Do a web search right now about the state of the education profession and you’ll find a lot of doom and gloom about demoralization, slashed compensation, larger class sizes, fewer resources, lack of parent support, etc. The list literally goes on and on (with good reason). However, our students keep coming to school every day and they need the most effective teachers now more than ever. I’m not talking about recruting these new mythical teachers that will come out of the woodwork once we have performance pay in place. I’m talking about every single one of us who are already in the profession just being a little bit better tomorrow than we were today. From now until tomorrow, there isn’t enough time to become gurus on 21st century learning skills, or become experts on the latest research on motivation, or by learning some new silver bullet curriculum to transform every kid. I’m talking about making changes to ourselves to make sure we are in the right frame of mind and physical state to be a positive change agent for our students. How you take care of yourself today will make a difference to you and your students tomorrow.
The following tips come from my intelligent and talented wife who is an associate professor of health education (Tweeple, follow her). I’m not the greatest client when it comes to taking health advice, but she’s kept me sane, healthy, and alive for our 20 years together, so I’m a strong believer in what she says. So here is Dr. Rees’s advice with my interpretation:
1) Clear your mind before bed and get adequate sleep. Don’t stare at your computer screen for 90 minutes stewing about lesson plans or parent emails and then try to drift off to peaceful sleep. Shut down that computer, read a book, or write in your journal. Do the same for TV. Those same stories about world wars, natural tragedies, Charlie Sheen, union strife, and poor PISA scores aren’t going anywhere and you can quickly catch up on them the next day with a quick 3 minute scan through Google News. Get at least 8 hours of sleep (9 would be better, but let’s be realistic). Get into the 8 hour sleep habit and you’ll find yourself becoming very productive so that you’ll have extra time to get all those errands and tasks done to allow you to get to bed on time.
2) Eat right, drink right, and be merry. Eat a decent breakfast. My wife would give you all sorts of facts and figures about what makes for a healthy breakfast, but you don’t have all day/night to read this post, so have a slice of toast or small bowl of oatmeal, maybe an egg, and a piece of fruit (or juice if you’d prefer). Have a great cup of coffee in the morning, but don’t overdo it on the caffeine during the day. Have a good lunch and avoid unhealthy snacks. You can easily do a search to define “good lunch,” but a great tip for snacking is to keep a container of trail mix on your desk for those times when you need something to munch on. Make your own healthy trail mix by hitting the bulk food aisle at the grocery store. Try a mix of roasted almonds, dried cranberries, and dried pineapple. Drink 64 ounces of water in a day. Fill up one of those big nalgene bottles and make sure it’s gone by the end of the day. You’ll end up making more trips to the bathroom, but that will just force you to do a little more walking. Eat a balanced supper at least 2-3 hours before going to bed.
3) Engage in vigorous exercise at least 3 times per week in 30 minute sessions. I’ve tried P90X and I know it is a great program, but I don’t have 80 minutes each day to stick with a regimen like that during the school year. Check out some of the advice from JJ Virgin on “burst exercise.” Doing 6-7 rounds of 3 minute bursts will do your body and mind wonders. If you’re breathing hard and you’re sweaty, you’re doing it right. On your “non sweaty exercise” days, make sure you take a walk or bike ride.
4) Keep your mind healthy as well. Trying to make your problems and stressors go away might only make you feel worse. Instead, go do something that benefits others. Serve a meal at a local charity center. Cut/rake your neighbor’s lawn without them asking. Teach Sunday school. Send flowers to your partner for no reason other than for putting up with you. Stop at the book store and buy a new book for your child. Doing something for another person with no reciprocation expected will do wonders for your mind and soul. More tonic for the mind is laughter. Ask a kindergartener to tell you a knock knock joke. Usually they don’t make any sense, which makes it all the funnier. My best chuckles come from comedians Jim Gaffigan and Brian Regan. They are hysterical, fairly clean, and readily available on YouTube. (Take the Brian Regan challenge right now. Listen to the link above, and if you don’t at least snort or spit, I’ll send you a bag of trail mix.)
That’s it buckaroos. Go make somebody’s day tomorrow with a laugh, smile, and a hug.