Catching up with a friend last night whilst enjoying some delicious fare from Taco Truck, I complained about burn out. It’s that point in the semester when we all feel drained: papers keep coming in and lesson plans still need to be made; we grade paper two with one hand and plan module three with another. Ah the joys of mid-term! Most of us probably haven’t had a real day off since September.
An article popped up in my Facebook newsfeed last night (shout out to Nikki Bosca) reminding me of the reason for such fatigue—as if I need reminding: “A study…from the Trades Union Congress (TUC) found that…across all education staff, including teachers, teaching assistants, playground staff, cleaners and caretakers, 37.6 per cent worked unpaid overtime – a figure higher than that for any other sector” (Wiggins). Although this study isn’t directly related to higher ed, the overtime required of teaching isn’t news to any of us.
I commiserated about being tired with my students yesterday too, saying (with a smile and can-do attitude): “It’s that awful time of the semester when we feel like we can’t do any more, but it’s crunch time for projects and grades!” They laughed. They nodded. They are burnt out, too. We had a good class after.
Unfortunately, when I come into class early, often times students brag to each other about how little they’ve slept or how they’ve barely eaten a real meal in days. College culture glorifies these habits. As my taco-toting friend said last night: it’s as if we consider it a rite of passage. Sure, college is more conducive to people who stay up late, normalizing all-nighters, IVs of coffee, and the hurried carton of Ramen. Such trends then become amplified in memes:
We do understand. We’re all tired. However, understanding and bragging are two different things. Thus, this seems like a good time of year to remind students (and ourselves) to practice self-care.
I can joke and level with my students about being worn out; we all bonded yesterday over it. But I should’ve also made sure to tell them that I do get to bed early, I do eat regular meals—it’s the only way I can keep coming to work upbeat or return papers in a timely fashion. We should all begin speaking to them about how we budget time efficiently, to not only get work done, but to be healthy ourselves because when we do, our work is better. Modeling self-care for our students should be part of our priorities, just as we model tone in class or how we tier instruction for lessons.
Thanks to that lovely conversation last night with my friend and the Taco Truck on the corner that homed it, I messaged each of my classes this morning with some tips for self-care. What’s more, I included information on our school’s counseling center, reminding them it’s okay to seek help.
We all need this reminder from time to time—and it’s important to specifically tell freshman about resources our campus offers. Let’s normalize healthy practices instead of promoting the fast-paced, overworked mentality of American culture.
Here is the Canvas message I sent out to my students; feel free to revise or revamp as you see fit for your students:
This is a stressful time of year–a lot of things are due just as we are starting to burn out from all the hard work we’ve been putting in. I hear ya! I’m feeling it, too.
As we continue to push forward to get our work done efficiently and effectively, be sure to also keep yourselves in mind and practice self care. Remember to sleep! to eat well! to breathe! Staying happy and healthy makes your work better because it makes you better!
Follow the links for some college tips on dealing with the stress of midterms. Know too there are great options on our campus for counseling whenever you feel overwhelmed. Seeking help from others is part of self-care: https://www.montclair.edu/counseling-and-psychological-services/
Tips for Self-Care: https://www.theodysseyonline.com/ways-practice-self-care
One Minute Self-Care Practices: https://offcampus.umich.edu/article/one-minute-midterm-self-care-practices
De-Stress with 10 minute Yoga: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LBIZFYNHvXA
We got this! Keep slayin’!
Sizzle. “I love college because ppl can cry or sleep anywhere they want and everyone just kind of understands.” 19 Apr. 2016. Instagram.
Wiggins, Kaye. “Teachers Work More Overtime than Any Other Professionals, Analysis Finds.” TES. TES Global Ltd. 25 Feb. 2015. Web.