Q & A with Rebecca Wertheim of The Teacher's Passport

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Mindfulness in the classroom? Self-care for teachers? Classroom and global activism? These are all things that Becca of The Teacher's Passport cares deeply about. She's such an inspiring woman and teacher and friend and I'm so grateful to have connected with her on instagram and to share some of her outlooks and insights with you all! 

Q: Who is Becca? What are some things that people might not know about you looking at your Instagram and blog? 

A: This is my fifth year teaching and I’ve always taught 2nd grade. I wanted to be a teacher for as long as I can remember but I also had a few other dream jobs when I was younger. I wanted to have a talk show like Oprah, be a magazine editor, and host a show on the Travel Channel. None of those happened but I’m grateful that I chose the teaching path. In my opinion it’s the most honorable job in the world and the biggest accomplishment. I love being in the classroom with such awesome kids who teach ME every single day. I love hiking, being outside, practicing and teaching yoga, and spending time with my awesome dog Willow. Something you wouldn’t know is that I’m a horrible cook which is why I’ve been so inspired by Cole’s IG and blog. I need all the help I can get ;) 

Q: What inspired you to start The Teacher's Passport instagram and blog? 

A: Relationships are so important to me and social media has helped foster some of the most incredible friendships in my life. As we all know, teaching is more than just a job. Our love for learning and growing extends far beyond our classroom walls. Instagram and my blog have allowed me to learn from educators all over the world. I can’t imagine teaching without inspiration and motivation from this awesome global community. 

Q: What was your most challenging experience in the classroom? What did you learn from it? 

A: This is such a great question. It’s honestly hard to choose just one. Each day presents its own new challenges. I’d say that overall the biggest challenge is wanting to fix everything for my students. I lose sleep at night worrying about them sometimes. We all want what’s best for our students and setting boundaries can be really difficult. Worrying about my students’ well-being has caused a lot of anxiety for me but with practice I’m getting better at setting those boundaries by focusing on what’s within my circle of control. Each morning I say this mantra to myself: I accept the things I can’t control, and do all that I can control with love. 

Q: Tell us more about your TpT store! How do you decide what products to create? How has it been managing this online business while also being a teacher? What is your favorite product you've created?

A: I originally started my TpT store so that I could easily share things I was making for my own classroom. If activities work well in my classroom I want others to be able to use them too! I primarily create mindfulness products (like gratitude journals and calm cards) and global education products (like my travel bundle for virtual field trips). Those are my two favorite types of products to create! Of all the things in my store I think my fave is the Dream Board Design Kit which allows kids to make their own collage of their dreams, goals, and intentions. It’s definitely a challenge to balance a business and a full-time career, but it’s a fun challenge! I never sell anything in my TpT store that I don’t actually use, so TpT is a fun way to share and sell what I’ve already made for my own kids. 

Q: How do you practice self-care? Why do you think it's so important for teachers to prioritize self-care? 

A: My number one piece of advice for all educators (whether you’re just starting out or are a veteran teacher) is to make self-care a top priority. We cannot pour from an empty cup so the more we do for ourselves, the more we actually have to offer our students and co-workers. For me, self-care is a spectrum. Sometimes my self-care includes curling up on the couch with my puppy to watch netflix, sometimes it’s meditation and yoga, sometimes it’s a hike, and sometimes it’s just a nap. I try to ask myself “what would make me feel better? How can I relax? What do I need right now?” I try to do what I actually want to do rather than what I think I should do. Self-care definitely looks different for everyone, but it’s essential for all educators.  

Q: How do you find balance between your personal life and teaching?

A: I have to plan efficiently. I make sure to schedule self-care (including appointments, yoga classes, meal-prep, etc.) I’ve noticed that when I actually write it in my planner I’m more likely to follow through. Sticking to a schedule and routine has really helped me balance school and home. I choose one day per week to stay late and work on my plans and prep for the following week so that I can keep weekends to myself.

Q: What advice do you have for teachers who want to take great care of themselves but feel overwhelmed or too busy? 

A: I used to arrive at school as soon as the building opened and would stay as late as I could. I’d even go into work on weekends! When I stopped doing that, I felt guilty at first. I felt like I wasn’t being the best teacher I could be unless I was constantly doing school work. However, that mindset caused me to burn out quickly. I finally realized that taking care of myself first actually helps me focus better and be more productive in the long run. By planning my tasks and using my time for efficiently at school, I’ve been able to accomplish more without working non-stop. I try to ask myself how I can work smarter rather than harder. For example, it’s okay if something is handwritten rather than typed up in a cute font. The kids don’t care about little details like that. I also had to promise myself that I can’t feel guilty for making time for myself, and I can’t feel guilty for saying “no.” I used to say “yes” to everything but I ended up spreading myself too this. My advice is to make commitments to yourself—just as you would for your students—and show up for yourself. Plan out your week and be sure to schedule in your sacred self-care time.

Q: Can you tell us a little bit about “She’s the First” and your experience with this organization? Why is their work important to you and how has it impacted your work as a teacher? 

A: She's the First is an organization that sponsors girls' education in developing nations to help girls become the first in their families to graduate from secondary school. 50 million girls around the world are unable to attend secondary school. When I learned that statistic I knew I wanted to help. I found out about She's the First while I was a college student at UNC Asheville where I founded a campus chapter. We did most of our fundraising through bakes sales and sponsored girls in Nepal, Uganda, Ethiopia and South Sudan. In addition to fundraising, we also hosted awareness events to educate others about gender inequality within education. When I started teaching, I wanted to find a way to bring gender equality education and She's the First into my classroom. I designed a classroom curriculum to teach kids about our partner schools around the world and why gender equality is so important. Each year, my 2nd graders creatively fundraise to sponsor school for a scholar at Kopila Valley School in Nepal. I'm also hosting a fundraiser on TeeSpring (in collaboration with Sarah of @thedesignerteacher). 100% of proceeds benefit scholarships for girls at She's the First partner schools.