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The other day, my teaching partner and I had a wonderful day at school. At the end of the day, as we reflected on how things went and some possible plans for the next day, we both remarked on how tired we felt. This got us thinking. With it being such a positive, productive day, why were we feeling so tired? That’s when I started to think about Stuart Shanker and the Five Domains of Self-Reg. Even on our very best of days, we are constantly responding to stressors.

  • It may be the biological stressor of the hum of noise that’s always there when you teach 33 Kindergarten students and are right next door to another Kindergarten class — also with 33 students and no full wall. As we have our meeting time and connect with students during play time, we’re working hard to block out the noise, focus on the children, and minimize our own volume level, so as not to increase the noise level for the other class.
  • It may be the social stressor that comes from daily interactions with others. As someone that has a non-verbal learning disability, social situations are a challenge. Each day, I try to go to the staffroom for at least one nutrition break. Our staff is wonderful, and I think that these connections are important, but it’s a lot of difficult work for me to engage in unstructured social situations. It takes a toll on me to make small talk.
  • It may be the emotional stressor of seeing and hearing a child cry, and in the midst of being pulled in many other directions, taking the time to stop, go over, and support the child that may need me most. It’s about not rushing the tears. It’s about keeping that quiet, calm voice, and a soothing tone. It’s about really being there for that child, even when my attention may be pulled by something else happening in the room. 
  • It may be the pro-social stressor that comes from empathizing with how a child is feeling, even if, at the time, we may see things differently. A huge thing for a child (from a misplaced nickel to a ripped art creation) can seem like a small thing to us, and it’s important to step back and view things from the child’s perspective. That often means us viewing things from 33 children’s perspectives all day long … and that can have an impact.
  • It may be the cognitive stressor of constantly wondering, Are we good enough? Are we doing enough for each child? Is there something else that we could be doing? Did we create ______ problem, and if so, is there something else that we could be doing differently? How are others viewing our program choices, and should we be changing something based on their views? Reflection is important. Asking these questions and making changes based on the answers, ultimately leads to better programming for students. In an effort though to always want to do more (or be better), it’s easy to feel the drain.

Looking at our day through a Self-Reg lens, I think that we can understand why we’re feeling “tired.” It’s also the reason that we take the moment after we come in from dismissal to just sit there and “breathe.” We have an After School Program in our classroom, and it would probably make more sense to use this time with no children in the room to do our final tidying up, but this is when we need to relish the quiet time. We need to think. We need to talk about the positives of the day, and reflect on what could make the more challenging times, better the next day. We need to share some of our observations, and then get excited about new possibilities for the days ahead. For it’s as we start “getting excited,” which we do every day, that we’re ready to stand up, clean up, and organize new materials. We may still be tired, but we’re feeling the energy that comes from an optimistic outlook for the next school day.

I love teaching, and I feel fortunate to spend my life doing what I love. Understanding the stressors that we may face as educators, gives us a better picture on why we may feel “tired” even on our very best of days, and how we can renew that energy to come back with gusto the next day. Are you feeling “tired?” What role might stressors play in this, and how do you renew your energy? Even as adults, stressors are a reality, and how we respond to them makes a huge difference. Let’s share our stories.