By Todd Nesloney and Travis Crowder

The winter months are challenging for educators. Many of us have been in school for half a year, and since beginning the year, we have worked beside kids and adults to create a challenging yet welcoming environment for all who enter our schools. Maintaining that balance is important, but it does take a lot out of us, both physically and emotionally. We live and teach in a time where joy is devalued and learning goals and standards are elevated above well-being. While we cannot change that mindset, we can offer some ways to care for yourself, especially during the day at school.

Keep a notebook and write things for which you are grateful. Brené Brown, nationally-recognized researcher and speaker, has spent years studying shame and its effects on humanity. After aggregating the data from her various research studies, she found that gratitude was a common component among happy people. Identifying that for which we are grateful, especially in the form of writing, keeps us focused. By writing them, we are openly acknowledging the sources of our gratitude. And many times, we need those reminders.

We use heart maps (Heard 1999) with students and adults often. Create one for yourself. Draw a heart on a single sheet of paper, preferably a notebook, and begin filling your heart with the things you love. Consider people, music, movies, vacation spots, sports teams, instruments, and so on that fill your heart. Go back to this heart map often, updating it as you remember things that belong there.

Take time for you. YES YOU! If you aren’t taking care of your own mental health then you are no good to anyone. Make sure you do something that fuels your soul and has nothing to do with your school or classroom. Read a new book, binge on Netflix, garden, go shopping, create a piece of art, anything!

Call Someone. This one is two-fold. First, what we mean is take the time to call someone and let them know what they mean to you. Let them know the impact they have left on you. A simple phone call can go a long way. But the other way we mean call someone is to make sure that when the load becomes too much to bear you call someone. Tell them you’re struggling and don’t be afraid to ask for help.

As we continue to move further into the school year, we encourage you to keep these ideas close to you, leaning into the ideas when you need them. If you’re comfortable, share your thinking and ideas on Twitter or other social media platforms using #WeLeadTX. We love hearing from other educators who are working to build lasting relationships with their school families, as well as learning from fellow educators the ways we can care for ourselves.

Todd Nesloney is TEPSA’s Director of Culture and Strategic Leadership. He is an award winning educator, author and international speaker.

Travis Crowder, a National Board Certified Teacher, teaches middle school students in North Carolina. He co-hosts the popular podcast series “Sparks in the Dark” and is co-author of Sparks in the Dark.

TEPSA News, January/February 2020, Vol 77, No 1

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The Texas Elementary Principals and Supervisors Association (TEPSA), whose hallmark is educational leaders learning with and from each other, has served Texas PK-8 school leaders since 1917. Member owned and member governed, TEPSA has more than 5,900 members who direct the activities of 3 million PK-8 school children. TEPSA is an affiliate of the National Association of Elementary School Principals.

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