Prioritizing your Mental Health with Summer Self-Care

Pause for a moment. Take a breath. You’ve made it to the end of a school year unlike any before. You’ve dealt with new developments, mastered new technologies, and likely found your students to be more resilient than you’ve ever imagined. You deserve this summer to rest, recover, and find new ways to further your craft as a valued educator.

As you start down that path, take some time for a mental health check-in. Ask yourself: how am I doing? What do I need right now? Am I feeling more anxious, stressed, or depressed after this whirlwind school year?

No matter how you are feeling, as an educator and as a person, this summer is a perfect opportunity to establish new self-care routines that can help bolster your mental health. That way, as you move into the next school year, you can practice a variety of productive habits that can keep you feeling mentally balanced, both in the classroom and at home.

Self-Care Essentials

Self-care is often touted as the first step toward a healthier mental benchmark. But for all the press about “self-care” in general, many educators still struggle to find a form of self-care that helps them navigate their personal and professional life with confidence. Some may not even know what qualifies as “self-care” in the first place, especially on a busy educator’s schedule.

In essence, “self-care” is any habit or activity that allows you to take time for yourself and feel present in your own feelings. Self-care allows you to step aside from the cares and concerns of your busy life and turn inward, where you can reflect on the joys and hardships in your life.

As a result, self-care can take on many forms, depending on what you find relaxing and rejuvenating.  For some folks, that means exercising regularly. For others, that means meditating while listening to relaxing music. As long as you can point to it and say “this time is just for me,” then it qualifies as self-care.

Going Solo

That leads to another important aspect of certifiable self-care – it should ideally be done solo. That’s not to say that you can’t speak with or do activities with other people to help you rest and recharge; communal activities and therapy can be beneficial for mental health in their own way. But when it comes to effective self-care, practicing solo can help free you from distractions that might otherwise cloud your capacity to feel truly grateful or self-reflective.

The Benefits of Self-Care

Self-care comes with numerous benefits as well, especially if it is practiced routinely. Many folks report being able to manage anxiety, stress, and depression through self-care while also finding space to process their previously unrecognized positive emotions. The American Psychological Association has also noted the increased focus, stress reduction, and increased mental flexibility that can derive from mindfulness practices like self-care.

Though results may vary from person to person, self-care can play an important and reliable role in living a balanced, productive life – both personally and professionally.

Self-Care – Myth vs. Reality

When it comes to practicing self-care, there are some prevalent misconceptions that can prevent educators in particular from fully embracing this beneficial mental health exercise. Consider the following as you begin down your self-care journey:

Myth: I don’t have time for self-care! I’m too busy!

There’s no question that today’s educators are overburdened with responsibilities. But no matter how much you have on your plate, there’s always time for self-care. Even if it means waking up a little earlier to meditate or giving yourself a quick breather during your planning period, self-care can become accessible to everyone. In fact, if you feel that you are too busy from sun up to sun down, that might be a sign that you need some self-care time all the more.

Also, it’s important to remember that self-care cannot simply be added to an already full plate. You need to make space for self-care and value it like it is a priority in order to make it a muscle memory. That may mean re-prioritizing some other tasks or cutting out activities that don’t benefit your mental health. However you accomplish it, be sure to be intentional so that these new self-care activities can become active habits as soon as possible.

Myth: Self-care time is lazy. I need to be productive all day!

Many educators are well-trained towards persistent productivity. Some even think about breaks and rest as something that needs to be “earned” through continuous work.

But the truth is, we cannot be truly productive and happy if we do not make time to rest and recuperate. Self-care can provide that break in the day, even if it is only for a few minutes. In that way, rest and self-care can be catalysts for your productivity, rather than the other way around. 

Myth: I’ve tried self-care time before, but I don’t think it’s for me

Self-care is for everyone because everyone needs to value their mental health. Chances are, you’ve tried one form of self-care or another and found that it didn’t meet your needs or your schedule. That’s perfectly okay because you get to decide what “self-care” means in the context of your life. So, if meditation or daily journaling aren’t for you, then maybe meal preparation or writing thank-you notes will be. Always be willing to try new things as you chart out the self-care habits and routines that are right for you. 

A Summer to Recover

For many educators, summer is a time to relax and catch up on things missed in the hustle and bustle of the school year. Without question, that break is well-earned. But the summer is also an excellent opportunity for educators to take a step forward towards more positive mental health, starting with the creation of a new self-care routine.

