Based in Long Beach, California, "Teach Me Mr. West" is a blog by Jason West. His posts explore the rewards and challenges of being a highly effective 21st century educator.

How to Recover From a Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad School Day

How to Recover From a Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad School Day

As I sit down to write this article I’m on the tail end of a pretty bad day. You know the type:

  • The copier jams
  • Your computer doesn’t work right
  • The students are downright disrespectful

And that’s just before lunch!

Yes, this reads like a horrifying adult version of a famous children's picture book, but for me they’re the kind of days that make me question my career choice. But if these days are just par for the course in the teaching profession I begin to wonder: What can I do to make myself more resilient? How can I recover from a bad day and show up the next morning with a smile on my face, ready to pour into students’ lives all over again?

Over the past couple of years I’ve found a few simple strategies that have helped me though days like today. I’m sharing them with you in hopes that you find them useful too:

Give Yourself Some Space

As soon as you get home from school, take 20-30 minutes for yourself. Take a walk, meditate, garden, scream into a pillow...whatever activity floats your boat. Whatever you choose, try to avoid electronics for this time. The goal is to slow down your brain for a bit and let off some steam. After a long, frustrating day, trying to expect too much of yourself will result in compounding your frustrations every time some little thing goes wrong.

Let It All Out

Let out all of those frustrations from the day. Maybe you have a trusted friend you can call and vent to. Or maybe you prefer to journal your thoughts with pen and paper. Or, again, scream into a pillow. Whatever your preferred method, just get your emotions out of your brain, and into the world somehow. When we hold in negative emotions they tend to build momentum and take over our thought patterns. Maybe it's the nerd in me, but I always refer to this response to stress as "Going full Hulk." See, the Hulk's angry thoughts are always lurking just beneath the surface, ready to blow up at a moment's notice. The point is, you have to allow your negative emotions to escape, before you end up turning into a giant green rage monster.

Treat Yourself

Take some advice from Parks & Rec and "Treat Yo'Self!" It doesn't have to be a big thing, or cost lots of money. Just get outside of your normal routine and do something just a little bit special. Order your favorite food. Watch your favorite movie of all time. Paint your nails. Scream into a pillow. Whatever you're into, allow yourself a small “treat” of some sort. I highly recommend keeping a “Treat Yo'Self” list of things that never fail to make you feel better, just in case.

Prepare for These Days

As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, these “Debbie Downer” days seem like they are inevitable in the teaching career. But we have some really amazing days too, or we wouldn’t keep teaching, right? Save some reminders of those good days to be an encouragement on the hard days. Things like notes from students, pictures, and journal entries from the really great days can serve as a reminder of why you love this job.

One final piece of advice: The worst thing you can do on days like this is to feel like you’re all alone. That you’re the only one who is struggling. Every teacher has days like this. When you feel like you are struggling, do yourself a favor and reach out to a fellow teacher for support. And be that support when you know someone else is having a rough day, too. None of us can do this alone, we need each other. And our pillows.

How do you take care of yourself on the hard days? Let me know in the comments.

Sarah runs Teach and Be Well, a fitness and wellness blog designed to help busy teachers take better care of themselves. You can find more about her, as well as her self-care ideas, recipes, and more at

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