How To Make Time For Self-Care When You're An Exhausted Teacher

Have you ever noticed that every month or so, teachers will often say to each other, "It's that time of year again! I'm exhausted!" and nod in agreement? While I agree the demands on us are high--we can't just sit there and let ourselves reach exhaustion every few weeks. It's not sustainable.

You can't pour from an empty cup. If you don't take care of yourself, nobody else will. Make yourself a priority.

If you're busy and you feel like "you don't have time" for anything extra, then self-care is extra important for you in particular! These are my secrets to help you make time for yourself... and to fit it in without slacking on all of your other demands. Or... you know... going crazy!

How To Make Time For Self-Care When You're An Exhausted Teacher by A Word On Third

1. Double dip.

I practice this every day. If there's something I can do that will make me happier or healthier, I pair it with something else.

I need to exercise, and I need to play with my dogs daily. That means that I go for a run and take my dogs with me. Now I've accomplished both at the same time. 

I like to read personal development books. I listen to a podcast or audiobook while I cook, clean, or drive to work. It makes my chores more enjoyable.

I need to pack my lunches for the week. Can I make larger dinners and pack the leftovers for lunch when I'm cleaning up afterwards?

This is all about working smarter, not harder. When you say, "I don't have time," it's a hint that you might not be using your time as efficiently as possible. There are endless resources to get better with this.

2. Take short breaks.

It might not feel easy to accomplish all of the time, but scheduling breaks is scientifically proven to help you be more productive. This article shows how taking breaks will help you. After all, you give your kids brain breaks; you need them too! All you really need to do is set aside 3 to 5 minutes to reap the benefits. 

I recommend taking your break at the beginning of your prep and lunch periods. Even if you feel like you just have to finish something first, scheduling your break before doing anything else will help you be more productive later. It also ensures you fit your break in. How many times have you said to yourself that you would eat your lunch as soon as you finished making copies and grading those papers only to realize you didn't get to eat your lunch. You have to make this a priority, remember?

How you take your breaks is up to you, but it's really important that you take them during the school day. You might decide to do a quick YouTube exercise or yoga video to get your blood pumping and wake your brain and body up. You might also do a quick breathing exercise or meditation. You can even just decide to walk around your school once or twice. Maybe you can even walk outside if the weather is nice! Once in a while, I open up a book that I am reading strictly for pleasure during lunch. Even if I only read it for 5 minutes, it's really nice!!

3. Make an effort to include one sweet thing in each day.

Oddly enough, I feel like this is the easiest item on this list to accomplish, but it's often the first one to be neglected. This can be literally anything, and only takes a few seconds. Here are some things that make the cut on my list:
  • Wear extra fluffy socks
  • Bring a pair of slippers to work for after your students leave.
  • Pack your favorite snack.
  • Play your favorite songs over your projector speakers once the kids leave.
  • Play a nature video in the background during your lunch and prep periods.
  • Make your favorite cup of tea.
  • Put your favorite scent in your essential oil diffuser.
  • Put your phone down and pay attention while you snuggle your dog.
  • Give yourself a compliment.
  • Tidy up a space you spend time in often until you're happy with it.
  • Sing to your favorite upbeat song on your drive home.
  • Call someone you love.
Make a list that makes you happy and stick with it! I'm sure some of the stuff on my list would be annoying to you, so don't pick anything that would bother you.

4. Practice the 80-20 rule.

Scientists say that our most important tasks, which tend to take up 20 percent of our time, tend to yield 80% of our results. That means we need to spend some time thinking about our priorities.

What does that mean for an exhausted teacher? It means you don't have to make that font pretty. You don't have to put that copy on the prettiest colored paper when you can't find it. You don't have to use your prettiest hand lettering on your anchor charts. 

Those kinds of things aren't going to lead to the most significant learning outcomes. If you're exhausted, you need to ask yourself what you value most. Maybe you can come back to those other nice things when you aren't exhausted again.

Give yourself permission to be human and to prioritize well for you. Let some things go.

5. Implement basic healthy habits one at a time.

Being mentally, emotionally, and physically healthy is really important, but it's not easy to get started all of the time. How many of us have set New Year's Resolutions and given up on them a few weeks or months later? It's because we're busy and we've bitten off more than we can chew.

Let's say I decide to get more sleep. Some people say they will get 8 hours of sleep per night, but they fail at it over and over again. That's because you're really not changing one habit at a time; you're changing many! You have to get to bed earlier, do different before-bed rituals (like washing your face or packing your lunch) earlier, stop binging on Netflix when you are supposed to be going to bed, put your kids to bed earlier, etc. That's a lot of different habits just to get more sleep! The take away here is that you need to do those things one at a time if you want the habit to stick.