A self-care routine, at its most basic level, is a collection of self-care habits or practices that can help maximize your ability to rest, recover, and reflect on your present emotions. For many people, a self-care routine can be an effective way to set aside time for themselves in a convenient manner, whether that’s in the morning, evening, or somewhere in between.

To that end, summer can be a great time to form a self-care routine because most educators have more unstructured time while school is not in session. This allows you to be more intentional with your habit-forming practices and less rushed when it comes to reflecting on your emotions. This, in turn, can help solidify that routine in your day-to-day schedule and ensure that your self-care foundation is solid going forward.

Here are a few self-care practices you can use to build a routine that works for you:

  • Daily journaling
  • Yoga or other purposeful exercise regimen
  • Meditation (on your own or with an app)
  • Drinking a healthy amount of water over the course of the day
  • Establish a skin care regime
  • Turn off or avoid electronics for X amount of time
  • Avoid checking work email or other work communication for X amount of time
  • Recite personal positive affirmations
  • Go for a walk or hike in a park or out in nature
  • Hand-write a few thank you notes
  • Participate in a round of Roses, Thorns, and Buds on your own
  • Buy and read a book that is NOT about teaching
  • Cook your favorite meal
  • Listen to your favorite music and dance
  • Declutter a space in your home
  • Stretch in the morning and before bed
  • Pick up a new hobby
  • Sleep in
  • Meal prep

Don’t forget – self-care looks different for everyone. When it comes to creating your own self-care routine, start out simple and build in components that help you feel nourished mentally while also feeling more self-aware. So long as you are setting aside time just for yourself, you are on the right path toward practicing effective self-care.

A New Habit for a New School Year

Over the course of the summer, you may find that your new self-care routine can really go a long way towards supporting and balancing your mental health. But once the new school year begins to creep up in August, you may be concerned that your self-care routine will fall by the wayside between lesson planning, grading, and other teacherly duties.

Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to carve out time for self-care, even on a structured teacher’s schedule. As before, you’ll need to evaluate your schedule and set aside time each day (or as often as possible) to enjoy at least one of your preferred self-care habits. That way, you’re still enjoying the benefits of self-care without needing to worry about daily time management. But remember – time spent on self-care is always worth it because you are worth it.

Along the way, you may find yourself hitting a few bumps in the road when it comes to making time for self-care. That’s okay, as long as you are committed to getting back on the path toward making self-care part of your every day. Always treat yourself with grace and know that your efforts toward caring for your own mental health are intrinsically beneficial to your overall well-being.

Also, it’s important to know that self-care is one great way to deal with and manage burnout. Each school year is long and can take a lot out of an educator, so it’s important to practice self-care to prevent your work life from becoming too overwhelming and impacting your mental health in turn. Even a bit of self-care can go a long way on this front, so consider making it a habit once the fall semester rolls around. 

Be Aware and Be Intentional

At the end of the day, self-care is all about you and making time for yourself to breath, reflect, and experience joy in your day-to-day life. For educators, self-care is critical because of the unique stresses surrounding the profession. As a result, self-care can be one way to keep an eye on your mental health as the months roll on, making it easier to identify both positive and negative emotions along the way.

Whether you’re starting this summer or looking to add new self-care habits for the next school year, always remember to be intentional and aware while you practice self-care. That way, you can always keep a close eye on one of your most valuable assets – your mental health – while striving to add even more purpose into your daily life. 

Mental Health Resources and Further Readings

As you begin to think more about the role self-care can play in your personal and professional life, consider checking out some of these resources for more valuable tips and tricks for making this practice a part of your daily routine:

Why It’s So Hard for Teachers to Take Care of Themsealves (and 4 Ways to Start)

5 Strategies for Teacher Self-Care

9 Self-Care Tips for Teachers

Mindfulness for Educators

Educating Mindfully

6 Ways to Easily Bring Mindfulness into the Classroom

Be Connected: LTC Technology Documentation Assessment Guide

Documentation is the name of the game if you’re looking to keep your tech department streamlined, efficient, and up-to-date. But even the best tech departments have room for improvement when it comes to tracking tech supports, software updates, and more. Whether you’re looking to make a few tweaks to your institution’s documentation system or you’re interested in a more holistic transformation, tune into this week’s Be Connected. Hosted by the LTC’s Eric Muckensturm, participants will receive a step-by-step walkthrough of the LTC’s Technology Documentation Assessment Guide, plus have a chance to ask questions and learn what documentation best practices work best for tech departments of all shapes and sizes.

