ferguson–Florissant School District.

During a Kappa Delta Pi conference session in 2018, I posed the question, “How do you teach empathy when it is not in vogue?” Only the novice teacher seated near me responded, by sharing her email address, a website containing empathetic teaching strategies, the title of a “wonderful” book she read in a college course, and that she worked a few weeks in an urban school. I listened respectfully, but the explanation reminded me of the Justice Department’s professional development session I was required to attend in the aftermath of the 2014 protests. There are aspects of teaching best shared by listening rather than telling.

As inequality in living conditions, fear, actions or inactions from important leaders, curfews, Black Lives Matter protests, and COVID-19 trauma dominate since the summer of 2020, teachers will instruct students in remote or in-school locations with residual memories of the pandemic and its impact on spring instruction. Now more than ever, teachers must be mindful of how culturally connected traumatic events, an ongoing reality in education, impact teachers and learners.

Interrupted Student-Teaching Experiences: 5 Tips to Get to the Finish Line

By Laura Sabella, Cynthia Castro-Minnehan, and Ruthmae Sears

Dr. Sabella is the Director of Field and Clinical Education at the University of South Florida. She oversees clinical experiences across programs and teaches the capstone Seminar course for secondary final interns. Her research interests include the transition from student to secondary content teacher, the role of the university supervisor, and partnerships in secondary schools.

Ms. Castro-Minnehan is a third-year doctoral student in the Mathematics Education program at the University of South Florida. Her research interests include collaborative learning during clinical experiences through co-teaching and co-planning.

Dr. Sears is an Associate Professor at the University of South Florida for mathematics education, and KDP advisor. Her research focuses on curriculum issues, reasoning and proof, clinical experiences in secondary mathematics, and the integration of technology in mathematics.

Student teaching is a critical time in teacher preparation. It provides crucial space for pre-service educators to bridge the research of coursework to actual practice in the classroom. It allows teacher candidates to operationalize the true experience of teaching through classroom management, facilitating student learning, and supporting student assessment.

As a result of COVID-19, there was major disruption in this sacrosanct space. Many candidates were anxious that hard-won relationships would be shattered, or that parts of their new teaching profession would no longer remain. Many feared they might not meet credentialing expectations.

However, we canproactively ensure they get to the finish line. We offer practical strategies to help you move student-teaching experiences forward. We must acknowledge that there will continue to be districts that implement teaching online, face-to-face, or hybrid, with potential disruptions or reversals to any teaching model. These recommendations uphold the goal of supporting candidates’ completion, regardless of the setting.

1. Plan ahead.

Assume we will have future disruptions to instruction. Plan ahead by ensuring candidates record themselves teaching while they have access to physical classrooms. These videos can be unpacked later for additional data and feedback or to provide reflection for improvement.

Plan for a shift to online instruction. Identify resources that will smooth that transition such as online platforms, online teaching sources, access codes and passwords, and training with software and programs schools are using. Consider what services are available free to candidates. In this way, you can plan for continuity in instruction.

2. Continue contact where possible.

Provide opportunities for student teachers to maintain meaningful interactions outside the physical classroom. Encourage continuity with their students through online teaching, virtual story times, grading, tutoring sessions, office hours, and so on. To keep the sense of community, candidates can participate in PLCs and faculty meetings online. Additionally, they can continue to engage with their teachers using co-planning and co-teaching online.

3. Review state and district policies.

Reviewing state and district policies is critical. Many candidates may fear they won’t meet state or district requirements for clinical work. Check to see if states allow unconventional field experiences, alternative assessments, and substitute placements, and whether they can reduce the number of hours required.

4. Acknowledge and affirm.

Teacher candidates need to have their worries acknowledged when faced with frustrating disruptions to clinical experiences. Recognizing the concerns they have and the difficulties they are facing is crucial to their success. Affirm that you will navigate the disruption and new space together. Support affirmation theory and consider the affective domains where you can best support candidates during difficult times.

5. Embrace possibilities.

Finally, look on the bright side and embrace new opportunities as we engage in this space. Despite the challenges, recognize that there’s always something to celebrate. Take advantage of new tools and experiences. Welcome possibilities of unpacking and expanding new skills teaching online. Appreciate many candidates may shine with new alternatives.

As we go forward, clinical experiences will continue to expand so our candidates become quality educators. We will support them regardless of the setting, with the goal that all opportunities can successfully promote student learning.

5 Ways to Connect With Families During the Pandemic

Dr. Laura Anderson is a former elementary school teacher and now a Professor of Education at Lee University in Cleveland, Tennessee. She teaches courses in pedagogy and children’s literature and is a counselor for Upsilon Kappa Chapter of Kappa Delta Pi.

Parents are a child’s first teacher. Few parents, however, envisioned being homeschool educators during a pandemic. Connecting with families is crucial for teachers during these times, not only to support parents but to keep in touch with students as well. Here are some ways you can keep this connection strong during challenging times.

