Sustain energy to reach ambitious goals [W-3]

Since teaching can be mentally, emotionally and physically taxing. . .

  • Take care of yourself, so that you can take care of your students
  • Anticipate your energy and motivation crashes
  • Proactively take steps to refuel

What are some effective strategies for sustaining energy?

Illustrations are grouped by the proficiency that they best bring to life.

We would like to communicate our deep appreciation to these teachers who are allowing us to learn from their experiences.


Teach For America corps members are rightfully well known for our relentlessness, and our all-out pursuit of the ultimate goal: student achievement. While this relentlessness is an overwhelmingly positive force in our effort to bring about educational equity, it can sometimes manifest itself in situations where we push ourselves to our physical and emotional limits, and the resulting “crash” in energy and motivation can be quite painful to experience. To make matters worse, this crash can frequently come with no warning, as our frenzied pace in the classroom makes it hard for us to closely monitor our energy and motivation levels..


To prevent energy and motivation crashes (especially the unexpected kind), proactively take steps to anticipate when your reserves might be dangerously low. Use the upcoming school calendar (when will the most hectic weeks of the school year occur?), your past experience (in college or a previous job, what occurrences brought about dips in your energy and motivation levels?), and knowledge from colleagues to effectively forecast when crashes might occur. Further, schedule time into your daily or weekly routine to reflect on and take stock of your physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual energy levels. Ultimately, those teachers who succeed are those who are able to work relentlessly to meet their goals because they find ways to self-monitor and regularly replenish their own energy, motivation, and commitment.


Viewing our work as teachers from a zero-sum perspective, improvements in our personal lives seem to come at the expense of our performance in our classrooms. This paradigm goes something like the following: if we leave school at 4:00 PM to play in an adult soccer league match – we may really be enjoying ourselves, but these are hours that could be spent in our classrooms, planning future units and fine-tuning tomorrow’s lesson plan. However, shifting this paradigm so that work life and personal life are complementary priorities, instead of competing ones, can go a long way towards ensuring that we’ll be happier, healthier, and more effective teachers.


Numerous Teach For America corps members can personally testify that not only is taking care of yourself not at odds with working hard for your students, in fact, these two pursuits are so intertwined that if you don’t take care of yourself – your work in the classroom will undoubtedly suffer. You will no doubt derive satisfaction and motivation from your work with your students and from all of the experiences you will have and lessons you will learn. But scheduling personal time into your work week is a healthy and important move that will help you remain a real source of strength for your students. Read more about strategies for taking care of yourself on the W-3 home page.