Be Connected is a weekly webinar series from the LTC focused on facilitating open discussions about pertinent topics within Illinois’ edtech community. Hosted by the LTC’s Chris Wherley and Eric Muckensturm, each session will focus on a specific topic and provide space for participants to ask and answer questions in a relaxed, supportive environment.

Each week will feature a different core topic and a fresh opportunity to connect with your peers. So, be sure to check the LTC events calendar routinely so that you can join in the discussion and Be Connected.

Connectivity and E-Rate 2.0

The Learning Technology Center provides support to schools as they apply for and utilize state and federal funding for technology initiatives.

The LTC’s knowledgable experts can help your institution apply for E-Rate and other special funding sources through our annual trainings, webinars, and other free resources.

Related Projects

Contact Information

Mindy Fiscus – Digital Access Coordinator
mfiscus@ltcillinois.org

E-Rate

  • Announcements
  • What is E-Rate?
  • Events & Trainings
  • Video Walkthroughs
  • Common Questions
  • Resources

Update #2 (6/11/21)

Here is where a second can be placed. Newest updates should be placed closest to the top, with a maximum of three concurrent updates. If a previous update has gone stale or has been superseded by a new update, it should be removed.

EBB and ECF Updates (6/10/21)

The FCC recently announced two new programs to support remote learning and at-home internet connectivity efforts. The Emergency Broadband Benefit (EBB) and the Emergency Connectivity Fund (ECF) programs, their requirements, and their benefits are outlined in the following LTC blog posts:

EBB Blog Post ECF Blog Post 

Stay tuned to this page and the “E-Rate ” sub-group on the LTC Community for more updates about webinars, workshops, and other events concerning these new funding sources.

https://ltcillinois.org/resources/e-rateseries/

Overview of E-Rate

The Universal Service Schools and Libraries Program, commonly known as “E-Rate,” provides discounts of up to 90 percent to help eligible schools and libraries in the United States obtain affordable telecommunications and internet access. Administered by the FCC, the E-Rate program makes telecommunications and information services more affordable for schools and libraries. The ongoing proliferation of innovative digital learning technologies and the need to connect students, teachers, and consumers to jobs, lifelong learning and information have led to a steady rise in demand for bandwidth in schools and libraries.

Training Tour

The E-Rate Essentials Training Tour for the FY21 funding cycle was held in the fall and winter of 2020-21. These are annual events and the next series is in planning for fall and winter of 2021-22. Dates and registration will be updated HERE when training dates are announced.

E-Rate Essentials Training Series

The LTC provides approximately 30 in-person and online events each year to assist school districts with navigating the E-Rate process. Download Tour Series Flyer.

Audience: New or veteran E-Rate applicants

Fee: Free

Note: Due to COVID-19 precautions and restrictions, many of our tour sites are limited to virtual attendance only at this time. Sites that do have an in-person option are noted below and have limited registration mindful of current regulations. Every effort was made to offer consistency in offerings across the state. Specific locations are noted in accordance with previous tour destinations. Registration for all events is open to anyone, regardless of district location.

Upcoming E-Rate Events

Other Than E-Rate Essentials – June 3 at 10 AM

View all E-Rate Essential Events on the E-Rate Essential Training Series site.

There are no upcoming events at this time.

FY19 Video Walkthoughs

Completion of E-Rate 4-70

This video will demonstrate the completion of the E-rate 470 form. The E-rate 470 form opens the bidding process for the E-rate cycle each year.

E-Rate 471 Walkthrough

This video will demonstrate the completion of the E-rate 471 form, from the beginning, until choosing a category of service type. The E-rate 471 form commits to services for the E-rate cycle and is required each year.

E-Rate 471 Funding Request

This video will demonstrate the completion of a funding request for special construction on the E-rate 471 form. The E-rate 471 form commits to services for the E-rate cycle and is required each year.

E-Rate 486

This video will demonstrate the completion of the E-rate 486 form up to the certification process.

