When COVID struck, schools and teachers had to pivot quickly, adapting to lockdowns and online classes on the fly. Naturally, there were a lot of stumbles. Teachers are only human, and trying to become familiarized with a new world of online technology and new teaching techniques while trying to keep students engaged–well, it was difficult, to say the least.

While the stress of those first few months of the COVID-19 pandemic has abated, teachers are still under pressure two years later. Many students lost ground during COVID, and teachers are still working hard to help them catch up. Some school districts have returned to in-person classes with social distancing, and others allow hybrid classrooms, so teachers have had to learn how to juggle both attendance options. Teacher prep time, lesson planning, grading, and other non-classroom tasks make for long days and often spill over into the weekends.

Teachers have always worked long hours, often using the weekends to catch up, but the pandemic shone a spotlight on the many demands of teaching. Fortunately, it also highlighted some solutions. Following are seven tips for maintaining teacher mental health and well-being that will help you manage your career and your personal life.

1. Maintain a Healthy Life-Work Balance

Teachers work all the time, so when I say take evenings off, I expect laughter. However, it’s necessary to carve out time just for you and your family, and then make that time inviolable. Here are some tips that can help ensure a healthy life-work balance:

Choose your long days. Maybe that means grading only two evenings a week. Pick those days and then stick to them.

Embargo your emails. You may have to answer your e-mails during the week, but you can put a hard stop at 5 p.m. Or you can set a rule – no sending or reading work emails on the weekends.

Work at work, not at home. For teachers who teach in-person, if you can do your work at work, then you don’t have to take it home with you. This helps with setting boundaries and preserving your time. You might accomplish this by going in early or staying late a few days a week, or perhaps by working through your lunch break so that you don’t have to take things home.

Find your balance. Find what works best for you. Maybe that means Sunday is your day for rest, family time, or errands. Maybe Wednesday is your long day, so that means pizza for dinner. Whatever routine you establish, make sure it’s a healthy balance for you.

2. Work Smarter

We’ve all heard the saying: work smarter, not harder. Sometimes we think, I’m already working smarter! It’s worth taking another look, though. One solution is collaboration.In a traditional classroom, teachers often feel isolated. We close the door and teach our classes. We keep our lesson plans and classroom activities to ourselves. We forget that our fellow teachers can be a resource.

Dr. Jana Hunzicker holds the rank of professor in Bradley’s Department of Education, Counseling, and Leadership and serves as the associate dean for academic affairs for Bradley’s College of Education and Health Sciences.

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