Teachers, Take Good Care of Yourselves: You’re Worth It.

Teachers, Take Good Care of Yourselves: You’re Worth It.

Ideally, teachers pride themselves in being “confident but humble", "respected and respectful", "secure and loving", "high-minded and introspective.” These qualities exist and are evident to others only when individual teachers take very good care of themselves and prepare for their work with a required introspection.

The Effects Of Pressure And Anxiety

Pressure and anxiety over ‘doing the best you can’ or ‘covering all the material’ can take a negative toll on teacher-learner relationships. Planning lessons takes time and thought, and preparing to spend quality time with learners requires a distinct type of thinking and ritual. When beginning to interact with learners, whether this means walking into class, starting a Skype conference or writing feedback in an email message or post, teachers have to feel ready inside.

Body, Mind and Spirit play the most important role in this inner readiness.


Feeling stress can have a negative effect on your body and, primarily, on the vital function of breathing naturally. Take time, just a moment, to breathe slowly and mindfully so that you can bring oxygen into your system and begin to relax.

“Know thyself” is an age-old adage to follow and an important part of self-knowledge is being aware of your body and in which places it holds tension. What shape is your body in? Take a morning inventory: close your eyes and let your mind travel to the different areas of your body.

Which parts of your body ache/feel tired? Any stiffness? Perhaps, the nape of the neck from bending over the keyboard for hours last night? or your fingers?

  1. Breathing Exercises
    Once you’ve made an awareness check, consider the following exercises:
    • You can send positive, mental energy to relax your entire body and to ease tension in the places where you sense it. Breathe in and exhale slowly with the thought of loosening tension in a specific part of your body.
    • Simply remind yourself of proper breathing. Then, close your eyes softly. Inhale slowly and deeply through your nostrils, filling your lungs — first, extending the diaphragm and, then, the ribs. Hold your breath for a relaxed moment. Then, exhale, even more slowly than you inhaled, through your mouth.
    • Do simple movements to relax tension points. As you breathe in, lift shoulders to the ears. Hold your breath as you keep your shoulders raised, and then let them drop to their natural position as you exhale.
    • Check on how your body is positioned as you are seated or standing.
  2. Stretching
    During the day, even if for only short periods of time, perform some subtle stretching or contract-relax exercises:
    • Interlace your fingers then extend your palms in front of you. This stretch is great after long hours of typing.
      -Rotate shoulders (also, each hand — with the wrist as pivot point– and each foot), first, in one direction and, then, in the other. Remember to inhale, as you move your body parts upward, and exhale when returning to the initial position.
    • Frequent stretch breaks help relax you (Every 20 minutes stand and move.). Invite your learners (the young ones more often) to do the same.
    • Here is a little chant written to be spoken quietly, along with the self-massage exercises (numbered below), that a colleague learned from his young Chinese pupils. These exercises are done as learners are seated at their desks.

A Time to Relax
I rub my cheeks,
relax my eyes,
rub my temples,
relax my mind.
It’s quiet time.

      1. Rub cheeks.
      2. Stroke top of eyebrows.
      3. Rub temples gently.
      4. With four (2 and 2) fingers, rub two veins at base of skull.
      5.  Lay head on crossed arms on desk. A moment of silence.


Tips for mental preparation:

  1. Quiet your thoughts and focus your attention on the moment. Enjoy the silence.
  2. Draw a picture or write a text about a place you go to (or have been to), which gives you peace and quiet. How do you feel? Go on a mind trip to recapture that feeling. This invigorating mind trip can be brief . . .and much less costly than a plane ticket!
  3. Guided visualization requires a text composed to evoke mental images with elements of sensory stimuli. Visualizing positive outcomes develops the mind’s eye and helps teachers overcome self-defeating thoughts and build self-confidence. Here is an example of a guided visualization text:
    I close my eyes and relax. I am aware of my breathing. I feel the cool breeze blowing against my skin. I look around — I am in a green field covered in soft grass. I can see many beautiful flowers in the field. Some of them are red, some pink, white, yellow, purple. There are bushes and trees of different shapes and sizes. I may recall how each of the learners are like these flowers, bushes and trees–each distinct, unique, yet each a part of the beautiful space in our class. I’ll remember this green field when I see my learners again.
  4. Guide yourself to create your own comforting and encouraging visualized images, while you prepare.
  5. Preparation, in part, includes actual lesson planning. Whether you follow your plan or not, by preparing one, you will be in a more favorable position to act on any possible moments of inspired spontaneity –than if you had made no plan at all.
    • When choosing which activities to do with your learners and deciding beforehand how to do them, pass your thoughts through these two ‘filters’:
      a. As opposed to thinking about ‘what will I teach today?’, ask yourself: what will my learners actual do today? will they create, cooperate, build /draw something…? Think in verbs to make sure there is a high degree of learner involvement.
    • Then, there is the “Would I enjoy this activity?” filter. Re-read your lesson plan and ask yourself, “Would I enjoy these activities which I have planned for my learners or am I asking them to do what I think they ‘have to’? Plan to put something of your own teaching style into how you manage the required teaching material and have a positive attitude toward this type of experimenting. Your attitude toward what you ask the learners to do contributes greatly to a successful outcome.


To fortify yourself for the challenge of facilitating learning, reflect on the reasons why you became a teacher. Re-examine your beliefs and principles. Remember the special moments and rewards that you have always appreciated about your work.

True confidence comes from taking quiet, quality time to prepare, to be thoughtful and to do the best you can to guide your learners. Competent teachers do the best they can and, through studying, preparing, experimenting and reflecting, they get better and better.

Relish the silent moments which will empower your decision-making. Your deep creative planning will enhance your spontaneity and your quality as a foreign language instructor.

Once you relax and find a quiet inner strength, you can put your soul into what you do, integrating the aspects of personality, spirit, knowledge and technique so as to engage learners in their attempts to express themselves and interact with others in a foreign language. Have a good time at it!

Suzanne and Lilika