Cultivating Challenge

Challenge is the bedrock of happiness. Cultivating challenge will spark your interest and enthusiasm to enjoy this wild gift called life. Find some inspiration to act here.

By Adrin Fisher

The start of a new decade is a natural time to pause and take stock of life. Once in a while (like today) I sit back and marvel at the choices that have led me to this career—teaching high school English at my alma mater. Thirty years have passed since I first sat down in a scarred, wooden desk in the same classroom where I teach today. The time has passed—more quickly than I’d have ever imagined—yet, I’m still in high school.

Every Graduation Day, I’m as excited as my seniors in their stiff button-down shirts and high-heeled sandals. They’re worried about many challenges ahead, but mostly they worry about tripping as they walk across the stage. I know. I was too.

Sometimes being in high school gets monotonous for those of us who never leave. Good students and poor ones alike come and then go, replaced by younger versions of the same. Your favorites—the kids you really connected with—never choose to linger with you for an extra year or two. And you are still answering the same questions that teachers have been answering since the beginning of time:  Why do we have to read this? Can’t we just watch the movie? Why do we have to write again? Can’t you just give us a break, Miss Fish?

Yet still I remain, a constant in their high school days, a reliable fixture on the third floor. I hope that I’m high-energy and fun-ish, and fair, respectful and kind. I hope I don’t give up on them and don’t give them too many breaks and maintain a constant stream of positive answers:

Read to become a better human.

Read to learn from the mistakes of others.

Read to see yourself in a mirror.

Write because if you don’t think you’ll make all the mistakes instead of some mistakes.

Write because humanity is built on story and on memory.

It’s this year-in-year-out redundancy—cheerfully indomitable though I strive to be—that forces me to challenge myself.

You may think you have plenty of challenges, so there’s no need to add more, and you may be absolutely right. But what if challenge is the bedrock of happiness? What if the best way to fight the stagnation of an exhausting job is to cultivate challenge?

Best-selling author Mark Manson writes, “Happiness comes from solving problems….To be happy we need something to solve. Happiness is a form of action; it’s an activity, not something that is passively bestowed upon you.”

One of the most consistent aspects of teacher persona across grade levels and disciplines is the desire to solve problems. Conscientious practitioners always have a problem simmering in the back of their minds—like when you pick up a conch shell on vacation because you know it will help kids see a story, or when you’re running through different ways to motivate a struggling student while grocery shopping, or when you’re re-thinking peer-editing groups while doing the dishes. Teachers routinely create and implement, but in the middle of our implementation, we’re creating for next week or next month. We are problem-solvers by inclination and by necessity.

And yet…

Sometimes we need to add a challenge just for ourselves, not for the sake of our students, but a spark to remind us that we enjoy this wild gift called life.

Maybe start small.

  • Wear a different scarf every day or choose one color as a signature for the week.
  • Try a diet change: maybe add something (like more water) instead of taking foods away.
  • What about a challenge not to complain about school for one whole day?
  • What if you add new vocabulary to your vernacular—like maybe some Shakespearean insults? “You Banbury cheese” is my current favorite.
  • Or a reading challenge? My friend Sarah challenged herself to expand her reading list last year and only read POCs in translation.
  • Try journaling every day, making paper, training your palate to be a coffee critic, writing reviews on Amazon, knitting for kangaroos, creating a fake sorority with your friends and holding regular meetings…the possibilities are endless.
  • Or maybe if you are already functioning at the edge of yourself, challenge yourself to tweak one action or one attitude.

The point is that you take the time to challenge yourself, to cultivate something that’s for you personally, not professionally. Research shows that a habit only takes 21 days to form, if you’re interested in sticking to your challenge. Three weeks is no time at all for people who think in nine-week increments.

I, for one, have set myself a daunting challenge for this year.

A book is open to the text of a play; other reference books and a notebook are on the desk.
Starting 2020 with Shakespeare

Ian Doescher, the bestselling author who re-envisions popular movies (maybe you’ve heard of Star Wars) in iambic pentameter, set a challenge for himself this year, and he invited the reading world to join him. He calls it Shakespeare 2020. The challenge is to read the complete works of Shakespeare in one year. That, as it turns out, is a lot of reading.

I decided to go for it.


Even thinking about all the essay correcting, planning, grading, prepping, record-keeping, and the extras I already do. Even thinking about the books that I’ll read this year and the after-school meetings I’ll facilitate. Even thinking about my family and friends and obligations and opportunities that will crop up in the course of 365 days. It’s certainly a challenge.

