Between teaching and grading and creating new lesson plans, it can be hard for teachers to find the time to unplug and recharge, let alone improve existing skills or develop new ones. But, if burnout rates are any indication, self-care for teachers can't be put on the back burner any longer.
Plus, technology and policy changes continue to shift the world of education every year, making it not just profitable but necessary for educators to learn a new skill. To help you get started, here are a few ways you can invest in yourself while staying in the know and on the cutting edge of education.
1. Join an Educators’ Organization (or a Few)
The United States is home to a variety of organizations that exist to support teachers, whether by advocating for public policies or providing educational resources to strengthen teachers’ skills. If you aren’t already a part of an organization, here are a few you should have on your radar:
- The National Education Association (NEA) specifically focuses on public education and has affiliate organizations in all 50 states (memberships vary by affiliate). In addition to advocating for educational policy, NEA connects teachers and schools to funding resources, curriculum development ideas, and professional development events at both regional and national meetings and conferences.
- The National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC) keeps its members in the know about educational news and best practices for teaching gifted children. NAGC provides resources, webinars, and advocacy support for teachers aiming to serve those students well.
- The Association for Experiential Education (AEE) offers three tiers of membership, including an affordable online-only membership that grants access to AEE’s journal, ebooks and manuals, and resource library while providing special member pricing for webinars. Experiential education is one of the most effective ways to teach and learn, but because of the extra planning it requires, it’s often neglected. AEE supports educators by making experiential education easier to plan and execute
2. Attend a Conference of Your Choice
Is there a particular aspect of education that you want to dive into more deeply without making a time commitment to a program? Maybe you’ve noticed that anxiety is preventing a number of your students from progressing in the classroom. There’s a conference for that. Maybe you’re a science teacher in a rural school district and you want to connect with other science educators. You’re in luck: The National Science Teacher Association (NSTA) hosts a variety of conferences for science teachers each year. Attend a conference through your teachers’ association—or find a separate conference to hone in on what you want to improve in your practice. (Check out Learning A–Z’s list of conferences or Learning & the Brain’s variety of educational offerings.)
3. Participate in a Recreational Activity
Investing in yourself doesn’t have to mean doing something explicitly educational. If you’re actively using your brain all the time, it’s a good idea to get involved with something more relaxing that gives you a break from the classroom. This could mean reading along with your local library’s book club (be a participant, not the leader), joining a craft group, or lacing up your old cleats for a recreational sports league. Everyone needs to do something other than work, so make recreation a regular part of your weekly schedule.
4. Find a Mentor Teacher
Having a good support system around you as a teacher is so important and can often be a valuable source of comfort when the job gets particularly difficult. But beyond your family and friends, it’s important to find a mentor who is also an educator. It’s nice (and necessary!) to share frustration or fatigue with loved ones who can listen and even sympathize, but sometimes being able to share your experience with someone who has already been there can unearth a wealth of wisdom and guidance you might not get from a friend who works in a different industry. Look for an educator you respect who has been in the field longer than you.
5. Take a Free Online Course
If you can’t make it to that conference or daylong seminar, see if you can gain the knowledge another way. Online courses are available in just about every subject, and sometimes, they come at that unbeatable, lowest-of-low price: free.
In fact, while we’re on the subject, Concordia offers a free online course in informatics, which provides an introduction to how you can use data and computer technology to improve your efforts in the classroom. If you want to learn how to start using the data already available to you to develop evidence-backed approaches to teaching and education, sign up today.
If this story has inspired you, why not explore how you can help further Concordia's mission through giving.