Jennifer López, IRT ’10, ’20
Teaching during the pandemic has not been an easy feat. With more demands than ever, educators have had to face challenges like never before.
As I write this article, I cannot help but think about all the planning, grading, calls, make-up work, data analysis, meetings, etc. I need to prepare for the upcoming week. The immense expectations placed on teachers has left many, including myself, overwhelmed and disillusioned. However, my students deserve the absolute best, and so I show up every day and give it my 110%. As I reflect on how I am surviving this school year, I am reminded about the importance of making sure I am filling my cup in some way every day. While I understand the structural educational inequities that currently exist need to be transformed in order to ensure teacher sustainability long-term, finding ways on a day to day basis to help me stay afloat are just as critical.
Below are some strategies that have helped me survive this current school year. As a facilitator of the self-care committee at my school, my goal is to not only to support my colleagues and make teaching sustainable for them, but also to take care of myself as well. I hope you can find solace in one of these strategies, and I invite you to set an intention for one in the coming week.
- Set up a time for self-care: It sounds silly, but with our busy schedules, finding “me time” is important. This looks different for everyone, so decide what this looks like for you, and schedule the time consistently.
- Movement: Whether it is a run, walk around the neighborhood or yoga video, make time to move your body. Trust me, you will feel better.
- Meditation: Taking time to clear our minds is essential. There are many amazing meditation apps you can download and listen to on your phone. One of my favorites is the tapping solution.
- Reflection/Quiet Time: Carve out five minutes of time each day to reflect on your day. These five minutes can make such a difference and help slow you down.
- Declutter your Space: Finding time to clean out cabinets, your desk, or room can help make you feel better. Your environment can make a difference on your mental health. If you are constantly walking into a messy room, it can add unnecessary stress you do not need.
- Connect with family or friends: This pandemic has been hard to connect with family and friends in person, but finding time to connect with them with weekly phone calls, video chats, etc. is essential for those that thrive off socializing.
- Practice Gratitude: Whether it be as you settle for bed, in a gratitude jar, or in a written journal, reflect each day on something you are grateful for.
References: Boogren, T. (2020). 180 days of self-care for busy educators. Solution Tree Press.
Jennifer López is entering her tenth year of teaching. She is currently a fifth grade teacher at PUC Community Charter Elementary School in Sylmar, California. Previously, she taught sixth grade history for five years. Jennifer has served as a grade level lead, coached girls’ soccer, created a student council program, and has mentored new teachers. Throughout the years, she has participated in different teacher study tours, specifically with the Earthwatch Institute, National Consortium for Teaching Asia (NCTA), and UCLA’s Summer Institute to China. In 2015, Jennifer worked on Educators 4 Excellence (E4E)’s Teacher Policy Team that wrote “One School of Thought: Moving Towards the Common Core.” She most recently was a part of Educators for Excellence’s Teacher Advisory Group for its national teacher survey, and is now on their National Teacher Leader Council. In 2020, she was granted CSUN’S Outstanding Pandemic Teaching Award and Science of Sport Champion of the Classroom Award. She received her B.A. from University of California, Los Angeles, M.A.T from Duke University, and is currently pursuing her Ed.D. at the University of Southern California. In her free time, you can find her hiking, running, or traveling the world.