So here I am, this morning, smack in the middle of Henry VI, Part 1 and still on schedule. I’ve never read this play before—and these roses tracing the linage of England’s monarchy are dizzying. And Joan of Arc is here in all her single-combat glory. Who knew?

There’s a large group on Facebook (#Shakespeare2020) full of people smarter than me who have insights and prompts and resources that I’ve never heard of (though I’ve been teaching Shakespeare lo these many years) and on Twitter. I’m cracking open my old Riverside Shakespeare and putting in my headphones to listen along, and I’m doing it.

I’m not sure how close I’ll stick to the schedule or how much I’ll add to the conversation, but I know I’ll feel that happiness that comes from solving problems—and from learning!

After all, challenge begets challenge. I boiled a pudding for my after-school student Book Club today. The first Shakespeare2020 play was Twelfth Night, and even though the Christmas season has nothing to do with cross garters or cross-dressing, it was a good excuse to feel British. Boiling cake batter for six hours was, indeed, a challenge. We’ll see which brave students will taste it!

It’s not too late for you to join #Shakespeare2020, by the way. No one’s keeping score or passing out grades. There’s no test. This is the real world.

So, finally, my challenge to you, teacher friend, is to challenge yourself. Cultivate and care for yourself—because your life is demanding. Spark your interest and remember why you’re still in the room.

WVCTE wants you to contribute to the conversation. What challenges do you cultivate? Leave us a question or comment, Tweet us your thoughts @WVCTE, or connect with us on Facebook!

Adrin Fisher is a contributing blogger for WVCTE. She wishes you grace. She’s a National Board Certified Teacher smack in the middle of her twenty-second year of teaching and currently working with seniors in co-teaches and dual-credit classes, and honors-level sophomores. When she’s not surrounded with her prep calendars and a pile of essays, encouraging and supporting her colleagues, or teaching Shakespeare “like a boss,” you can find her reading Shakespeare with the audiobook blasting, tree bathing in a wintry park with her kids, or writing in drips and drabs. You can follow her on Twitter @fisheradrin

Novel(ty) November

Teacher-friend, escape the drab November of the soul by injecting novelty into your days: lean into life and take a chance. Here are three concrete ways for you do have a Novel November personally and professionally.

By Adrin Fisher

“Whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth; whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul…I account it high time to get to sea as soon as I can.”  So begins Moby Dick.

Now, I have never felt the urge to take to sea—probably owing to my landlocked upbringing in the Mountain State, and to the fact that lots of big, deadly things live in the sea—but I can still identify with Melville’s sentiments about escape.

October is the month of glory: the trees are bright, the sky is blue, and the air is crisp.

But November heralds the dark, wet death of the year. The leaves blow down and gather in sloppy wet piles against walls. That large murder of crows returning to their roost down by the river becomes ominous. And spring—and the sweetness of high school graduation—seems impossibly distant.

Truly, the November of the soul is upon us, teacher friend. Between the NAEP results showing that our students are not, in fact, number one, the flurry of end-of-quarter parent emails, and strikes and rumors of strikes, the stresses of teaching can feel overwhelming. 

So how can you combat the cold, November rain?

One way is to inject a little bit of novelty into your long work days. To head to sea, if you will.

Blast into the Past!

When my school underwent an extensive renovation a few years ago, the library decided to part with its delightful collection of bound periodicals. As one who came-of-age in the 1990s, I have fond memories of searching the stacks of my local university looking for a particular magazine article for my research paper. Well, I’m not sure how fond those memories are, but I am fond of realizing how much easier research has gotten since my high school days. 

Anyway, I saved ten bound volumes of Life magazine from World War II years. Once a year, I pull them out and let the sophomores flip through them in order to get a sense of the setting of A Separate Peace. While they’re at it, they choose a “current event” and analyze an accompanying photo using a worksheet created at the National Archives.  It always surprises me how much my students love this—who knew paging through a giant, dusty book of old magazines could be so fun? My favorite comments include “They could advertise that?” and “Are those actual dead bodies?”

Students analyze a photo about a polygamist family.
Students analyze a 1940 photo showing a polygamist family.

I would imagine that, with a little effort, you too can scrape up some bound periodicals. Or, with some digging, you can access period advertisements or photos online.

Understanding historical context is a powerful analytical lens. And, as we know, we need to help students become critical consumers of media, so this activity pulls double duty. Novelty for the win!

NaNoWriMo Strikes Again!

