EP11: When you’re experiencing deep personal loss or serious problems at home, it’s difficult to be the teacher you want to be. Learn how to minimize the negative impact of your stress on students and manage your energy levels so you can bounce back more quickly.

This post is based on the latest episode of my weekly podcast, Angela Watson’s Truth for Teachers. A podcast is essentially a talk radio show that you can listen to online or download and take with you wherever you go. I release a new episode each Sunday and feature it here on the blog to help you get energized and motivated for the week ahead. Learn more about the podcast, view blog posts for all past episodes, or subscribe in iTunes to get new episodes right away.

A special thanks to this episode’s sponsor, SnapLearning. SnapLearning is a provider of fantastic digital reading resources, including materials for close reading. You can get a free demo of the product at snaplearning.co.

This week, I wanted to talk about how to keep being an effective teacher during periods of deep personal loss or intense stress. For some reason, no one really talks about the fact that all teachers have times in our lives when we just aren’t able to give 100% to the job.

If you stick with this profession for any real length of time, you’re going to experience low-energy periods that last for weeks or even months, such as when going through a divorce or dealing with a family member’s terminal illness. Maybe you’re having difficulty getting or staying pregnant. Maybe you’re about to foreclose on your house, or you found out your spouse is cheating on you, or you’re waiting for the results of a biopsy, or your child is in serious trouble.

When you are really going through a lot emotionally, you are not going to be the best version of yourself or the teacher you want to be. You’ve got to come to terms with that and stop beating yourself up for not being a bubbling fountain of joy every day for your students.

And for that matter, we’ve got to stop beating each other up for this, too. I have to fit in a small little tangent here. Whenever people talk about lazy teachers or mean teachers, or rude teachers, why is it that no one ever stops to ask, What is going on in that teacher’s personal life? What is causing him or her to be unable to do a better job for those kids?

In almost every instance I can think of, the so-called lazy teacher was a person who was dealing with long-term, debilitating health issues, caring for an ill spouse or an elderly parent, or experiencing deep financial hardship that became all-consuming for them. I don’t know anyone who intentionally does a poor job teaching and doesn’t care about their students. They’re just incredibly distracted, worn down, and exhausted. When we see teachers who are ineffective, we really need to come alongside them, figure out what is going on, and how we can support them.

So if that’s you right now– if you’re not doing the job you wish you were doing for your students– would you show yourself some of that grace? Would you recognize that there is a real reason why you’re not giving 100%? Would you acknowledge that you are a human being with emotional needs and physical limitations? Even if no one in your school acknowledges that, I’m acknowledging it, because it’s true. And I want you to acknowledge that, as well.

keep teaching when your personal life is falling apart

Now, these losses and hardships and periods of grief are not a license to do a halfway job of teaching your students. They are an opportunity to recognize that you are not at your best, show yourself grace, and plan ahead in order to minimize the impact on your students.

I think of these periods of life as low-energy seasons. Grief and pain and stress are all-consuming. They drain your energy so you don’t have anything left to give in the classroom. So, think about this whole situation from an energy management standpoint. You always have a finite amount of energy to give, and right now, you’ve got a lower amount than normal.

Narrow your focus to what’s truly most important and channel as much of your energy as possible into those aspects of your work. Cut out the “extras” and don’t put pressure on yourself to go above and beyond in areas that don’t really matter. Permit yourself to do a little less by remembering that the situation is temporary: you will be able to work at the level you’re accustomed to again, and in order to get to that level, you need to allow yourself a time of less pressure.

Even though you might feel like you’re on your own, you can’t be afraid to reach out to others for support when you’re in a low-energy season of life. Drop the superhero syndrome, swallow your pride, and ask people for help. See if a colleague can pick your students up from lunch for you or ask if a team member can run off extra photocopies or gather lesson materials. You can return the favor when you’re feeling better, so don’t feel guilty about asking for help.

