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A Teacher’s Guide to Health, Wellness, and Being Your Best for Your Students.

My son finished his last school year with his beloved teacher on maternity leave. Now, in the second month of the new school year, his current teacher is also out on maternity leave. Something struck me deeply in both instances.  Each of these fabulous, dedicated teachers did everything she could to stay in the classroom with her students until the doctor said, “Nope—you really have to go home now.” I adore each of these wonderful ladies and their care for my child---but I have to say, the doctor was completely right.  Their wellbeing was most important.  It was clearly time to go home.

The thing is, a teacher by her (or his!) very nature is there for the kids above all else. That’s lovely—and sometimes a recipe for disaster. This month is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, which is, of course, an excellent time for all women and men to be reminded of their breast health and the importance of self-checks, mammography, and mindfulness of her own physical well-being. But this, of course, relates to so much more in addition to breast cancer awareness.  At the foundation is the reminder to us all to care for our own health and wellness, first and foremost. Being our own best selves in body and mind is the most important thing we can do for our students.

With that in mind, we’d like to offer every teacher—female and male—practical, doable, worthwhile tips for taking the best care of yourself you possibly can.  You—and your students—deserve it!

1.  Enjoy the Great Outdoors

We make our classrooms lovely, dynamic, joyful places of learning—but nothing can compete with the value of spending time in the beautiful outdoors.  Whenever possible, you and your students should enjoy some time in the fresh air and natural light. Science shows us how healthful this is.  So often we want to get a few things done while the students are at recess, but similar to the adage “Mama should nap when the baby naps,” Teacher should enjoy a little sunshine and fresh air when the kids do (at least sometimes!).

2.  Eat Healthfully

Go, go, go—that’s what we do!  But let’s not make the need to get things done circumvent the need, every day, for healthful food.  Fruits, vegetables, and healthy proteins give the energy we need to go the distance, stay on top of things, and fight off the countless germs we come into contact with every day! Apple for the teacher, anyone?

3.  Take Breaks

Akin to enjoying the great outdoors, we as teachers must remember that we—just like our students—need breaks.  It’s so easy to think, “If only I make these copies now,” or “I really need to write that parent email,” or “I can grade a few papers now,” but the truth is that taking a few minutes detached from the work goes a long way in helping the work go more smoothly and easily. Skipping breaks is robbing Peter to pay Paul. The debt has to be paid somewhere—and Health is often the one paying the bill.

4. Laugh—and Laugh Often

Health practitioners of all kinds tell us that laughter is the best medicine, and we have countless examples of the truth of this adage. A positive attitude and a joyful heart—one that is quick to see the humor and lightness in a situation—is also one that will deal with life’s inevitable challenges with relative ease. So often, perspective alone makes all the difference in the stress that comes with a challenge. And as a teacher, you are guaranteed a handful of pretty hilarious situations and comments each and every day.  That’s one of the perks of working with kids—and the glorious creatures who are your fellow teachers.

5. Go Easy on Yourself

This is the toughie, isn’t it? The kids are counting on us—parents are counting on us—administrators are counting on us—it can seem so overwhelming. We sometimes think we have to do it all, know it all, and manage it all. Guess what? “I don’t know” can be a perfectly acceptable answer to a student’s question—especially when followed by, “What do you think we can do to find out?” The kids need to see you learn as well, to see how it’s done. And administrators and parents are going to be just fine even if you aren’t a constant model of perfection! Although you are a teacher—and let’s face it, that seems to mean you’ve got a bit of superpower in you—you are in truth a mere mortal just like all of us. You are human, and we humans cannot operate at 100% all the time. You are splendid just as you are—truly good enough—and your students are as lucky to have you as you are to have them. Give yourself a break—and a pat on the back.  And while you’re at it, have a laugh, breathe in some fresh air, and eat a healthy snack. You deserve to be well taken care of. By far, that is the best thing you can do for your students.

Take care!