Though the times change, there are some things we can count on. One of these is National Novel Writing Month. According to its website, “The challenge: draft an entire novel in just one month. For 30 wild, exciting, surprising days, you get to lock away your inner editor, let your imagination take over, and just create!”

There are many resources available to intrepid teachers who want to guide their students through writing their own novels, including everything from lesson plans to student workbooks to classroom kits. The program is totally free and it maintains a large social media presence, including real-time challenges on Twitter, Pep Talk videos and emails, and a whole host of supports. 

But for you—teacher friend—for you, there’s also the concept of you devoting yourself to something for you. If writing a set number of words in 30 days is too daunting (50,000 is a big number), you can try my modified version:  writing for a set amount of time per day (20 minutes). That’s workable. And rewarding!

Whether you choose to take your students on this ride or do this one solo, NaNoWriMo is definitely a novel approach.

Pressure Makes Perfect!

My final tested and true idea to inject some novelty into this month comes in the form of a contest format. For the past couple of years, I’ve tried my hand at the NYC Midnight Flash Fiction contest.

It starts out in July with a few thousand writers who are divided into heats for each round of the competition. With the entry fee, you are guaranteed to write the first two stories; the top five in each group move on to the third round, and then the top three in your new group move on to the final.

The trick here—and the fun!—is that each round of the contest runs for precisely 48 hours.  You’re assigned a genre, a location, and an object. And it’s totally random, as you can see below. I was assigned to write a 1,000-word historical fiction story that took place in a cement plant and featured a massage table. This weekend’s story was quite a challenge!

This is a sampling of the creative prompts of NYC Midnight contests.

For me, the NYC Midnight contest has been a game-changer. I respond to the pressure, setting aside all the other things crowding my plate (including the 80 essays I could have marked this weekend…) and working those 1,000 words. The contest has pushed me creatively:  I’ve written a romantic comedy, a mystery, a couple of horror stories—all genres I never would have attempted. In addition, all writers get quality feedback from three judges for each story—whipped cream on the pumpkin pie.

Now, of course, you can’t expect your students to pay to enter a writing contest. And maybe you’re not interested in it either. However, you can replicate the idea. In fact, after reading some thrillers to celebrate Halloween (like the disturbing “Hop-Frog” by Edgar Allan Poe), my sophomores drew a location, a murder weapon, and an additional object to incorporate into their original horror stories. To replicate the pressure, they had a time limit and a word limit. After we finished writing and shared our horror stories, the kids unanimously voted to try this high-pressure writing again. A novel approach yields results, every time.

Head to Sea

So teacher-friend, escape the drab November of the soul by injecting novelty into your days: lean into life and take a chance. 

As naturalist Edwin Way Teale wrote, “How sad would be November if we had no knowledge of the spring!”

We know what’s coming—both in terms of the weather and in terms of the flowering of all these students in our care—and it’s going to be beautiful.

WVCTE wants you to contribute to the conversation. What new ideas get you through the dark days of teaching? Leave us a question or comment, Tweet us your thoughts @WVCTE, or connect with us on Facebook!

The picture shows a table with a stack of essays, books, and calendars, an open computer and two small journals.  One is open with notes written; the other is closed and says "Create your own happiness" on the cover.
Part of my weekend’s work and play.

Adrin Fisher is a contributing blogger for WVCTE. She wishes you novelty and peace. She’s a National Board Certified Teacher smack in the middle of her twenty-second year of teaching and currently working with seniors in co-teaches and dual-credit classes, and honors-level sophomores. When she’s not surrounded with her prep calendars and a pile of books, encouraging and supporting her colleagues, or conferencing with budding writers, you can find her reading with her kids, tree bathing in the park, or dreaming about life and readings in her current composition book. You can follow her on Twitter @fisheradrin

Teaching and Having Both Feet Planted in the Present

While “the world is mud-lucious” and growing beautiful and green, school days and spring days come on with some level of frustration, too. It’s opening day of standardized testing season, spring sports, proms, concerts, the works. And it’s that time of year when summer and its available freedoms seem so close yet so far away.

Almost every teacher I know seems to have one foot planted in the present and one in the future, handling the anxieties of today and thinking ahead to all there is still yet to accomplish.

By Karla Hilliard

“You can never hold back spring” gravels Tom Waits from my car stereo every year when the sun begins again to shine.

If you’re a teacher of students of any age, you understand spring fever in ways that most adults have outgrown. You button the rain coats of Kinders clad in rain boots playground ready. You mind the middlers and the rising tide of hormones. Or, if you’re like me, you watch your high school seniors bloom in recognition of the lives that await them.

