Get Selfish and Avoid the Burn Out with Teacher Self-Care

Leah Clark Professional Development

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Self-Care: any necessary human regulatory function which is under individual control, deliberate and self-initiated (Wikipedia)

This hot buzz word graces Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter, and Facebook in memes and posts as a way to cope with the wild world we live in. It’s become a mantra for those feeling stressed as a way to step back and hit the reset button.

A quick Google search gives hundreds of ideas on how to take care of yourself from a simple meditation session to reading a book to taking a quick walk. These suggestions are meant to help clear your mind from the chaos and clutter. The list is endless. Personally, I enjoy a relaxing mani and pedi session.

This weekend I attended a National Board Certification Coaching Saturday session put on by the Arizona K12 Center. If you are unfamiliar with National Boards or the Arizona K12 Center, here’s a quick overview. National Board Certification is a process in which teachers provide evidence of their accomplished teaching.

It’s based on the five core propositions:

  • Teachers are committed to their students and their learning
  • Teachers know the subjects they teach and how to teach those subjects
  • Teachers are responsible for managing and monitoring student learning
  • Teachers think systematically about their practice and learn from their experience
  • Teachers are part of a learning community

Through three major papers and a test, teachers participate in a rigorous program that shows what they know about their students and how that impacts their teaching and student learning.

The Arizona K12 Center is a nonprofit organization funded by NAU that provides teacher support through incredible professional development.

What do self-care and National Boards Coaching Saturdays have in common? A lot, actually! I have come to consider Coaching Saturdays my teacher self-care. At the monthly event, I connect with teachers who share a vision and passion for our students and their learning. I am paired with a coach who provides guidance, feedback, and lesson and unit ideas. She lets me talk through some ideas, helps me find the answers to my millions of questions, and reassures me that all the hard work is completely worth it.

This particular Coaching Saturday, I reconnected with a teacher who recently certified. While we don’t teach the same content or even in the same district, we have so much in common. We talked about making and watching our films (one of the requirements of NBCT) and how incredible it is to watch our students go through the learning process. She introduced me to another NBCT who shared her experiences certifying and recertifying. We even shared a few laughs about boy moms. The one-hour lunch break (with awesome food I might add), reinvigorates me!

Coaching Saturday is my teacher self-care. The seven hours I spend working on my craft is a necessary regulatory function. I control my time and how I spend it. Do I venture off to the quiet room to work autonomously? Or do I attend a breakout session to learn more about writing for National Boards? Or do I utilize the coaching staff to help me in this process?   

I make these deliberate and self-initiated decisions based on my needs. At the end of the day, I walk away with a feeling of accomplishment and renewed excitement. While NBCT isn’t easy, it’s what I need to do to help me reset my mind for the upcoming weeks in the classroom. It reminds me that what I am doing for my students is important and what I know about them directly affects every decision I make.

It also helps me avoid burn out. Often times, our days fly by and suddenly it’s the end of the week and then the end of the month, quarter, and finally the semester. By finding something like Coaching Saturdays, I am able to stop and take a breath. It centers my practice. While it may seem selfish to take an entire Saturday away from my family, I know I need it. I return home excited to tell my husband about my day and upcoming plans for my classroom. 

If you are feeling the burn out on the horizons, I encourage you to take a moment and think about what can you do to take care of yourself. Don’t feel guilty about stepping away and doing what’s necessary. It’s the least we can do for ourselves. 

Self-care isn’t limited to weekly yoga classes or spending time pruning in the garden, it can be anything that helps us in our lives both personally and professionally. I invite you to share your self-care tips and tricks. What can we do to keep us impassionated and ready to tackle the world? 




Leah Clark

Phoenix, Arizona

I joined the teaching profession after spending several years in luxury retail. While the free clothes and handbags were definite job perks, I felt burned out and tired of long hours, weekends and holidays. So, I went back to school to become a teacher and have never looked back. I love my job!
My teaching philosophy is simple: Do what’s best for kids. While it’s not eloquent, this humble phrase directs every decision I make about teaching and students. As a Language Arts teacher at a central Phoenix high school, it’s my honor and passion to create opportunities for students to communicate, collaborate, create and connect with one another and the world around them.
When I am not grading a stack of essays, planning a new lesson, or chaperoning a school dance, I love riding my yellow Huffy bicycle around town, sampling a new restaurant, and traveling to Flagstaff with my husband.

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Comments 7

  1. Jaime Festa-Daigle

    I agree, self-care does not have to be checking out from what we do during the day, but it should be connecting and supporting who we are. I appreciate the care I am able to get by developing rich relationships with my colleagues. Adding lots of extras to our lives does not help us care for ourselves, but becomes one more thing. Being mindful about what we do and who we do them with is where we can grow as people.

  2. Sandy Merz

    The biggest lesson I learned going the NB process was how effective it was to work in spurts and play in spurts. Instead of locking myself down for a weekend and only do NB work, I’d start Saturday with a couple of hours of writing, then do whatever I wanted for a few hours, then back to board work, then back to play. That would end up being 8 – 12 solid hours of board work and still feel like I had my weekend too.

  3. Rachel Perugini

    The best part of coaching Saturdays for me is getting out of my house and having someone else take care of my needs for a while. When I’m at home, even if my intention is to work for a while, there are so many other things puling my attention. Getting rid of those distractions and having food there for me is so helpful. A snack break at home is a whole ordeal: finding what I want to eat, making it, cleaning up = lots of wasted time. I work so much better when I can just focus on working and know there will be snacks when I need them.

    1. Leah Clark

      Yes! I couldn’t agree more! This last coaching Saturday was my first as new mom. I actually got work done! Go figure!

  4. Treva Jenkins

    Great post Leah and I absolutely love your statement: “Self-care isn’t limited to weekly yoga classes or spending time pruning in the garden, it can be anything that helps us in our lives both personally and professionally.” So true! Because, by nature, we are so passionate about this work, we tend to normalize lack of sleep or exercise, eating too many unhealthy foods, and not spending enough time doing things that refresh and energize us. So many of us have just accepted the conclusion that this stressful lifestyle is just part of the job. But we know that type of attitude can have dire consequences. We need to talk more about teacher self care and give teachers the resources they need to address these issues. Thanks for shinning the light!!

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