Why self care is important in education By Karen Phan

COVID-19 has affected our schools, relationships, families, hobbies, finances, favorite small businesses, and more. It’s affected my life, yet I find myself drowning in the expectations of school, doing homework and studying for tests, instead of taking care of my non-academic life.

This fall semester of my senior year, which was entirely online, offered me unique insight on my experience in school and helped me realize doing school 24/7 is why self care is so important for teachers and students.

Self care is what it sounds like: taking care of yourself. It’s taking a step back from the hectic lives we live, from all the stressors that plague us. It’s taking a mental health day, reading a book, coloring, or asking for help. It’s whatever you need it to be.

And self care is especially important as we continue to teach and learn and live during a pandemic. School is demanding, and COVID-19 hasn’t made things any easier.

Despite how COVID-19 has shuttered schools, many middle and high school teachers still teach over 100 students and deliver lessons every day, while many students still juggle a full day of school, (virtual) extracurriculars, and/or sports and work. We do most of this in an unfamiliar online environment plagued with countless challenges, from spotty WiFi to miscommunication.

School is harder and more stressful than ever. There are plenty of personal self care strategies and tips out there on the Internet, but here are a few ways to approach self care in the classroom.

Invite students to share good news, their high’s and low’s of the past week, or something fun they recently did or look forward to doing.

There’s nothing wrong with a little positivity to start the day off in class. Two of my teachers do these small sharing sessions at the beginning of class either in the Zoom chat or by unmuting and speaking. It also helps everyone learn about each other and have small conversations.

Have a mindfulness session at the beginning of class.

I had a science teacher who did Mindfulness Monday’s. We spent five to ten minutes of class listening to calm music to meditate or think of a goal we had for that day. It may be difficult to do meditation online, but it’s something to consider when we return back into the classroom, and one way to do mindfulness virtually is by having students respond to reflection prompts, write daily compliments, or create goals.

Emphasize the importance of mental health.

One of my teachers posts links to mental health resources on the agenda and home page of our class page, and I absolutely love it. Many students aren’t aware of the student support services offered at their schools or online. Sharing these resources makes them more accessible and lets students know help is available.

There are many other ways to incorporate self care into the classroom and, of course, they’ll be even more valuable when teachers participate and connect with students. Everyone’s self care matters.

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