5 Things Teachers Should Probably Let Go Of For Better Mental Health
“Pick your battles.” “You’ve got to let it go.” I’m going to guess that as a teacher, you’ve either heard or said at least one of these phrases before in your career. I’d also be willing to bet that it happened more at the beginning of your career, too.
As teachers, we fight battles many times and on multiple levels. We also wear many hats: that of educator, parent, social worker, and mediator. It can be difficult to juggle all this at once, especially when dropping the ball or two is inevitable.
As hard as we work to help every student succeed, there are a couple of things we just have to let go. To focus on the small, seemingly insignificant annoyances that we encounter every day clouds our days with negativity. Every teacher has to decide their bottom lines regarding their classrooms, teaching, and students. It's important to identify those so you don’t find yourself playing a losing game of whack-a-mole trying to address everything, everywhere, all at once. Here are a few things I have decided to just "let go."
Below is a list of things I, as a teacher, decided were unimportant enough to get under my skin. However, this is my list and may differ from yours, which is okay. As long as you take the time to consider what matters to you and what you can let go of, you’re on your way to feeling more balanced and less stressed.
Electronics - Rules involving personal devices such as cell phones vary by school, district, and even state. Some schools have a very strict ban, while others are more lax. Whatever your school policy is, consider I could be wrong, but I think busting kids for texting between classes or checking Instagram at lunch adds another impossible task to our already overburdened to-do list. Students must learn to use electronics responsibly and attend class without distraction, but to me, it’s time to give a little electronic freedom back to students during non-instructional times. We have a lot more credibility when we try to control only that which can be controlled.
Bad Reviews - If you hear around campus that you are known as the uncool or hard teacher, don’t let it get under your skin. We should be kind and fair, but we are not called on to be easy or cool. We are called on to teach.
Dress Code - Some dress code violations can be potentially unsafe (e.g., in a science lab). Those issues should be addressed. However, dress codes can typically be sexist and only support (and recognize) the two binary genders. It’s important to look closely at dress codes in our schools and evaluate whether they communicate and help achieve the school’s mission or if it disproportionately singles out (and even shames) students. Removing a student from class for a minor dress code violation takes away opportunities for students to learn. For a more comprehensive and inclusive dress code, visit Wisconsin’s Middleton Cross Plains School District dress code.
Minor Attendance Issues - Major attendance issues must be dealt with according to the situation, but when a student has a minor absence and is not a perpetual problem, let the attendance office handle it and move on.
Change - Everything changes. Whether it be the curriculum, policies, hairstyles, language, or any other cultural or academic change, teachers must learn to be flexible and adapt.
Keep in mind that you will not be able to let go of some things, and that is okay. Each teacher is different and works in a different environment. At the heart of the matter is to remember that we cannot do everything, even though society expects it of us. To envision staying in this profession long-term, teachers need to be able to identify their bottom lines and learn to let the rest go.
What’s on your Let-it-Go List? Share your thoughts below!