And while “the world is mud-lucious” and growing beautiful and green, school days and spring days come on with some level of frustration, too. It’s opening day of standardized testing season, spring sports, proms, concerts, the works. And it’s that time of year when summer and its available freedoms seem so close yet so far away. 

Almost every teacher I know seems to have one foot planted in the present and one in the future, handling the anxieties of today and thinking ahead to all there is still yet to accomplish.

It occured to me recently that living with one foot in the present and one in the future is all of teaching. Being an educator and being good at it means we are always and forever anticipating, planning, learning, collaborating, revising, and responding to what happens day by day, hour by hour, week after week in our classrooms.

Despite its job related anxieties, it’ll come as no surprise when I tell you that I believe teaching is rich and fulfilling work. Teaching is challenging, engaging, creative, and deeply meaningful. But many teachers, including myself, struggle with managing it all, having it all, enacting self care, and enjoying their lives beyond the never-ending stack of to-be-graded papers.  

As I think about where I plant my own two feet this spring and root myself in the present, here is what I’m learning.

Intentionality is key.

Last weekend, Jess and I traveled to University of North Carolina Asheville for the Appalachian Studies Association Conference where we presented on a panel for 55 Strong: Inside the West Virginia Teacher Strike. We had an incredible weekend, full of food, fun, and important learning that propels us both forward in our lives as educators and advocates. We learned from and listened to authors we tremendously admire and made connections that will impact our work with students.

On our six and half car trip home on Sunday, I said to Jess, “Ya’ know, I’m going to be really tired this week, and we’re not going to get a break. It’s right back into teaching and parenting, but I’m just gonna try to be present and enjoy it.”

Come Monday morning at 5:30, I said this again to myself…just be present and enjoy it. And I did.

Monday at school wasn’t perfect. It wasn’t whizz bang. But I nurtured relationships with students, talked to every single student in every single group as they finished their SAT game project or 30 Line Richard III interpretive performance scripts. I was present for my students, and it made a difference in how I felt at the end of the day. I was less exhausted, less cranky, and thinking more intentionally about the ways I invest my time in myself and others.

The lesson doesn’t always have to go perfect.

Like I was saying, Monday didn’t go perfectly or as planned. I had planned on students beginning their SAT grammar rule game presentations. I had planned on reminding my AP Literature students about their next upcoming poetry blog. And I had planned on getting my next unit sketches printed, primed, and ready. But none of that happened Monday.

Instead, my Juniors had one more work day to touch base and finish the final details of their games, my AP Lit kids and I got caught up in rehearsal and choreography of their 30 Line performances and I forgot my announcement, and well, the next unit is still backburnered. And that’s OK! It’s OK.

What did happen on Monday was far more valuable than my perfect plan. We talked, we shared stories from our weekends, we enjoyed one another’s company and the work of the class, and we all went on about our Monday, free from the anxieties of being tethered too tightly to a calendar or plan.

It’s OK to let something go.

To stay grounded in the present with my students, sometimes I just have to let an idea go. I don’t like doing this. I’m not good at it.  

The longer I teach the more I realize that nothing will ever feel as complete as I want it to. No matter how tight and right my plans are or how thoughtful and dug in my students are, there will always, always be more than I/we can do. More and more, I have been trying to feel satisfied with the progress my students make. Growth doesn’t happen all at once. It happens little by little, day by day. Student growth deserves to be acknowledged not nitpicked.

My students need a teacher who reflects, praises, admires, and appreciates their growth, not one who is constantly fretting over the soil in which they’re planted.

So, sometimes I let something go. I let a few papers go ungraded, I allow a few homework deadlines to slip, and occasionally, I’ll throw out the whole dang lesson/text/activity/assignment if it isn’t working.

I’ve always been a teacher who has turned her worry into work, but I’m letting that go, too. I am becoming a teacher who is present and available to her students and everyone else she loves.  

So, how do you do it? As a teacher, how do you keep both feet planted in the present? 

We’d love to hear from you! Connect with WVCTE on Facebook or Twitter @WVCTE or find me on Twitter @karlahilliard.


On Getting Better: Teacher-Friend Resolutions for a New Year

Four resolutions to revolutionize and rejuvenate your teaching.

By Adrin Fisher

January is a natural time for Americans to reevaluate our lives.  We all know the mantra: New Year, New You!  Many of us make New Year’s resolutions. The most popular revolve around health and appearance: to eat healthier, to exercise more, to lose weight. We all want to get better.

