Professional Practice

5 Ways to Keep Your Batteries Charged All Week Long

When I heard about the new book titled Are you Fully Charged? by author Tom Rath and the accompanying children’s book, The Rechargeables, I had to learn more. I already loved his popular book, How Full is Your Bucket which I used in my classroom with great results.
Are You Fully Charged?
In this new installment, Rath discusses the concept of being “fully charged” in your daily life. What does being fully charged mean? According to Rath, being fully charged means you are at your optimal capacity in the following three areas:

1. Meaning: Doing something that benefits another person
2. Interactions: Creating far more positive moments than negative moments
3. Energy: Making choices that improve your physical and mental health

After reading the book, I found many ways to personally apply his principals to my everyday life. Today, however, I want to talk about how the book can help with the work/life balance of art educators. There are many more ideas in the book, but these are my favorite.

Lesson 1: Initiate to Shape the Future

Rath suggests that what you initiate today will shape your future. Think about striking up a conversation with someone you don’t know, asking questions about an interest area, or proposing a wild idea that you think will be rejected. One “yes” to any of your initiations can drastically change your future.

In a school setting, we often wait for someone else to initiate big ideas, but why? I distinctly remember when our building was going under renovations and the art room was left off the list. I initiated a meeting and a conversation about what could be done in the art room and offered ideas. Taking initiative set off a series of events that ultimately lead to the art room getting the attention it deserved.

The Takeaway: Initiate something you want to see done in your work or home life and make it happen now. Don’t wait!
ideas for action

Lesson 2: Focus for 45, Break for 15

Rath discusses an observation about schoolchildren in Finland; they have more energy throughout the day. Part of the reason is that for every 45 minutes of instruction, students are given a 15-minute break, free from structure. This break allows them to have a renewed sense of energy when returning to their work.

We can apply this principle to both our own personal lives and to our classroom practice. For many of us, art classes are around 45 minutes long. If you have longer sessions, consider building in a mini-break and seeing how it affects your students.

The Takeaway: Taking breaks can help you get more done and improve your mental and physical health.

Lesson 3: Be 80% Positive

Rath suggests that the words we use carry either positive or negative charges. Words with negative charges carry roughly 4 times the weight of words with positive charges. This is probably why we remember critique more vividly than approval.

Personally, it’s much easier for me to speak positively to others than to myself. We are all harder on ourselves. One tactic that helps is posting positive reminders for yourself. One of my favorites is the “No Complaining” rule that I kept on a sticky note at my desk. Other sticky notes, such as “You are Enough” are great to stick on the mirror of your vanity. Every little reminder helps!

When you are communicating with parents, students, or colleagues at school, remember to start on a positive note to set the tone. It’s also a good idea to end with a positive statement. This “sandwich” technique is often used at parent-teacher conferences to help lead a productive discussion.

The Takeaway: Cultivating positive interactions with those around you will create more positive moments for everyone and lead to more meaningful relationships.

Lesson 4: Put Your Own Health First

If you’ve heard this advice 1,000 times already, hear me out. Rath’s research suggests that people in the fields of nursing and education, among a few others, tend to be the LEAST healthy. This is sad because we should be the shining examples. However, when your primary focus is caring for others, you often tend to put your own needs last. If you are a teacher and a parent, I can’t help but think this effect is multiplied.

Rath says there are three areas that need to be balanced daily: eating, moving and sleeping. If these areas are off balance, your day can also be off track. According to Rath, instead of larger events or personal wealth, it’s these daily habits that are the key to an overall happy life.

Simple things like packing a healthy lunch, eating breakfast, taking a quick stroll, and going to bed a little earlier will make all the difference.

For me, “It can wait” has been a great motto. Because of social media, we act as though everything is urgent. Most tasks and most people can wait. Turning off our “fight or flight” mentality allows us to make more intentional choices to benefit our own health.

The Takeaway: When looking at your overall health, don’t neglect eating, moving, or sleeping.

Lesson 5: Teach Kids Early

These three areas are vitally important and the ones Rath chose to focus on when forming his Children’s book The Rechargeables: Eat Move Sleep.

The characters in the story are tasked with “keeping their batteries charged.” As they navigate through the story, kids will learn different ways to lead a healthy life.

The children’s book doesn’t directly relate to the art room, but it would be a great pick to pass on to your school nurse or P.E. teacher.

The Takeaway: Teaching kids about healthy habits early is beneficial.
If you’ve been feeling sluggish lately, or just want to have more energy to tackle your day, pick up a copy of Are You Fully Charged? There are so many tips to make your personal and professional life run more smoothly!

What are some ways you keep a “full charge” on busy school days?

What do you notice about students’ energy levels in art class?


Magazine articles and podcasts are opinions of professional education contributors and do not necessarily represent the position of the Art of Education University (AOEU) or its academic offerings. Contributors use terms in the way they are most often talked about in the scope of their educational experiences.


Jessica Balsley

Jessica Balsley is AOEU’s Founder and a former AOEU Writer and elementary art educator. She is passionate about helping art teachers enhance their lives and careers through relevant professional development.

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