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:
- Math with Bad Drawings: Illuminating the Ideas that Shape Our Reality, by Ben Orlin. He also has a blog by the same name.
- How Not to be Wrong: The Power of Mathematical Thinking, and Shape:The Hidden Geometry of Information, Biology, Strategy, Democracy, and Everything Else, by Jordan Ellenberg.
- Infinite Powers: How Calculus Reveals the Secrets of the Universe, by Stephan Strogatz
- Living In Data: A Citizen’s Guide to a Better Information Future, by Jer Thorp
- Humble Pi: When Math Goes Wrong In the Real World, by Matter Parker
- The Simpsons and Their Mathematical Secrets, by Simon Singh
- Better Explained is a super blog by Kalid Azad
- Numberphile is a super Youtube channel by Brady Haran
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.