Teaching is the most gratifying job for those passionate about imparting knowledge to make a meaningful impact on someone’s life. As an educator, you can shape the future of an entire generation. However, it doesn’t come without its challenges. Teaching a classroom of students with different skill sets can keep you on your toes all day. But imagine teaching a classroom of specially-abled children- the job becomes a lot more challenging!
Educating children with special needs requires a lot of patience, tenacity, and hard work. Not everyone can teach students with physical or mental disabilities. People passionate about helping children cope with their disabilities so they can learn, perform and excel should choose special education as their career.
However, as rewarding as this job can be, it can also be overwhelming and exhausting. You’ll be expected to apply unique pedagogies for students with different disabilities, prompt them to communicate, and teach them to become independent by coping with their impairments. With all the added responsibilities, you’ll tend to feel an overbearing workload that can wear you out physically and mentally.
As a special educator, taking care of yourself for your mental and physical well-being is important. To help you out, we’ve listed five simple self-care tips that will save you from burnout.
Make time for hobbies
Let’s get real. Choosing special education as a career isn’t easy. The profession demands a 4-year bachelor’s degree with professional training. Many graduated students later pursue a masters in special education online along with their jobs. An online master’s program can have flexible hours, and since you won’t have to commute to the campus, you’ll save a lot of time and money.
With the time you have at hand, you can enjoy some personal time. Find a hobby that can help you detox from the stress at work. You could read books, cook or bake, play an instrument, paint, hike or trek, or go shopping. Investing time and energy in activities you enjoy releases happy hormones and promotes mental well-being.
Teaching a room of kids will starve you! Your first instinct might be to grab a shot of caffeine and a big juicy burger, but it will not meet your body’s nutrient requirements. It’s important to have fresh food and incorporate a lot of fruits, vegetables, and water into your diet. Although it can be time consuming, you must prepare yourself a healthy snack for you to take to work and have during recess. Not only will snacking help you refuel during your tiresome routine, but it will also prevent you from eating junk during your sudden hunger pangs.
Running around kids, dealing with tantrums, and trying out different unique teaching strategies for children with disabilities can drain you by the end of the day. All you’ll want to do when you reach home is sleep until it’s time to get ready for the next day.
However, if you’re looking to destress and unwind, you should stay physically active. You could go running, jogging, or cycling around the block; it’ll be more fun if you take a friend or partner with you. If you’d like to improve your flexibility, you could try yoga or aerobics too.
Regular Exercising helps reduce stress levels, uplifts your mood, improves blood circulation, and enhances your mental and physical capabilities. You’ll find work to be a lot less strenuous if you stay active and fit.
Separate your professional and private life
As a special educator, you’ll meet children coming from different backgrounds, each with a different struggle. It can be hard to separate their professional and personal lives for teachers who are wholeheartedly invested in their student’s life. Eventually, you might carry the workload and emotional baggage home. Taking work home will force you to cut down on your private and family time, subsequently deteriorating your mental health.
You need to ensure that you wind up all the meetings, paperwork, and grading at school and not bring any of it home. Similarly, if you’re going through a rough patch in your personal life, you must ensure it doesn’t affect your teaching style and interaction with your students.
Don’t hesitate to seek help
Even though you might proactively plan your teaching lessons, meetings, and paperwork, there will be instances when the workload will start to feel overburdening. If you feel the pressing need for a break or you need a breath of fresh air, you shouldn’t shy away from seeking a colleague’s help.
You can ask a co-worker to look after your class while you take out a few minutes to enjoy a snack. You could even discuss with other teachers how they’ve been managing their classrooms, what struggles they might be facing, and the solutions they’ve come up with. Most of the time, group discussions can provide you with problem-solvers or neat tricks on lesson planning or staying organized. It can also help to know what difficulties your colleagues are facing and that you aren’t the only one struggling to connect and progress with your students.
Teaching children with different impairments can lead to teachers’ anxiety or depression. If you’re suffering or overthinking, it’s best to seek professional help. You could visit the school counselor or advisor and explain what you’ve been through before you have a breakdown.
Special educators are an integral part of the community. They strive harder than regular teachers so that children with disabilities can grow and learn. Coping with the extra workload while radiating positivity for your students may affect your mental well-being. To ensure you can support and mentor children with special needs, you must focus on your mental and physical health.
The greatest self-care tip for special education teachers is to keep your work and personal life separate. If you feel overburdened with lesson plans, meetings, and paperwork, seek help from your colleagues or discuss with the administration to assign a co-teacher for your classroom. It would help if you also lived a healthy lifestyle that infuses a good diet and regular exercise. Most importantly, you must invest time in your favorite hobbies to reduce stress and enjoy quality time.