Challenges for Families with Online Learning:

  • Questions about lesson content
  • Keeping their children focused on schoolwork at home
  • Two or more siblings sharing one computer
  • Internet and computer problems
  • Finding time to work with their children after working all day

How Can Teachers Help?

  1. Be an encourager. Let the parents and students know that they can succeed during the pandemic. Tell them that it’s been a learning curve for you as well. Respond quickly to emails or calls from students and parents who express fears and frustrations. Give written, encouraging comments with feedback on assignments.
  2. Be flexible. Not all families are equipped with the technology or materials needed to complete all of the assignments. Many of their schedules are different; some may be considered essential workers and may not be at home during the day, leaving their children in the care of grandparents or sitters. You can help by extending due dates for assignments, which will alleviate family stress. Also, adjust assignments for children who struggle academically.
  3. Be available. Using apps such as Remind allows parents and students to text questions to you without having actual access to your personal telephone number. (See remind.com/teachers). You might also set up specific times to talk with parents and students on the phone about assignments and concerns they have. Ask families to give you a contact number where you can reach them, and let them know the general time(s) you are available to receive calls. Don’t forget parents whose first language is not English. Written directions in their first language or a connection to a speaker to translate would be helpful.
  4. Be creative. Think outside the box on how you can be connected. For example, several teachers in my area wanted to see their students face to face and decided to have a school faculty parade through the attendance zones. They decorated their cars with signs expressing how much they missed their students, planned a parade route, gave families approximate times in which they would be on each street and sent out an “invitation” for families to come into their front yards to see their teachers. They smiled and waved as the parade passed their houses—while maintaining social-distancing guidelines
  5. Be consistent: Although flexibility is key, try to maintain some consistency by keeping things as familiar as possible. If you have circle time procedures such as the calendar, identifying the weather and day of the week, use these to open your Zoom sessions. When making assignments, try to use the same formats and procedures that you use in the classroom.

What ideas do you have that you can share with others? Please share your strategies and tag me at http://www.instagram.com/lhsa52

“You Can’t Pour from an Empty Cup”: 6 Things New Teachers Can Do to Promote Their Own Wellness

Dr. Sarah J. Kaka is an Assistant Professor of Education at Ohio Wesleyan University, and is the Director of the Adolescent to Young Adult and Multi-Age Licensure Programs. She teaches intro to education, secondary and middle school methods, social studies methods, and supervises students in the field.

Dr. Jennifer A. Tygret is an online course developer and instructor for the Department of Education at Illinois College. Her research focuses on the preparation of new teachers, trauma-informed teaching, and best practices in elementary and higher education. She creates and teaches elementary reading courses.

You’ve heard the saying, “you can’t pour from an empty cup” —that if you don’t take care of yourself, you will be unable to take care of others. This is especially true in education, as teaching is a socially and emotionally demanding profession. In order to be at your best to effectively meet the needs of your students, you need to take care of your own social and emotional needs.

Dealing with all of the stress involved in the day-to-day expectations and demands of teaching takes its toll on teachers. For new teachers, especially, it is important that you not only understand the need to care for yourself, but also have tools and strategies to “fill your cup.”

  • Seek out a mentor. Find an experienced teacher at your school, such as a teammate or another teacher you connect with, and ask questions, share your concerns, get advice. Your mentor can help you navigate the demands and challenges of the classroom, and provide the support you need so you know you are not alone.
  • Create a new teacher support group. Who are the other new teachers in your school building, district, or surrounding area? Commit to meeting regularly over coffee (or over Zoom) to support each other, offer advice, and share ideas for what is working well in your classroom.
  • Ask to observe experienced teachers in action. The more you observe, the more you learn. Watching experienced teachers teach provides you with more ideas for instruction, teaching strategies, and classroom management.
  • Use your Professional days to attend Professional Development in your areas of interest or need. If you need more help with classroom management, seek out PD that will provide you with tangible strategies for improving your classroom management. Look beyond district workshops to other trainings in your area, online, or at local universities. Ongoing training and support can help you feel more equipped and prepared for the challenges you face during your first years of teaching.
  • Join social events at your school to develop relationships and connect with other teachers and staff members. Is there a teacher book club you can join? An after-school exercise program to become involved in? Other social events created by teachers you can attend? Not only do these build connections, they also boost morale.
  • Take your personal and/or sick days! Even though missing a day of school can feel like more work due to all of the planning involved, it is imperative that you have time away from school to promote your own well-being. Having a “mental-health day” away from school can help you be more focused and ready when you return to the classroom.

As a new teacher, you will be better prepared to help students if you take advantage of self-care opportunities and fill your own cup. You will also be less likely to burn out. Ultimately, your students will benefit the most, because a supported, thriving teacher is a more effective teacher!