Adding Contract to E-Rate 471

This video will demonstrate how to add a new contract to the E-rate EPC system for your Form 471. Contracts must be uploaded prior to completing the E-rate 471.

E-Rate 471 FRN Copy Feature

This video will demonstrate the completion of the E-rate 471 form, using the FRN copy feature for Category 1 services. The E-rate form 471 commits to services for the E-rate cycle and is required each year.

E-Rate 471 Cat 2 Request

This video will demonstrate the completion of a funding request for category 2 services on the E-rate 471 form. The E-rate 471 form commits to services for the E-rate cycle and is required each year.

E-Rate 486

This video will demonstrate the completion of the E-rate 486 form including the certification process.

Common Questions

What does E-Rate Cover?

In recent years, the FCC refocused E-rate from legacy telecommunications services to broadband, with a goal to significantly expand Wi-Fi access. These steps to modernize the program are helping E-rate keep pace with the need for increased Internet access.

School districts can typically expect discounts on Category One (C1) services such as primary internet access, internet connections between buildings and construction required to obtain internet access. Category Two (C2) services include equipment and services used inside the school buildings to get internet access to student devices. Some of these items typically include routers, switches, and wireless access points. E-rate does NOT cover end user devices, such as computers or tablets. Each summer an Eligible Services list is posted for comment and then adopted by the program determining all items eligible for funding in that year.

How can I apply?

Districts who wish to apply for E-rate must follow an application process that includes multiple forms. The majority of this process is handled electronically within the E-rate Productivity Center (EPC). This dashboard provides access to the necessary forms and communications with Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC), who manages the process for the FCC. Individual forms walk applicants through a process of determining needed services, accepting bids, entering into contracts with providers and activation or completion of services. Districts begin the process of application up to a year before services are confirmed and implemented. This lengthy process containing multiple forms and timelines requires districts to oversee the applications and implementation of services over multiple years.

How big of a discount can your district receive?

E-rate discount levels are determined by district poverty level, primarily identified by eligibility in the National School Lunch Program (NSLP).

What state support is available?

Many state departments of education provide staff, or State E-rate Coordinators to help districts navigate the process. Melinda Fiscus, Digital Access Coordinator for the Learning Technology Center, serves as one of the State E-rate Coordinators for IL and provides support to school districts navigating the program and multiple forms. The LTC provides instruction, reminders, application workshops and general program guidance through ISBE support. Melinda also participates in national organizations that support the E-rate program such as the State E-rate Coordinators Association (SECA) and State Educational Technology Directors Association (SETDA) E-rate special interest group. Affiliation with these national organizations help insure Illinois Districts are kept up to speed with changes in the E-rate environment.

What is the Illinois E-Rate Matching Grant?

The Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) has released a notice of funding opportunity/request for proposals (NOFO/RFP) for pending state funds to expand internet connectivity in schools. The funds would reimburse school districts for the cost of upgrading their broadband infrastructure to fiber optic technology. Fiber optic technology delivers the most affordable and fastest network speeds to schools and allows districts to scale cost-effectively to meet growing bandwidth needs in the future.

Nearly 75 districts across the state have been identified as having one or more school building in their district without access to this scalable infrastructure. Priority of funding will be given to districts that can demonstrate one or more buildings in their district is in need of a fiber upgrade.

In order to apply interested districts must:

  • Leverage E-rate funding and apply for special construction on their E-rate 470 and 471 applications.
  • Create a detailed RFP and/or Project. Guidance and sample templates are available from EducationSuperHighway, an Illinois Classroom Connectivity Initiative partner.
  • Compare bids and choose a winning provider, following E-rate timelines, rules and guidance from USAC.
  • Complete the IL E-rate State Matching Grant Form on the ISBE Broadband Information webpage.

Connectivity

  • Announcements
  • Emergency Broadband Benefit (EBB)
  • Emergency Connectivity Fund (ECF)
  • Events & Trainings
  • Common Questions
  • Resources

Update #2 (6/11/21)

Here is where a second can be placed. Newest updates should be placed closest to the top, with a maximum of three concurrent updates. If a previous update has gone stale or has been superseded by a new update, it should be removed.

EBB and ECF Updates (6/10/21)

The FCC recently announced two new programs to support remote learning and at-home internet connectivity efforts. The Emergency Broadband Benefit (EBB) and the Emergency Connectivity Fund (ECF) programs, their requirements, and their benefits are outlined in the following LTC blog posts:

EBB Blog Post ECF Blog Post 

Stay tuned to this page and the “E-Rate ” sub-group on the LTC Community for more updates about webinars, workshops, and other events concerning these new funding sources.

