Mental Health Day: Teacher POV


Megan Smith Teacher

Menatal Health Day: Teacher POV

Megan Smith


BC Early College High School


Last semester on May 4th, I took my first mental health day. Not because I’m particularly keen on Star Wars, but because Monday, May 3rd, at the end of the school day, I sat in my empty classroom and felt as though I would cry.

It wasn’t the hardest day of my career. It wasn’t even the hardest day that semester, but for some reason, it was my tipping point. My battery drained to 0. I no longer felt like the confident teacher I stood as just moments ago. When I began to prepare my materials for the next day, it felt as though coming to work the next day would be nearly impossible.

I considered a mental health day, then the thoughts and the guilt crept in:

It’s May. How can you want a day off? Summer is just weeks away.

How are you going to get a sub at the last minute? What about your sub plans?

How are you going to leave your coworkers in the dust? Your students? What if they need you?

Tomorrow is Wednesday! We have Success! You can’t skip that!

What are you going to do? Sit at home all day?

I reassessed. I wondered: 

What will I be like tomorrow?

Will I be in a position to build others up?

What advice would I give a student in my position?

Despite my shame, I made my decision.

I made plans, posted my materials to Google Classroom, and walked to my principal’s office. As I explained to my principal that I needed a mental health day, my throat tightened, and I felt the aforementioned tears coming. That’s when I knew I had made the right decision. She kindly assured me the school would survive without me for a day and approved my day off.


I didn’t go on a yoga retreat, climb a mountain, meditate, or “find myself” that day. I simply sat with my mom, watched Netflix, and ate pizza in my sweatpants. I didn’t grade, plan lessons, or email. I did, however, look at the clock at the beginning and end of every class period out of habit. By the end of the day, going to school felt a little more manageable. I returned the next day and the school had not burned down, my students hadn’t run a coup, and the note from the substitute was reassuring. When the students asked where I’d been, I was honest. They nodded their heads in understanding and mentioned it no further.


Mental health days are not a miracle cure. They don’t make the things troubling you disappear. Sometimes self-care means doing your homework, starting that essay, or making that phone call. However, sometimes it means giving yourself some grace. Taking a day can allow you to breathe, refocus, and remember why you chose this job or school in the first place.  One of the benefits of getting older is that you learn when you need to push, and when to lighten up on yourself. Don’t be ashamed to take what you need.