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Advice to the Rookie Educator…Self-Regulation is Self-Care for the Soul

To the new teachers out there, are you: Excited about what this year will bring and courageously making an entrance into the education arena for the purpose of serving today’s youth? Vowing personally to provide the utmost professionalism possible whether your initial, or second profession from a previous career? 

With an inner desire to reach today’s youth, you’ve selected to embark upon the most rewarding yet undervalued occupation globally. Whether Pre-School, Elementary, Intermediate, Middle, High School or Higher Learning within the Collegiate parameter, you’re leaving your mark upon this earth making one of the most impactful contributions to society. Your willingness to serve in a selfless role as a contributor to a young person’s academic and social embodiment is no easy feat. Like the Peace Corps slogan, it is the toughest job one could ever love. 

I know this feeling all too well. Like you, I took a personal oath to ensure I did my part to provide my students the utmost learning success in October 1995. After close to seven years in the field, I began to feel drained. I fell out of love with the one thing my heart had always called me to do. Although the bulk of my reasoning for wanting to exit the field altogether had to do with identified student behavior factors displayed by some of my students, it took me some time to figure out it also had something to do with me not taking notice of what I and all educators need personally to survive as well as thrive within this field.  

For the rookie educators putting on that professional shield of armor for the very first time this forthcoming school year, remember to focus also on what so many educators fail to do: Maintain physical and emotional capacity to see it through without losing sight of self. In other words, don’t wake up to realize you’re mentally drained and exhausted. Identified as the “Teacher Burnout” syndrome, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) indicated more than 270,000 teachers left the profession in 2016 due to exhaustion, cynicism, and high emotional demands. While many exited the field altogether due to being at their wits’ end, as a seasoned educator, I found myself asking the following, “Would they have stayed if made aware of the self-regulation process?” “What percentage of that 270,000 represented the new teacher population ratio?’’ 

What is Teacher Self-Regulation and Why Practice it?

New teachers:  You matter and our country needs you! The phrase putting the oxygen mask on yourself first during an airplane flight goes so much further with regards to new teacher retention. The management of one’s emotions is important, and impulse control is key. Implementation of teacher self-regulation can play a vital role to maintain staff morale and greatly assist with the educator refueling process. After implementing the practice, I came to find out that it calmed me down, reduced potential spikes of anxiety, and greatly assisted with eliminating doubts that came to mind with regard to leaving the one thing I’d as a six-year-old girl I’d always desired to do. Who would’ve thought taking a few minutes for yourself daily in a quiet space to breathe in and out or meditating to music with no words for 60 seconds could assist? Would implementing this into one’s daily routine and actually work? Not only did these practices work for my students, but they also worked for me and prevented me from making some life-altering career changes. 

Suggested Practices for Implementing Teacher Self-Regulation 

Over my twenty-four years in the classroom, I’ve come to find that a mentally drained and empty instructor can not fill up a young person who is thirsty for knowledge. I suffered from “teacher burnout” and I was able to pull myself out before it was too late. I recommend implementation of the following to all new teachers coming aboard:

  1. Acknowledge your feelings and make time for yourself: When moments or not-so-good days cross your path within this profession, acknowledge how you’re feeling and what you personally need to do to get through that day. Allow yourself minutes for quiet time to reflect. Speak either with a mentor or trusted co-worker with whom you would not mind sharing your ordeal. 
  2. Take an online course: When COVID-19 hit, it left educators alone to deal with life and work challenges. One of the good things that took place through it all was the increased amount of online courses and virtual tutorials. Conducting online research on the state of Indiana’s education website, I came across a free class titled, “The Science of Happiness.” It was created specially for the purpose of educators maintaining a sound state of mental health. Research your district for similar opportunities. 
  3. Get plenty of water and rest: As simple as this suggestion sounds, many educators neglect or fail to do one or both. Make it a practice to drink four to six cups of water daily.  Try consuming it in increments if four to six cups is too much for you at one time. While it is recommended to get eight hours of sleep per day, it can be unrealistic for educators with full lives and families. Aim for seven initially with a goal of eventually reaching eight. 

I’m cheering for you, new teachers! Welcome to the most rewarding occupation.

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Adra Young
Adra Young

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