When other people offer to take responsibilities off your plate or ask if there’s anything they can do, avoid the knee-jerk response to just say, “It’s okay, thanks.” Instead, have a prepared list of tasks that can be delegated, and tell people, “Thanks so much for offering! I would really appreciate your help with ___.”

I also highly recommend that you just level with your students about the fact that you’re not at your best. Even the youngest students can tell when we’re just putting on an act and our hearts and minds aren’t really with them. They don’t know what’s going on, but they know something is wrong.

things falling apart might actually be falling into place

So share whatever you’re comfortable with. Tell them you’re feeling sad because someone in your family is very sick, or say that things are hard for you right now at home, or if you don’t want to reveal that much, just say you’re not feeling your best. Your students are going to relate to that, trust me. Most of them are not frolicking in fields of daisies and riding pet unicorns. They know struggle and pain. And it’s good for them to see that successful role models in their lives are also experiencing problems and are persevering through them.

Don’t be afraid to reveal to your students that you are a person, just like them, and ask them directly for their support and cooperation. When you tell your students that you aren’t feeling great for whatever reason, most of them are going to be eager to help take on some of your responsibilities. You might even find that you were doing tasks that should have been turned over to them a long time ago! Entrust them with more responsibilities, let them know their contributions are really needed in the classroom, and they will generally rise to the occasion.

I’ve also found that a handful of kids will usually help out with reminders to the rest of the class. I’ve gone through a couple of low-energy seasons in life and a bunch of my kids were fantastic about it. They’d help keep order in the classroom for me: “Hey, guys, be quiet, Mrs. Watson doesn’t feel good, remember? Don’t make her shout! Come on, guys, don’t argue, just do it, Mrs. Watson is counting on us!” The kids that say stuff will just make your heart sing. Grab onto those moments and let them motivate you to keep going.

That’s really, really important, because in addition to managing your energy, you’ve also got to do things that replenish your energy level. You know, energy is not like time: you don’t wake up everyday with more it. You have to choose to do things that replenish energy– things like sleeping, resting, eating healthy foods, exercising… all these things we tell ourselves we don’t have time to do, especially when we’re in a low energy period because of stress.

But there is a reason why people keep telling you to take care of yourself. You keep telling them you can’t, you have to take care of everyone else, as if taking care of yourself is a selfish endeavor. But caring for yourself is the LEAST selfish thing you can do. Because when you take care of yourself, you are giving the best gift you could ever give your family, the best gift you could ever give yourself– the healthiest and happiest version of YOU. That’s what your students really want and need, too– a healthy, happy teacher. You owe it to them and yourself to pursue that.

You are strong, and you can get through this. Please leave a comment below if you’d like to talk more about this topic–I would love to help you in any way I can.

Next week: How to cope when a student’s parent just doesn’t like you

Truth for Teachers podcast: a weekly 10 minute talk radio show you can download and take with you wherever you go!  A new episode is released each Sunday to get you energized and motivated for the week ahead.

See blog posts/transcripts for all episodes

Subscribe to the podcast in iTunes

Subscribe to the podcast in Stitcher

{ 7 comments }

March is right around the corner, and I wanted to share some teacher t-shirts I’ve created for St. Patrick’s Day.

All the shirts in my store are under $20, and I just found out that Spreadshirt is running a promo to bring the prices down even lower.

From now through March 4th, use the discount code GOGREEN at checkout to get $5 off all orders over $30!

St Patricks Day shirts for teachers

The shirts above say:

  • Who needs LUCK when your students are this smart?
  • Lucky to be a teacher
  • Haha, you can’t pinch me!
  • I’m a lucky teacher because I get to teach YOU

Click here to see all the designs I’ve created. If you want to get a teacher friend to go in on the deal with you, feel free to share the Pinterest links below. Thanks for your support!

Follow Angela Watson’s Teaching Ideas’s board Teacher T-Shirts on Pinterest.

{ 0 comments }

The teachers are heroes sale is here!

