Noteworthy Voices 2-MIN. READ

The Four Rs of Putting Yourself First

By: Danielle Sullivan 05/09/2023
Check out these helpful tips for teacher self-care to celebrate Teacher Appreciation Week.
Middle-aged woman participates in an outdoor yoga class.

Almost by design, we are programmed to put other people’s needs before our own. Emily and Amelie Nagoski’s book, Burnout, defines this as the human giver syndrome—“the belief that you have a moral obligation to give every drop of yourself in support of others even when that is to your own detriment.” And teachers are some of the biggest givers around. 

In light of Teacher Appreciation Week this week and how much we appreciate all you do, I'm asking you to realize that you matter—and I’m giving you permission to put yourself first!  
Here are four steps for doing that: 


There’s a difference between rest and sleep. Whether it’s 20 seconds or 20 minutes, rest is how you give your brain a mental break. It might be time away from tech, a walk in the woods, deep breathing, meditation, mindful moments, whatever works for you. But rest won’t happen unless you intentionally make it happen. We live in a 24/7 world in which there’s always something on our to-do lists. We need to give ourselves regular breaks and not feel guilty about them. Rest should be as vital as eating lunch—fuel for your brain so you can recharge.  

Action: Schedule at least one restful moment in your day for the next week and see how it changes your mindset. 


Sometimes we’re so caught up in the immediate that we lose perspective on how much we actually accomplish. Before tackling the next thing on your list, carve out some time to reflect on what’s gone well this past week, and write it down to remind yourself that you are making a difference. Sometimes we’re so bogged down with the negative that we forget those important positive moments when a student finally gets it, or you finally got that lesson right, or you accomplished a goal as a class.  

Action: Go back and reread the good things that happened to you this past week, and take 20 seconds to remember how they made you feel.  


Emotional experiences really matter to your brain and how it’s wired. For instance, as psychologist Rick Hanson, Ph.D. points out, “The structure-building processes of the nervous system are turbocharged by conscious experience, and especially by what’s in the foreground of your awareness. Your attention is like a combination spotlight and vacuum cleaner: It highlights what it lands on and then sucks it into your brain—for better or for worse.” 

What are you sucking into your brain? Are you experiencing more happiness and joy, or are you experiencing anxiety and stress? It matters what you focus on in a day, what you make things mean, and how they make you feel, because your thoughts affect your brain—not the other way around. 

Action: Write down all the feelings you can remember having in the past 24 hours, good or bad. Then, focus on the good. Linger in those moments and let the joy wash over you so your short-term memory moves into your long-term memory bank. You’ll start to reprogram your brain to see things differently.  


Finally, it’s important to make time to do what you love to do daily—whatever that thing is that sparks joy for you, like listening to an upbeat song, watching a silly video, or going for a run. Your to-do list will still be there when you’re done, but with a positive mental mindset, it won’t feel so overwhelming. Don’t shame yourself by taking home piles of work on the weekend. Leave it at school. You’re allowed a break. Enjoy it. 

Action: Fill out this permission slip to give yourself permission to be human. 

There Is Hope

I know so many of you still feel powerless. But there is hope. There are schools out there where brave teachers are blogging and connecting, writing technology grants for their classrooms, and going above and beyond to overcome obstacles. There’s a new teaching model emerging in which teachers are empowered, happy, collaborative, supported, and invigorated. It’s a model from which every child can learn, every teacher can be their best self, and the potential is infinite.  

The first step to feeling one percent better today is knowing it's within your reach and remembering you do matter, you work hard, and it's time for you to also put yourself first. You deserve it. 

Please join us for a webinar on May 17th at 4 p.m. ET—Reflect and Connect: Summer Actions to Prepare for the Critical First Month Back to School with Professor John Hattie—and listen to this Extraordinary Educators™ Podcast featuring Curriculum Associates' CEO Rob Waldron.