Three ways educators can practice self-care during Teacher Appreciation Week

Teacher Appreciation Week, May 3-7, happens as the end of the school year is in sight — and as end-of-the-year workloads are increasing.

As a historic school year winds down, Elizabeth Grassi, a trained mindfulness teacher and department chair of Regis University’s Division of Education, knows that teachers are juggling — sometimes remotely — grades, testing and classes while preparing for summer break.

“If you're having a hard time in class, and the kids have spring fever, we have a couple strategies that can help,” she said. “Gratitude practices help increase your level of happiness and help you find joy in the simple, everyday occurrences.” 

In honor of Teacher Appreciation Week, Grassi offered ways teachers can practice self-care while the last few days of class are in session. 

Take a moment to breathe.

To get through an overwhelming moment, Grassi’s advice is simple: “Stop just for a second and take three deep breathes. Then just notice what is happening in the moment, what thoughts are you having? What feelings are you experiencing? No need to change anything, just notice. Be curious about what you are feeling with no judgement.” 

Gratitude practices: Finding the “jewels” in ordinary occurrences.

During an ordinary school day, especially when class becomes hectic, Grassi said, educators might want to stop and just notice some of their small moments of joy. Did a part of your lesson go particularly well? Was the coffee especially delicious today? Is the sun streaming through the windows? 

“What we want to do is have gratitude for the ordinary treasures in life that we often don’t notice,” Grassi said. “So, let's say there was something that happened today that happens almost every day, but you just walk by, you don't notice. For example, the tree is blooming outside your window, someone said, ‘Oh, you look really nice today,’ or a student made you laugh, or smiled at you, or you had a warm cup of coffee. Those are all ordinary occurrences that can bring happiness if we stop, notice, and feel gratitude for that situation.” 

Make a “gratitude flip.”

At the beginning of a busy day, a long to-do list might seem daunting. 

“Write down all the things that you have to do today — everything you have to do, circle the things that are the most difficult for you, perhaps making dinner when you are tired, grading a stack of papers, staying after school for a meeting when you are so tired,” Grassi said. “Then flip it: What if this didn't exist? Why are you grateful in this situation?” 

While making dinner after an exhausting day, she said, teachers might think “I’m so glad to have food,” or during an afterschool meeting, teachers could think, “I am so grateful for my peers.” 

“That's a gratitude flip,” Grassi said. Sometimes simply noticing the “good” in a situation can lesson our stress and increase our happiness. 

When summer finally comes around, Grassi offered one more piece of advice for teachers: “Do nothing. Being bored is really good for your creativity.” 

Are you ready to rise to the challenge of acting as an advocate, a resource and an inspiration for students and your colleagues alike? Explore opportunities to lead with a graduate degree in education from Regis University.