However, according to a January 1, 2019 article on, while 60% of us make a resolution, only 8% achieve it.

So, why bother making those resolutions in the first place?

Well, for one thing, you’re not dead yet. One day you will be (Memento mori), and then it will be too late to improve or to change or to finish that bucket list. But TODAY it’s not too late!

I’d like to offer my suggestions for you—a busy, harried teacher. Some days, you’re on top of the world: all your students are cooperative, engaged, and really learning. Other days, your plans go sideways and you spend whole periods putting out fires and holding on by your fingernails. I’ve been there. Many times. And in that spirit, here are my 2019 Resolutions for you (and me), teacher-friend.


ivy 2019
My new ivy looks so festive!

  • Accept that it will all get done eventually. It’s ok not to work through your lunch. It’s ok not to spend your entire weekend or break grading papers or planning. Teaching is like laundry. There’s always more to do, so set limits and stick to them.
  • Do things for you. Polish your nails. Go to the gym. Take a walk. Tree bathe. Schedule a movie date with your mom or your kids. Watch garbage TV.
  • Upgrade your environment. Buy a new plant. Take some time to straighten up your desk and throw away dead pens. Light a lovely candle while you’re working at home.
  • Reading is not optional. Right after my first son was born, I thought, This is it. I must be a good mom-teacher-wife-friend so I have to give up somethingReading has to go. Bad plan. Not taking time to read SOMETHING of my choice every day left me feeling unmoored and unbalanced. Read to live.
  • Don’t just read for school. Read books or poems or articles you might want to use in your classes—sure! But read MORE for joy.
  • Read because you expect your students to, and good teachers can do everything they expect of their kids. Reading new things—hard things—reminds us of the struggle of working through text we don’t like; and this struggle is something our students face every day—even in our class. Read to empathize.


christmas books 2019
Turns out, my husband’s warnings about a “book-heavy” Christmas season were correct…

  • Reflect on your practice. Being a reflective practitioner is a key part of teaching well. Think about your strengths as a teacher, but—more importantly—think about your weaknesses. Try keeping a journal or—something more my speed—quickly jotting ideas for improvement on your planning calendars.
  • Attend a conference or professional meeting. There’s something about being in front of an excited presenter that just gets the teaching-blood flowing.
  • Read a professional book or follow a professional blog or podcast. Even better, do it with a friend. Talk about your classrooms and what you can realistically put into practice. Remember, no matter your accolades, you can always get better.
  • Be a #MondayTeacher. #MondayTeacher is a term coined by motivational speaker Danny Brassell and adopted by my husband to describe teachers who are invested, not just working for the weekend or summer break. Don’t just mark time. Be the teacher who’s lively and excited and engaged, who strives to make every day a personal best!
  • Surround yourself with positivity. Someone at the lunch table bringing you down? Skip lunch for a day. Always near the hecklers at Faculty Senate? Try a new seat. It’s a lot easier to manage your attitude and expectations when you’re with like-minded folks.
  • Remember, teaching is your job, not your life. Writer Anne Lamott reminds us not to be crushed by demands for perfection. In Bird by Bird, Lamott encourages writers to just write, to just get that first draft done one page at a time. Later, there will be time for improvements. Even though we live in an Instagram world, real life is messy.  As my great-Aunt Frances used to say, “And that’s ok, too.”

Now, if you’re like me, you might want to wait for THAT DAY to begin your resolutions.  You’ve already missed January 1. Does that mean you have to wait a year? Of course not!  Lunar New Year (celebrated by over 1.5 billion people worldwide) happens on February 5, 2019.

Or, you can be like my cousin Patrick, who recently wrote, “I don’t really believe in New Year’s Resolutions because we are free to make changes to ourselves whenever we want to.”  Yes, we are truly free to improve ourselves any day–every day. No matter when you choose to begin, as indie-rocker Frank Turner says, “We can get better, because we’re not dead yet.”

So go forth, teacher-friends, and resolve to get better!


WVCTE wants you to contribute to the conversation. What resolutions do you have for the new year? How do you plan to get better?  Leave us a comment, Tweet us your thoughts @WVCTE, or connect with us on Facebook!

