As teachers are asked to take on more and more – both in terms of to-do lists and social emotional support of students – our own mental health is being put on a back burner. Today’s guests says it’s time to move teacher well being to the forefront and help teachers be the best, happiest versions of themselves, so they can be the best, happiest teachers they can be.
Today’s Guest: Danna Thomas, Happy Teacher Revolution
Danna Thomas has gone, in her words, from “Miss Thomas, kindergarten teacher” to “Danna, founder of a revolution” in just a few years.
The former Baltimore City Public Schools educator now runs Happy Teacher Revolution, an international movement that hosts mental health and wellness support groups for teachers. More than 1,500 teachers have taken part in the program to date.
As a new teacher, Danna Thomas found herself working late every night, getting to school early every morning, and spending more time in her classroom than any other place on the planet. When she realized that this was not something that could continue she decided to switch schools and, in doing so, set some boundaries for herself so that she could not only be a great teacher, but also a happy person.
In the process she certainly ruffled some feathers and challenged some norms, but she also discovered but she had become a role model for other teachers who were struggling under the weight of the classroom.
Before making the leap to working on Happy Teacher Revolution full-time Dennis struggled with asking things first leaving teaching behind meant leaving a steady job a steady paycheck and tenure and health insurance. It also meant recognizing her own ability Uline Uline
She also had to address the issue of self worth. Even though teachers are innovative, creative, unique individuals, over the last several years (or decades) education has begun to systematically make us question our value our abilities and our worth. We’ve bought into the idea that teachers not only often struggle with money, but that if we should be doing so. So when a teacher decides to do something for themselves that could make money, they hesitate because they feel bad making money. They feel bad charging for something that they do. And if they do charge, they often charge far less than the service or product is worth. All these things compound to make it even more difficult to improve their situation because of constant financial strain.
When she started Danna took a lot of inspiration from podcast about successful entrepreneurs. And one thing she took away from many of them was the idea of human centered design, which is just a fancy way of saying asking questions of people you hope to serve. So she asked educators how can she help teachers heal, deal, and be real about the social emotional and intellectual demands they face on the job.
Quick tips for setting and sticking to boundaries as a teacher:
- Have an accountability partner to make sure you’re abiding by your boundaries. They can stop by your room at the end of the day to make sure you’re not staying too late, and remind you to take a break for lunch so you don’t forget to eat all day.
- Set an end of day routine that helps your brain switch from teacher mode to rest. Danna hangs up her lanyard, then showers and changes when she gets home to signal her brain that she’s on personal time now. (Kind of like a superhero changing back into their civis after saving the world again.)
- Set appointments for right after school so you have to leave at or close to the final bell.
- Take mental health days when you feel yourself getting overwhelmed.