Sustainable Self-Care for Funny Educator People

A MiddleWeb Blog

These days, if you’re a teacher, you’ve probably read something about “self-care.” There is a movement in edu-circles around the more than worthy notion that teachers need to be mindful of meeting their own needs.

You know, the “put on your oxygen mask first” theory of supporting kids. It’s a good theory.

Teachers work hard and often do so with little regard for their own needs. That’s not sustainable. If we want to serve our students, then truly we must be reasonably healthy and happy ourselves. That means we’ve got to engage in some self-care, people.

When I did (an admittedly quick) Google search I found a common list of self-care strategies.

  • Meditate
  • Exercise
  • Sleep more
  • Work less
  • Take up a hobby

Okay, as I have already noted, I truly believe self-care is important. Really, I do.

I won’t be trying this at school!

But I don’t want to take breaks, do yoga, or take a brisk walk around the building, and I certainly don’t want to eat less on my school’s famous “Chip Thursday” shared-snack days. So, while there is nothing wrong with the commonly offered tips for helping teachers stay emotionally healthy, they just don’t fit me.

Frankly, I don’t crave what most people call “balance.” I have always thought of education as my vocation, my profession, and my favorite hobby. I like to “work.” A lot. I am happiest and feel healthiest when I am busy, and I suspect there are others out there who, like me, look for a less quiet, introspective kind of self-care. 

Laugh Your Way to “Balance”

So, how do teachers like us recharge regularly? One way that works for me is getting a daily dose of gut-busting laughter. And guess what? It turns out that laughing as self-care is a scientifically proven strategy that works!

According to the Mayo Clinic, laughter is a great stress reliever. Additionally, laughing stimulates our organs, relieves pain, improves mood, deepens our sense of satisfaction with life, and even boosts our immunity (and every teacher who has worked even one day knows how germy schools are!)

Mental Floss identifies other benefits of laughter that fit the self-care bill, saying that when we laugh we reduce anxiety, build stronger social connections, and lower blood pressure! (Hmm.. heard about ‘laughter yoga’?)

Funny Stuff!

My school is filled with laughter. As I wrote in an early post for the Heart of the School blog, when I talk to my own children about their day at school, I always ask them, “What made you laugh today?”

As the school principal I am acutely aware of how important positive school climate is for both students and staff, and I watch for laughter and try to inspire it when I can. On a recent survey I gave teachers, asking them how they felt my first year as their principal was going, my favorite response was, “I love how laughter rings up and down our hallways.”

Mark Anderson’s teaching and education cartoons are a good source of job-related comic relief!

In my day-to-day life, I use laughter as an elixir. Often I find myself laughing spontaneously, but not always; sometimes I have to cultivate it as a part of self-care. Below are some of my go-to places for gifting myself a good hard laugh.

Video Clip Series that are Education-Related

Principal Gerry BrooksPrincipal Brooks makes short funny videos about life as an educator that are often laugh-out-loud funny. Try his behavior management videos; they are as instructive as they are hilarious.

Kid Snippets: Kid Snippets are videos that feature the conversations of kids reenacted by adults.

Math Class is my favorite Snippet, and it seems that no matter how many times I watch it, I laugh hard.

Key & Peele: Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele are a sketch comedy duo who have done several bits on teaching and learning. If you still haven’t seen the Substitute Teacher, Part 1, you must!

Books & Blogs

Literally any joke book! Honestly. Get a joke book at the thrift store or bookmark a website with jokes. Then read one or two of them each day. Even better, ask a student to tell you a joke. Kid jokes are often so bad that they become funny by default.

Adequate Yearly Progress by Roxanna Elden: This novel is set in an urban high school that has been deemed failing. The teachers and the students deal with the daily struggles of teaching and learning under the watchful eyes of carpetbagger consultants and corrupt leaders. The themes are dark to be sure, but it doesn’t stop NBCT and sometimes stand-up comedian Elden from delivering big laughs.

32 Third Graders and One Classroom Bunny by Phillip Donne: This one is written by a third grade teacher (obviously) and offers short but super funny anecdotes about his days in the classroom. Even though the teacher is sharing elementary-age funnies, teachers of any grade will recognize the scenarios he shares.

Books by Comedians: Honestly, I love so many of these that I couldn’t pick just one. Below are some of my favorites from the last couple of years. For a real treat, get an Audible version and listen to them while you do chores. Most are so funny that I actually like cleaning the house and doing the laundry if I can listen while doing it! As an added bonus, many of the books listed below are also memoir or autobiography. That means you get to learn about a life that might be very different from your own while you laugh.

    • Dad Is Fat by Jim Gaffigan
    • Hi Bob! by Bob Newhart
    • A Polaroid Guy in a Snapchat World by David Spade (Warning! This is not for the easily offended! There is a good amount of raunchy humor here.)
    • The Last Black Unicorn by Tiffany Haddish
    • I Can’t Make This Up: Life Lessons by Kevin Hart
    • Furiously Happy by Jenny Lawson
    • My Hilarious Life by Tim Conway

Love, Teach Blog: Love, Teach is an anonymous junior high teacher-blogger who is equal parts warrior for school equity issues and bumbling every-teacher storyteller. She is honest, heart-warming, and SUPER FUNNY!

The Tattooed Teacher Blog: On this blog you’ll find another good dose of self-effacing humor from a sixth grade teacher, mixed in with the small everyday tales of triumph that help us all stay focused on moving forward.

Get Out There and Have Fun!

I also recommend spending some social time with other teachers as a part of your self-care regimen. Meet in the “faculty lounge” (Applebee’s or *gasp* local tavern) for “book club,” a “staff meeting,” or a “PLC” committee meeting (note the quotation marks…Personal Levity Collaborative?) Eat together, consume favorite beverages together, be merry together!

That counts as self-care, too!

What are your favorite strategies for staying focused, happy, and healthy as a teacher? Share them in the comments.

Rita Platt

Rita Platt (@ritaplatt) is a National Board Certified Teacher and a self-proclaimed #edudork with master’s degrees in reading, library, and leadership. Her experience includes teaching learners in remote Alaskan villages, inner cities, and rural communities. She currently is a school principal, teaches graduate courses for the Professional Development Institute and writes for We Teach We Learn. Rita's first book,Working Hard, Working Happy: Cultivating a Culture of Effort and Joy in the Classroom (Routledge/MiddleWeb), was published in July 2019.

4 Responses

  1. I love this! So true: self-care is such a personal issue (i.e., unique for everyone), and this gives such great options! Love the links! …and I love that you cite Mental Floss (one of my faves)!

  2. Thank you! This is exactly the holy moley grail o’ links I had been dreaming of and too busy to look for. Already paid for itself in therapy time without even leaving your launch page– LOLed watching “Math Class.”

    • Rita Platt says:

      I know! Math Class makes me laugh EVERY TIME!!!! Those guys are hilarious. I am so glad you found some time to laugh. It can make a HUGE difference!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.