Adrin Fisher is a contributing blogger for WVCTE. When she’s not answering pointed questions about in-text citations, helping students relate to the ever-angsty Hamlet, or conferencing with budding writers, you can find her whipping up a batch of Turkish Delight, tree bathing, or pounding through a good novel. You can follow her on Twitter @fisheradrin

Squad Goals: Combatting Secondary Traumatic Stress in Teachers

I remember vividly the first time I put my head on my desk and cried during my lunch period.  The bell to end fourth period and move to lunch had just rung and a student was lingering behind asking me questions that had nothing to do with that day’s lessons.  I was a first-year teacher and I very much needed the next 30 minutes to catch my breath and prepare for the marathon of my afternoon classes; I looked at the student and quipped something akin to, “Well, you better get out of here or you won’t have time to eat!”  I remember exactly what she said: “Oh, I don’t need to go to lunch. We didn’t have any food in the house for me to pack lunch this week.” I don’t remember exactly what occurred next, but I know that student left with my lunch and I sat down and cried. I cried because I knew that she wasn’t the only student in my classes who didn’t have a lunch that day.  I cried because she said it so matter-of-factly, as if it was no big deal. I cried because I knew that next time, I would likely hear something worse than simply not having anything for lunch. I cried because my students were hurting, and I couldn’t fix it. That wasn’t the last time I cried, but it was the first.

Most teachers are by nature caring and giving individuals.  We don’t enter this profession because we hate children or wish them ill-will.  Research shows that roughly half of the children in American public schools have experienced trauma: neglect, abuse, violence, etc.  This statistic has pushed American teachers into the role of counselor and forced a greater responsibility for the social-emotional well-being of our students.  Schools have taken a major leap in the direction of supporting students by embracing the notion of trauma-informed learning, but the truth is that schools with traumatized students likely have traumatized teachers.

Who is at Risk for Secondary Traumatic Stress?

It is not uncommon for teachers to develop secondary traumatic stress (sometimes called vicarious trauma or caregiver fatigue).  When teachers hear the stories of their students’ trauma and try to support their recovery, they put themselves at risk for secondary traumatic stress.  Teachers who enter into direct contact with first-hand traumatic stories are especially at risk. It is important that schools and teachers know the risk factors for secondary traumatic stress and provide support for those who suffer.

What Are the Warnings Signs of Secondary Traumatic Stress?

Teachers who are suffering from secondary traumatic stress can exhibit any number of signs and symptoms, ranging from physical to emotional.  

Emotional Feelings of numbness or detachment
Physical Low energy or chronic fatigue
Behavioral Engaging in self-destructive coping mechanisms
Professional Low morale; inability to perform professional tasks
Cognitive Confusion; lacking concentration; difficulty with decision-making; and/or experiencing trauma imagery (seeing traumatic images over and over in one’s imagination)
Spiritual Questioning one’s purpose or lacking self-satisfaction
Interpersonal Physical withdrawal from co-workers or loved ones; becoming emotionally unavailable

Knowing the signs and symptoms can help teachers self-identify secondary traumatic stress and look for sign and symptoms in co-workers.  

What Can Schools Do to Support Teachers with Secondary Traumatic Stress?

Schools can work to build a culture of awareness around trauma for students and teachers.  A culture of awareness lends naturally to identifying need and providing support through:

  • Professional development around signs and symptoms of trauma and primary and secondary traumatic stress
  • Creating peer groups as support systems for teachers
  • Holding small group check-ins following a traumatic event
  • Introducing notions of self-care to teachers

Perhaps one of the most powerful ways a school can support teachers suffering from secondary traumatic stress is for the administration to acknowledge and recognize the existence of stressful situations and provide individualized support.

Why Should Teachers Practice Self-Care?


During the safety check on an airplane, flight attendants always state the importance of placing your oxygen mask on before helping someone else.  This seems counter-intuitive to those of us who are natural caregivers.  How can I watch someone suffer while I am taking care of myself? The reality of the situation, though, is that if I am suffering from a lack of oxygen, I am not going to be unable to help anyone else.  Taking care of myself first is the only way to help others.

The same concept exists when thinking of secondary traumatic stress.  I want my classroom to be a safe-haven for students in need; I want to be their rock when the rest of their world may appear to them to be crumbling.  Engaging in a hobby, exercising, or simply taking a little time away from a stressful situation is sometimes all it takes to provide clarity and return of strength. Teachers can’t be strong enough to take care of their students if they don’t first take care of themselves.

So, teacher friends, as we return from our winter breaks make an effort to reconnect with your teacher “squad.”  Find your people.  Put on your oxygen mask.

WVCTE wonders how you practice self-care in order to help yourself and your students.