Discipline As Self-Care: What You Really Want For Teacher Appreciation Week

Julie, Head of Content and Curriculum, writes about how discipline is a more effective form of self-care than you may think. She shares her tips for how to find your teaching center this Spring.

tips for how to treat yourself with organization


Self-care is all over the internet. You can’t scroll Instagram, browse Flipboard or shop in the Kindle store without encountering messages about the importance of everything from bubble baths to setting boundaries.

When it comes to teaching, messages about self-care are everywhere. Spend just five minutes on Pinterest and you will find a self-care checklist, a teacher self-care challenge, and even recommended puzzles and coloring books to help you unwind and find balance.

I am not a big fan of that word balance, especially when it comes to teaching. In the classroom, every day is different. When I am often asked what my first year of teaching was like, I say, “It was like being shot out of cannon and not knowing if I would hit or miss a brick wall.”

When you are working in a school, in a busy classroom with 30 children, balance is impossible to achieve. Making your own candle or booking a massage isn’t going to change the reality that teaching is unpredictable work.

That is one of the reasons I loved it: No day was the same, and I never found myself going through the motions. It was also the reason why I struggled with it: I wanted to say yes, and take on more, and give and give, but I am only human.

When we share with administrators and mentors and coaches that we are exhausted from teaching and don’t remember the last time we ate a vegetable or got eight hours of sleep, we are often told to take better care of ourselves.

I cannot tell you how many baths I took my first year of teaching. I even graded papers in the bathtub. But here’s the thing: While that hour in the tub did get me off my feet, it was only a temporary relief from my teacher burnout. Eventually I had to get out, dry off, and face another day.

So this year for Teacher Appreciation Week, I am not going to suggest that you get a manicure or make yourself a cup of tea or take a nap. I am going to suggest that you try a new approach: discipline as self-care.

I am not saying never have fun. Only think about teaching. Work harder. What I am saying is that if you become more disciplined about your teaching, you will find yourself feeling centered, and that feeling is more calming than essential oils.

Instead of taking a nap, start a new habit.

Identify something in your classroom that is causing you stress. Do your students come into your class chatting with each other and you lose ten minutes of class trying to get them to settle down so you can teach? Create an Entrance Ticket. Stand by the door when they walk in, and keep doing this day after day. I can’t promise you that all the chatting will magically go away (I am not Hermione), but I can promise you that you will get some time back and have more data to inform your next instructional move.

Want more? Read How To Turn Teaching Goals Into Teaching Habits

Instead of drinking a cup of tea, fix a broken system.

It’s May. This is the time during the school year where things fall apart. Remember how organized your turn in bins were? Remember when you kept up with your grading? Remember when you regularly updated your classroom website? Even the most organized teacher starts to slip in Spring. Rather than embrace the chaos, and likely complain about it to your colleague down the hall, do something about it. Take an hour to organize the bins, or catch up on grading or update the class website. Get your systems back up and running, and you will likely feel better than you did when you drank that cup of tea.

Want more? Read KonMari Your Classroom Routines and Procedures.

Instead of coloring in an adult coloring book, organize your classroom.

I was lucky if I could find a pencil, let alone a moment of balance at the end of the school year. The reality is that supplies are running low this time of year, and your beautiful classroom library looks like a tornado tore through it. When was the last time you updated your bulletin boards? Do you still have the kids’ work from February hanging on the walls? I used to feel the tension build in my shoulders when I walked into a messy classroom. Clean it up, and then when you are done, color those pages.

Want more? Read How to KonMari Your Classroom

I truly believe that systems=sanity. You will likely get a lot of coffee mugs this week. Those are great, but giving yourself the gift of discipline is even better.

What's your approach to self-care? Share with us on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

Julie Mason is the Head of Content and Curriculum for TeacherVision. She brings expertise in blended and personalized learning, instructional coaching, and curriculum design to the role. She was a middle and high school English teacher for eight years and most recently taught at Dana Hall, an all-girls school in Wellesley, MA. She was a blended and personalized learning instructional coach for K-12 teachers at BetterLesson for two years, and she has presented at The National Principals Conference, ISTE, and ASCD where she shared her expertised on how instructional coaching builds teacher capacity in K-12 schools. She has extensive experience designing and facilitating professional development for teachers, and she oversees the TeacherVision advisory board.


About the author

Julie Mason

English Teacher

About Julie

Julie Mason brings expertise in blended and personalized learning, instructional coaching, and curriculum design. She was a middle and high school English teacher for eight… Read more

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