February 24, 2015
Get up to 28% off at TeachersPayTeachers with the promo code HEROES

If you’ve filled up your TeachersPayTeachers cart or wish list and have been waiting for a sale, now’s your chance! My entire store will be discounted both Wednesday and Thursday, Feb. 25-26th. Use the promo code HEROES to save even more! Since the last sale, I’ve added several new products that you might want to check […]

Read the full article…

A.J. Juliani’s truth: overcoming frustration due to constant change

February 22, 2015
AJ Juliani

EP10: New standards, new assessments, new leadership, and more…just when you think you’ve mastered the game, there’s a brand new set of rules. Listen as Education & Tech Innovation Specialist A.J. Juiliani shares how constant changes are impacting teachers. You’ll learn 3 practical tips for managing change, and discover how to channel frustration into innovation. […]

Read the full article…

The 47 mental stages of writing a book (someone save me)

February 18, 2015
Unshakeable is the new book by Angela Watson, to be released this winter!

I am in the final stages of publishing Unshakeable: 20 Ways to Enjoy Teaching Every Day…No Matter What. Like, 98% done. The launch is about a month away. And I don’t have the brain cells right now to do much more than work on the book and talk about working on the book, so today’s post […]

Read the full article…

Avoiding discouragement when teaching can be a thankless job

February 15, 2015
How to avoid discouragement in teaching

EP09: Teaching involves a lot of hard work that is rarely acknowledged. Learn strategies for staying encouraged despite the lack of appreciation, and stay focused on your personal vision! This post is based on the latest episode of my weekly podcast, Angela Watson’s Truth for Teachers. A podcast is essentially a talk radio show that you […]

Read the full article…

5 ways to empower teachers to build a positive, innovative school culture

February 11, 2015
Digital Learning Day

How can administrators, instructional coaches, and teacher leaders help build a culture of innovation in our schools? What can we do to support teachers in getting connected and pursuing meaningful professional development opportunities? These are issues I’ll be exploring next month in Washington, D.C., in a Future Ready Schools workshop. The Alliance for Excellent Education […]

Read the full article…

How to approach teaching with a spirit of adventure

February 8, 2015
Don’t let the hard parts of teaching steal your sense of accomplishment and keep you from recognizing the magnitude of the awesome work you’re doing. Learn how to push through the fear of failure and constant distractions to experience the adventure of watching your students learn and grow.

EP08: Don’t let the hard parts of teaching steal your sense of accomplishment and keep you from recognizing the magnitude of the awesome work you’re doing. Learn how to push through the fear of failure and constant distractions to experience the adventure of watching your students learn and grow. This post is based on the […]

Read the full article…

One teacher’s 5 secrets for a fantastic math workshop

February 4, 2015

Today, I’ve invited Meg from The Teacher Studio to share how she runs math workshop in her classroom. I really admire her approach to math instruction and she has done an AMAZING job outlining everything in this post. Meg has tons of practical, classroom-tested tips for math instruction on her website and is going to be launching […]

Read the full article…

Find & embrace your unique classroom management style

February 1, 2015
There are a dizzying number of effective ways to lead a classroom. How can you figure out which style is right for you? Learn from a mistake I made in emulating another teacher’s management techniques, and develop the confidence to make decisions about what works best for you AND your students.

EP07: There are a dizzying number of effective ways to lead a classroom. How can you figure out which style is right for you? Learn from a mistake I made in emulating another teacher’s management techniques, and develop the confidence to make decisions about what works best for you AND your students. This post is […]

Read the full article…

The easiest, simplest way I’ve found to differentiate instruction

January 30, 2015
I used this form a few times a week to assess the work students did independently. It makes it super easy to correct any misconceptions right away, plan the rest of the unit  based on how well the class understands the current skill, and assign differentiated follow-up tasks for every student.

There’s a little secret that most of we as educators are keeping about differentiating instruction. We believe it’s a good idea in theory, we try to do it when we can…but we really don’t have any workable system for differentiating. No one really knows how it’s supposed to be done, and the only ideas we’ve had […]

Read the full article…

Come chat about close reading and win great prizes!

