Happy World Teacher’s Day! While teachers deserve to be celebrated every day, October 5 marks a special time to recognize and show our appreciation to educators around the world. This year, we worked with Changemaker Brittany Sinitch of the Unbreakable Org to host a workshop with teachers from our Aerie Speaks group, who were given support and strategies to help them during this upcoming school year!
Brittany’s “Lesson Plan” included activities such as a “Mood Meter” warmup, a One Word Project to boost self-validation and an open discussion on boundaries and the importance of setting them. The workshop led to impactful conversations around the power of speaking positively, the various experiences that have shaped them as educators and most importantly: understanding that who you are is enough!
Aerie caught up with Brittany to learn more about how she practices self-care, and her own simple tips for teachers (and anyone!) to try. Check it out below!
Between grading papers and building lesson plans, how do you find time for self-care?
You know, that is a great question! I wonder the same thing (just kidding, well sometimes…). I started teaching when I was 22 and I was THE most excited 22-year-old ever to be in the classroom, which meant staying very late to do anything and everything. I don’t know why, but I truly thought everything needed to get done at once each day. Maybe it was my anxiety trying to tell me that I had to do all the things in order to be a good teacher, but I was so very wrong. It unfortunately took me going through a tragedy to realize that I needed to get better at balancing self-care.
After surviving the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas, I began attending therapy, which taught me so many beautiful life lessons I wish I knew earlier, but also reminded me that I didn’t have to go through everything alone. So sometimes, self-care means talking to people I love. Sometimes it means going to therapy. Sometimes it means taking a bath and eating ice cream. Sometimes it means not grading or answering emails when I leave school. It always means doing something that will help me be a better version of myself, that way I can be a better teacher, partner, daughter and friend.
What is the key to creating an effective self-care regime?
I would have to say setting boundaries is key. It is so easy to want to do it all—even the things that make us happy, but we have to set boundaries for ourselves. I lead with the mantra: protect your heart. When I remember that mantra it helps me ask myself: is this going to stress me out or relax me? Is this part of unplugging from school? Does this HAVE to get done right now? It is important that I ask myself these questions, even if they are difficult, because at the end of the day self-care can be difficult, choosing ourselves can be difficult, but it is necessary. Once those boundaries are set, I have space in my day to do something that serves me, that relaxes me, and that makes me feel recharged.
As a teacher, why do you think self-care is important so particularly now?
Teachers now more than ever are balancing so much. I am currently teaching in-person and online at the same time. It can be so stressful giving so much of yourself to so many others at the same time. Every teacher is going through something similar to this or something completely different that comes with its own challenges. With that said, it is so important for teachers to know when to unplug.
We are constantly giving our attention to others and in order to sustain that, we need to direct the attention back to ourselves at some point in the day. I try to schedule self-care breaks whenever I can. Sometimes that looks like a quick walk outside during lunch or a deep breathing break during my planning hour. This will look different for everyone, but teachers, if you are reading this, YOU DESERVE A MOMENT TO BREATHE AND POUR INTO YOURSELF!
How can teachers get involved with The Unbreakable Org community?
Follow us on Instagram! We are getting ready to announce some really exciting changes. There is so much to come, and we welcome everyone to be part of our community.
Five Self-Care Exercises for Teachers
I truly close my eyes and take at least three long, deep breaths.
Journaling really helps with this, specifically writing out my goals, dreams, ambitions, and then coming back to that list and reading about which ones have been accomplished or how hard I have worked towards them. When I go back and read this, I see a girl who has worked so hard despite the heaviness of the world. Even if something isn’t accomplished yet, I see myself trying and moving towards my goals and that to me is a reminder that I am enough.
I recently did a Vision Board project with my students where they got to visualize their goals and dreams. Sometimes seeing your goals in front of you is a good reminder of how far you have come and what you want the most in your life. Your Vision Board doesn’t always have to have an action item on there — it could simply just showcase that you want to feel happiness.
Getting off my phone and out into the world. I know it is so hard to travel right now, but even getting outside — going on walks, going to the beach, going on a long drive has all helped me so much. Sometimes we need to just unplug and experience what this world still has to offer.
I try my best to make my Sunday’s not so scary and I do this by fueling myself back up for the week ahead. This means making sure I have nutritious foods in the fridge, laundry complete, and a clear head. I’ll go on a run, listen to music, journal — anything to help clear my mind for the week ahead.