Content Reading As Teacher Self-Care

Sandy Merz Uncategorized

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It’s no secret that school staff have large and demanding workloads that leave many with little time or energy to take proper care of themselves. Stress, illness, fatigue, apathy, depression, bad temper, and the like tend to follow. Fortunately, teacher self-care is being taken more seriously than ever. I’ve been in plenty of training sessions that pursue the topic. The usual recommendations (all good) may include exercise, diet, “me” time, structure, having a hobby, and intentional downtime. 

I’d like to run content reading as a self-care practice up the flagpole and see if anyone salutes. You read that right, and I’ll be the first to admit it sounds counter-intuitive. It sounds like more of the work that’s wearing us out to begin with. But that’s not the way it has to be. 

Here’s why. Chances are you teach the subject you teach because you love it, and more importantly – loved learning it. Sadly, though, once you get flowing in your teaching career, you don’t get many opportunities to keep learning your subject matter. Professional development is long on topics like teaching methods, assessment, and technology in the classroom. But, how often do you get a chance to just learn more about your subject for your own sake, regardless of any direct application to your teaching? 

As a math teacher I can always enroll in a college course in an advanced math topic,* but that is costly and time-consuming and, at least to me, would feel like more work. But pleasure reading never feels like work, and a well-written book, or blog, or Youtube channel can bring back the excitement about math, free of any teaching context. 

And that’s nearly as renewing as any other self-care practice I engage in. Fortunately, there is a boatload of general math content at your favorite bookstore and online. And here some favorites I’d recommend:

Each of these contains solid content, humor, anecdotes, history, culture, and current events that will reaffirm your love for math and revive your spirits as well as any other self-care practice you follow.

I’d love to hear your own reading recommendations for math or any other subject.

*I actually will be taking a math class soon to make up for a deficiency. I wonder if there’s a chance it will feel like self-care and not work.




I grew up in Silver City, New Mexico and went the University of New Mexico, earning a Bachelor of Science degree in Geology. After working for the U.S. Geological Survey in remote regions of western New Mexico, I moved to Tucson to attend graduate school at the University of Arizona, earning a Master of Science degree in Hydrogeology. While working as an intern hydrologist for a local county agency, I started doing volunteer work that involved making presentations in schools. At that moment I knew teaching was the path to follow. It must have been a good decision because I’m still on the path after thirty-two years. My teaching certificates are in math and science and I am a National Board Certified Teacher in Career and Technical Education. After teaching engineering and math and elective classes at the same school in downtown Tucson my whole career, I've moved to a different middle school and district on the edge of town to teach math. In addition to full time teaching, I am actively involved in the teacher leadership movement by facilitating National Board candidates, blogging for Stories from School Arizona, and serving on the Arizona K12 Center’s TeacherSolutions team. In January 2017, Raytheon Missile System named me a Leader in Education and I'm a former Arizona Hope Street Fellow.

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