If you want to drink more water each day, that is simple enough that you probably can just buy a bigger water bottle and plan to drink 2 of them during your work day. However, you can't plan to drink more water, eat healthier, meal prep, and exercise all at once if you haven't gradually implemented those habits into your life. Therefore, that means you should focus on implementing one of these tips first rather than trying all give at once.

These tips have really helped me to practice self-care. Double-dipping helps me in particular. I regularly make extra servings of a weekend lunch so I have lunches for the week. What's the tip that you are going to try? Comment below and let me know how you're going to implement it!

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You Need This Easy Confidence Builder In Your Class!

It's hard to get your students to accomplish things as a class and as individuals if they don't feel confident. Let's be real--LIFE in general is hard when you're not confident. While building our student's confidence isn't 100% within our control, we can still do a lot to help. Incorporating positive self-talk is my favorite way of helping students to become more confident.

Set up a positive affirmation as a password to build confidence! - By A Word On Third

Set up a password that your students must say before entering the room.

No exceptions, it needs to be said. It's pretty simple, right? It's a fabulous way to get kids to enter the room and say something positive about themselves. All I did was write "password of the day" on top of a piece of paper and laminate it. Because it's laminated, you can write on it with dry-erase marker and easily change the affirmation whenever you want. Then I taped it up outside of my door. 

Set up a positive affirmation as a password to build confidence! - By A Word On Third

I like to keep my affirmations for about a week to really help solidify that affirmation in each of my students' minds. It's so easy to find a ton of positive affirmations with a quick Pinterest or Google search. You might also use growth mindset beliefs too!

Another reason I LOVE having kids say this before entering the room is it gives me a chance to see each kid one-on-one and really take the pulse of the class and each student every single day. I know who is having a rough morning before they even enter. You can even use these affirmations as passwords OUT the door at the end of the day too!

Set up a positive affirmation as a password to build confidence! - By A Word On Third

My kids will sometimes even recite their affirmations to themselves after they are already inside of the room. Don't get me wrong-it's not EVERY kid doing that-but it's really nice to see that it's helping some of my students.

I've seen some teachers do this with academic concepts too. To enter a room, you might write the equation "5 x 4" on the board and kids need to say "20" to enter. Students might also need to read a sight word. I happen to like going the affirmation route better because it puts the emphasis on feeling good and building confidence rather than being wrong or right.

If you want to try this tomorrow but you know you won't get to run to a laminator, grab some post-its and get writing! You can also just tape over a piece of paper with packing tape and "laminate" your paper that way! What will your first affirmation be for your students? Comment below!

By the way, if you haven't already subscribed, we'd love to have you! Join our community by signing up in the box right under my bio to the right. Also, make sure to follow me on Instagram for more classroom ideas! There's a giveaway going on right now that you won't want to miss out on. Go enter!

I'm really grateful for the new friendships I've gained and great ideas I've gotten from this IG teacher community. I love bring able to take the inspiration back to my classroom where it counts. I want to say thank you, so I'm hosting a giveaway! To enter, you must: Like this post. Make sure you're following me @awordonthird. Tag a teacher bestie and tell them why you are grateful for them in the comments. Extra entries go to pals who share this post in their IG story, on their IG feed. That's it! Winner will be announced in a few days. I'm grateful for you guys because you make me feel inspired when I'm frustrated. #teachersfollowteachers #iteach #teachertribe #kindergarten #firstgrade #secondgrade #thirdgrade #fourthgrade #fifthgrade #elementaryschool #teacherlife #teachergiveaways #teachergiveaway #giveaway #teacherlife #teacherthings #teachersrock #teaching #education #school #flexibleseating
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4 Unique Ways To Get Your Student's Attention

Getting your students' attention can be challenging sometimes. I truly believe that when I have a difficult time getting my class' attention, it's because I haven't been consistent enough. With that being said, here are a few tricks to help you get your students' attention... and have them listening to you.

4 Unique Ways To Get Your Student's Attention

1. Instead of speaking, type your directions.

Because I am blessed with a projector and smart board in my classroom, sometimes I get to type my directions. This works out to my advantage, because typing forces me to be more succinct. I'm also a quick typer, so my kids get their directions quickly. This forces them to read and process the directions before following them. Extra reading practice + voice saving tactics = teacher win! I got this idea from the amazing Mr. D, who is absolutely AMAZING! Do you follow him on Instagram? You must!!

2. Use a magic word.

When I want students to listen to a whole set of directions, I make sure to say, "When I say go..." or, "When I say the magic word, which is _______..." before adding any other direction. I like to give a small but dramatic pause after saying the magic word too.

You can keep one magic word all year (like "GO"), or you might change it up every day/week/month. It can be a vocabulary word or a nonsense word. The big thing here is that you tell kids when they will be released to follow your direction BEFORE you give it.