January 28, 2015
close reading Twitter chat

The SnapLearning Twitter party is happening tonight, Wednesday, January 28th, from 8-9 pm EST! Come join me and Heidi Morgan as we talk close reading strategies with SnapLearning. RSVP here if you’d like, or just follow the hashtag #snapreading. You’ll get to: Learn more about close reading Get access to some great reading resources Talk to teachers […]

Read the full article…

How to stop being overly critical of yourself as a teacher

January 26, 2015
Many teachers are far too hard on themselves and constantly feel guilty about things they’re not doing. You can make 3 small changes that will create a dramatic shift in how you think and feel about yourself. Learn how to change your mindset and move from self-criticism to self-acceptance.

EP06: Many teachers are far too hard on themselves and constantly feel guilty about things they’re not doing. You can make 3 small changes that will create a dramatic shift in how you think and feel about yourself. Learn how to change your mindset and move from self-criticism to self-acceptance. This post is based on […]

Read the full article…

Cute teacher tshirts for Valentine’s Day

January 23, 2015
100th day of school shirt for teachers

A couple of weeks ago, I started creating shirts and other merchandise with funny or clever sayings on them for teachers. I wanted to sell fun, modern-looking apparel that is also super affordable, with all the shirts under $20. So, Angela Watson’s Tshirts for Teachers was born! The response has really been great, and I’ve enjoyed creating custom […]

Read the full article…

Where to find me at conferences this spring

January 21, 2015
SDE Maryland PreK and Kindergarten conference in Towson, MD: February 9-10

I have four exciting events coming up between now and April. I would love to connect with you if you’re attending any of these conferences!  SDE Maryland PreK-K ConferenceTowson, MDFeb 9-10 As an early childhood education major and someone who has taught exclusively in grades PreK-3, I am so excited to meet with educators who love teaching […]

Read the full article…

How to motivate students to take ownership of their learning

January 18, 2015
How to give students ownership of their learning

EP05: Are you working harder than your students? Learn practical strategies for making the learning really matter to kids so they’re self-motivated in the classroom. You’ll discover how to inspire kids to give as much energy and effort in the classroom as you do! This post is based on the latest episode of my weekly podcast, Angela […]

Read the full article…

The top 3 questions teachers ask me about classroom tech

January 16, 2015
How to show YouTube video clips in the classroom even when your school blocks YouTube (and how to prevent ads, comments, and other inappropriate content from popping up.)

There are a handful of questions I can count on being asked at least once at every school in which I do instructional technology coaching. I’m sure many of you have the same issues, so I thought I’d share the answers here on the blog for you all, too! How to show YouTube videos at […]

Read the full article…

How to gain energy from kids instead of letting them drain you

January 12, 2015
How to gain energy from kids instead of letting them drain you: Angela Watson's Truth for Teachers podcast

EP04: The flow of energy in a classroom is often one-way, with the teacher constantly giving and students sitting by as passive recipients. But kids can be your greatest motivator and energizer! Discover how to create a reciprocal energy flow through connecting with and enjoying your students. This post is based on the latest episode of […]

Read the full article…

10 inexpensive ways to get children’s books for the classroom

January 9, 2015
10 inexpensive ways to get children’s books for the classroom

A well-stocked classroom library encourages self-selected independent reading and can also serve as a great place for children to enjoy some down time during the school day. However, keeping your class library replenished with a rotation of good books may present a bit of a challenge since most teachers have to pay for reading materials using their […]

Read the full article…

Truth for Teachers: a new podcast for weekly inspiration

January 5, 2015
Angela Watson

EP01, EP02, EP03: It’s FINALLY time to share the launch of my weekly podcast with you! If you’re new to podcasts, they’re essentially a talk radio show which you can listen to online or download to take with you wherever you go. I hope to use this podcast to speak encouragement and truth into your life, […]

Read the full article…