Overview of the Emergency Broadband Benefit (EBB)

At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020, the US already faced a significant divide when it came to at-home internet connectivity. This divide became even more apparent as workplaces and schools became fully reliant on at-home internet connections to facilitate learning and labor alike.

Now a full year on, the FCC is taking steps to close that divide by opening the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program. This program will offer qualifying participants $50 off their monthly broadband internet bill. Participants will also have an opportunity to apply for other special benefits, including a one-time discount of up to $100 on a computer or tablet for household use.

As a general FCC program, these opportunities are not open exclusively to educational institutions or homes with students. However, educational institutions and their families may still choose to seek out support through this program in order to improve at-home remote and digital learning activities.

Learn more about the EBB – including who is eligible and how to apply – in this blog post.

Apply for the Emergency Broadband Benefit (EBB)

Parents and caregivers interested in applying for the EBB can do so here.

Applicants can also apply for this benefit by contacting their internet service provider directly (IL provider list)

Overview of the Emergency Connectivity Fund (ECF)

Prior to the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020, the US federal government already identified a growing digital divide in schools and districts across the country. However, the pandemic greatly exasperated these issues, especially in districts with poor internet connectivity infrastructure and aging digital learning hardware.

In an effort to close that gap and help districts digitally prepare for the 21-22 school year and beyond, Congress appropriated $7.1 billion within the larger $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan stimulus package to the FCC for distribution to eligible schools and libraries across the US. The FCC, in turn, has decided to distribute these funds – termed the Emergency Connectivity Fund (ECF) – through a process similar to their E-Rate application system.

Learn more about the ECF – including who is eligible and how to apply – in this blog post.

Emergency Connectivity Fund (ECF) Structure

The ECF will be applied for and distributed as two distinct rounds of funding. Each round will run for 45 days after opening. Opening and closing dates for each round of funding are TBA.

The first ECF round will cover connectivity and technology infrastructure costs incurrent from July 1, 2021 to June 30, 2022.

The second ECF round will reimburse for similar types of costs incurred from March 1, 2020 – June 30, 2021.

Apply for the Emergency Connectivity Fund (ECF)

Schools and libraries interested in utilizing ECF funds will apply for said funds through the existing E-Rate infrastructure. However, the ECF as a whole will act as a “special” round of funding. As a result, it will not impact eligibility for current or future E-Rate funds.

Connectivity Events and Trainings

Keep an eye out for upcoming events and trainings on a variety of timely Connectivity topics.

Upcoming E-Rate Events

Other Than E-Rate Essentials – June 3 at 10 AM

View all E-Rate Essential Events on the E-Rate Essential Training Series site.

There are no upcoming events at this time.

Common Questions

Who do I contact with questions about applying for Connectivity funding?

For all questions about Connectivity and other types of state and federal grant funding, contact Mindy Fiscus, Digital Access Coordinator, at mfiscus@ltcillinois.org

Resources

Check back here for useful resources and links for completing your Connectivity funding applications.

Other programs supported by the LTC are:

Current workshop opportunities and general program information is offered below.

MakeCode

In this session, educators can learn about MakeCode and how it can be utilized to bring computer science to life for all students. With fun projects, immediate results, and both block and text editors for learners at different levels, this is one CS resource you won’t want to miss.

Minecraft: Education Edition

Time to take your classroom’s favorite game to the next level! This session will cover readily available worlds, lessons, and professional development resources for Minecraft: Education Edition. With these resources, you’ll be able to confidently and successfully teach STEM and coding in your classroom.

Microsoft Learn/Microsoft Learn for Educators

In this session, learn about Microsoft’s free online learning platform for technology curriculum and certifications, with current content geared toward students, educators, and even IT professionals. Come learn about the wealth of materials that are available for students/educators to prepare for the Microsoft Fundamentals certification exams.

Microsoft MSIA Overview

Looking to earn a Microsoft certification? Interested in helping your students do the same? This session can help you take the first step! In it, you’ll learn about the curriculum content from Microsoft that can equip teachers and students with the knowledge needed to pass the Microsoft MOS and MTA certification exams.