3. Stand higher than usual.

Whether you decide to stand on a chair, on a table, or on a classroom stage, adding some extra inches to your stature can be a powerful tool. Just do it safely! If you fall, it's NOT on me, got it!?

Okay, seriously, though... when my students are in the middle of working and I realize I need to make an adjustment, I stand up on something a little higher than my usual height and say, "Can I have your attention please?" Once everyone is looking, I can say the direction. Then it's off the chair as usual. I don't recommend abusing this one, because it will lose its novelty quickly if you do.

4. Be consistent and use modeling.

Really, what it comes down to is modeling. If we regularly model our quiet signals (after a break, after a long weekend, before or after a sub comes, when it's a full moon and Valentine's Day and the 100th Day of school all at the same time...), we are setting our kids up for success.  Modeling isn't enough for the students though; we need to regularly model and practice those signals with our students. Read more about how to do that here.

I hope these ideas help you snag your class' attention quickly! I know how this time of year can drag on, but you've got this! 

By the way, if you haven't already subscribed, we'd love to have you! Join our community by signing up in the box right under my bio to the right. Also, make sure to follow me on Instagram for more classroom ideas! 

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4 Posts That Will Help You Improve Your Morning Messages

Often times, teachers overlook the value that the Morning Message component of a Morning Meeting can have! It's the last part of the meeting, so it is the segue between meeting and the rest of your day. This makes it such a powerful time! Use it to your benefit.

Here are 4 posts with ideas to help you make the most of your morning messages.

1. How To Best Fit Math Into Morning Meetings

If you're feeling like the content areas aren't always involved in your morning meetings as much as you'd like them to be, starting with math is a good idea. Click here or the picture below for some more ideas.

2. How To Quickly Make Morning Messages SENSATIONAL!

My favorite ideas from this post are sharing the pen or reading in different ways. It's so easy, and it takes little to no prep. POOF! Morning message OWNED. Click here or on the picture below to read more.

3. How To Put The Spotlight On Content In Morning Meeting

You'll actually learn some tips for all 4 components of morning meeting on this post! Some ideas are repeated from the last post, but this is a quick, easy read, so I wanted to include it. Plus, I liked giving you extra goodies for greetings, sharing, and activities. Click here or on the picture to read more.

4. How To Craft Fun & Effective Morning Messages

Number 2 is a life saver--especially on crazy days! Read more by clicking here or on the picture below.

I hope these ideas help you use your morning messages to the best of your ability! By the way, if you haven't already subscribed, we'd love to have you! Join our community by signing up in the box right under my bio to the right.

5 Greetings That Will Make Morning Meeting More Exciting

Morning Meeting is easily my favorite time of day. It's when I get to spend the most time enjoying my kids as people rather than as students. Typically, it should be formatted as follows: greeting, share, activity, morning message. It's important that you and your students don't get bored with Morning Meetings; they set the tone for your entire day!

Here are 5 greetings you can use to add some life back into your Morning Meetings and prevent them from feeling stale.

5 Greetings That Will Make Morning Meeting More Exciting

Floppy Fish Greeting
Step 1: The class starts by standing up in a circle. One student stands in the middle of the circle, makes eye contact with another student, and “reels them in” by acting like they have a fishing pole. The student they “reel in” swims over like a fish.
Step 2: The students greet each other in the center of the circle.
Step 3: The student who was acting like the fish becomes the next student reeling in a new student to greet. The last person to be greeted should greet the first person who stood in the middle of the circle.

Sight Word Greeting
Give students a name tag, label, or index card with a sight word written on it. You could even use the words from your actual word wall if they are removable. Have students greet each other using their sight words instead of their names. Want to put a different spin on it? Use vocabulary words or science/social studies words too.

Shoe Greeting
Students take off one shoe, put it in the center of the circle, and take someone else’s shoe. Students greet each other until they find their new shoe’s owner and find their own shoe.

Skip Counting Greeting
Students skip count by a certain number and greet the student that many people away from them. I like to have students high-5 the students in between that they don’t get to greet. This is particularly useful if you have students who like to greet the same classmates every day.

Skip Die Greeting
Students roll a die and skip that number of people in the circle. For example, if you roll a 4, you skip 4 people and greet the 5th person. I like to have students high five the students they skip. The last person to go greets the first person.

I hope you enjoy these 5 greetings! I think Floppy Fish is my current favorite. What's yours? Comment below!

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Why You Need To Use Redirecting Language Every Day

Redirecting language is a powerful tool that can help stop misbehaviors really quickly and prevent them from getting you off track while you teach. Changing my language to incorporate more effective redirecting language was challenging for me, but it has paid off tremendously.

