May 02 2022

4 Simple Ways K–12 Teachers Can Practice Digital Self-Care

Educators who want to actualize their self-care during these challenging times can start by setting strong boundaries.

Back when I was a campus principal, everyone knew that my professional “love language” was both giving and receiving gifts. Find me a snack cake, and I can spout a rhyme that can be attached and distributed to our team.

Before the pandemic, my leadership team regularly shared treats that revolved around meeting tangible needs. These days, when 55 percent of educators are ready to leave the profession earlier than planned, according to a recent survey from the National Education Association, the needs of our staff are so much bigger than a cupcake or a jeans pass.

In my new role as director of technology and innovation at Crandall Independent School District in Texas, I am learning to practice self-care in new ways that extend beyond treats, and I believe our teachers can benefit from doing the same thing.

Social science writer and researcher Brené Brown defines self-care as extending the same concern and empathy for your own needs as you do for others. Teachers are generally known to be incredibly caring and self-sacrificing, to the extent that they may neglect taking care of themselves. For teachers interested in actualizing self-care, it can look like setting boundaries, remembering who you are outside of the classroom and being an advocate for what really matters. If you’re struggling to bring balance to your role as a teacher, check out these four ways to support yourself using technology.

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Self-Care Means Automating Your Digital Boundaries

Digital devices make it all too easy for us to be attached 24/7 to our work emails, calendars and text messages. Setting digital boundaries are an expression of self-care.

According to a 2021 survey of remote workers by email app maker Superhuman, more than 3 in 5 remote workers say they’re more likely to reply immediately to an email from their boss or team (63 percent) than to a text or DM from friends or family (37 percent).

Your choices define what others believe is or isn’t OK. When you respond to an email at 9 p.m., you’re letting that person know that you’re available. And while that may be true occasionally, it can quickly become a pattern or expectation.

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Practice self-care by setting a daily autoreply on your emails from when you leave for the day until you return to work. You can set the same boundaries on work-related text messages. What message is so important, professionally, that it can’t be returned while you are on the clock? Turn off your phone notifications, or at least set them to alert you within hours that you prefer to be available.

Self-Care Means Being Intentional About Your Social Media Use

Theodore Roosevelt said, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” Comparison literally steals us away from being satisfied with our own life and instead provides us with a yardstick of the thing we see as more desirable.

Social media is that thief! It provides us with a daily highlight reel of people who we don’t know (or who we do know and don’t like) for us to measure ourselves against.

If you find yourself scrolling aimlessly, you may need to take a social media sabbatical. What will you really miss out on if you remove the social media apps from your device?

While there is a lot of inspiration to be found on various social platforms, social media can be a factor in your mental health. You might see improvement after you take a break and evaluate what you need to see versus what you measure yourself against. Unfollow accounts that make you feel as if you can’t keep up, or that pressure you to do more, accomplish more or — worse — be more.

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Self-Care Means Being Accountable for Your Own Joy

On several occasions, I’ve had the opportunity to see in-person presentations featuring therapist Kelly Jameson. One of my favorite takeaways from her presentations is the practice of making and regularly reviewing a “joy list.” Jameson would ask those of us in the audience to write down all the things that brought us joy.

You can do the same thing. Ask yourself, what makes you feel complete? What makes you smile? Jameson recommends that you create your joy list when you’re feeling up, because when you’re feeling down, it’s harder to think of all the things that bring you joy.

Your joy list can highlight myriad things, including feeling productive, taking a walk in the sun, snuggling with a puppy or reading for pleasure. The key is to make those “joys” realistic and accessible. Know where your joy list lives. I keep mine in Google Keep so that it is available to me everywhere.

Amber Teamann
With all of the things we must do in education right now, there are also some amazing things that we get to do, and I use my joy list to remind me of those things.”

Amber Teamann Director of Technology and Innovation, Crandall Independent School District

When I start to feel as if I am teetering on the edge of apathy or sadness, I purposefully pull up my list and pick an activity to improve my mental state. I let my best friend or my husband know so they can ensure I am doing the things I need to do to get me back to me.

With all of the things we must do in education right now, there are also some amazing things that we get to do, and I use my joy list to remind me of those things.

Self-Care Means Scheduling Time for Joy

Educators live by their calendars. Our calendars help us keep track of 504s, professional learning community meetings, staff meetings and other responsibilities. We all know that our calendars drive us, but we need to do a better job of owning our time. That includes scheduling the things that bring us joy.

Ask yourself what things you can do to take care of you on a regular basis, and don’t wait until things are falling apart to put these things on your calendar. I firmly believe that what gets tracked gets accomplished.

I feel better when my hair gets done, or after I go for a walk. If I wait until I have free time to take time for myself — well, let’s just say I don’t want to know what my hair might look like at that point.

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As a principal, one of the things that brought me joy was sharing happy notes with my students and staff. Words of affirmation and appreciation are free and easy, and everyone deserves them. So, I added “sending happy notes” to my calendar each week. Every teacher got three happy notes a semester, and every elementary student got a postcard.

Their joy reminded me of my “why.” Sometimes, remembering why I care so much about working in K–12 education helps me balance days that sometimes feel impossible. Scheduling and sharing happy notes can help you do the same. You can find examples of my favorite happy notes by visiting my website, technicallyteamann.com, and typing “praise” in the search box.

When so much of our world is dominated by our digital consumption habits, I believe it’s important that our educators practice self-care by crafting strong boundaries for the digital world.

Parabol/Unsplash

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