Using redirecting language allows me to spend a significantly smaller amount of time responding to misbehavior than I used to.

Redirecting language is a powerful tool that can help stop misbehaviors really quickly and prevent them from getting you off track while you teach.

According to Responsive Classroom, "keeping teacher language simple and brief when redirecting behavior is the right choice." Your first priority needs to be getting control of your room. You can always check in with individual students later at a more convenient time to discuss expectations.

Your redirecting language can probably use some tweaks if...

  • you've felt like your students have tuned out while you've been talking (maybe the Charlie Brown teacher comes to mind)
  • you feel mean when you tell students what to do
  • you say please or thank you often when asking students to do something
  • you find you redirect students and are met with a power struggle
  • you lose the momentum of your lessons when you have to redirect when teaching

Don't worry if you think you fit into one or more of those categories. I think most teachers do at some point in their careers! Redirecting students is not about being rigid or punitive; it's about regaining control of your classroom and setting boundaries so students can do their best learning. It's simple, respectful, and firm.

Here are some good examples of really effective redirecting language. 

"Stop. Take a break."
"We use kind words in this classroom. Those weren't kind words."
"Push in your chair."

Be mindful that if any of these are said with a frustrated tone of voice or some sassy body language, you've probably lost a lot of impact you could have had. Do you see how short those words are? No time is spent lecturing about the proper behavior. Just briefly give the direction for students to follow. It's so much easier!!

Also, did you notice that I'm not saying "please" or "thank you?" That seems to imply that following a direction is optional. It's not optional! "Will you please raise your hand?" is not meant to be a request, so don't make it one. Say, "Raise your hand," instead.

I also like to connect redirecting language to the rules if I'm having trouble vocalizing what I want quickly. One of our student-generated rules this year is, "Show self-control." I might just say, "Follow our rule show self control." Because we've discussed the rules in depth, my class will know what that means. If you haven't done that, you might need to say something more like, "Listen quietly."

HAPPY REDIRECTING, EVERYONE! I promise you will notice your lessons moving smoothly when you don't have to stop your lesson and redirect in the moment. Even if it feels mean at first, I promise it isn't. Your students won't think it's mean either.

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Why You Need To Use Reinforcing Language Every Day

Reinforcing language is a powerful tool that can make your instruction SO much more meaningful. When I changed the way I used reinforcing language, the shift I noticed in my students was drastic and almost immediate.

In fact, I'd even go as far as to say that the majority of the language you use when students are working should probably be reinforcing language.

This one simple language skill will significantly impact your students for the better! - A Word On Third

According to Responsive Classroom, "teachers use reinforcing language to show that they see students’ positive academic and behavioral efforts and accomplishments. Their words are specific and descriptive; their tone is upbeat and encouraging."

Remember to frame your language in a way that does not put an emphasis on getting your approval. For example, "I like how you used quotation marks so your reader would know who is talking," could simply be changed to, "You used quotation marks so your reader would know who is talking." With a warm tone, this still conveys that you're proud, but it takes the emphasis away from pleasing you and places it on doing great work. 

Reinforcing language is my secret weapon. Here's why I think you should use reinforcing language too if you don't already.

It builds confidence and community.

When a teacher says, "Good job," it's nice, but it doesn't give any substantial feedback. Good job with what exactly? What do you want the child to replicate? When a child hears the exact, specific skill they did a good job with named, they will probably want to continue doing it. They'll feel recognized for their hard work.

When you can give that specific feedback, in social or academic situations, you are building a community of learners. You show what you value to your students. Teachers can get stuck in the rut of correcting mistakes too often, especially since we were probably taught that way as kids. Be mindful of how damaging that might be to a students' self-esteem--especially if it's already low to begin with!

It prevents misbehavior. 

Confident students are going to behave better. We'd all rather take a preventative approach to classroom management rather than a reactive one, right? 

Students who may be unsure of what to do but then get specific feedback about what they did well will continue doing that thing well. Oh, hey, look! That builds confidence!

I know you can see the correlation between reinforcing language and preventing misbehavior, so I will leave it at that.

It deepens understanding of concepts.

If you can walk around at some point during independent work time and and simply name what you see, you are making a huge impact on your students. Try to do this at least once per day (or even a couple of times per week). For all intents and purposes, you'll be having a bunch of mini compliment conferences and guiding students forward in the right direction with a burst of positivity.

This is especially useful when you know a student was struggling with something. It's so important to celebrate struggling students and validate the hard work they did by positively reinforcing progress towards an ultimate goal or meeting that goal. 

HAPPY REINFORCING, EVERYONE! I promise you will notice a huge difference in your students' independence and an improvement in your students' academic performance when you consistently use this type of language. If you want more detailed information on how to incorporate reinforcing language into your day, check this post.

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