This is the first blog in our ‘Tips for Teachers’ series. Each blog focuses on an area where the author, Bretta Townend-Jowitt, shares her wealth of experience as a teacher, senior leader and headteacher.
Bretta has worked in education for over 30 years and now works as an education consultant, trainer, leadership coach and mentor. She is passionate about staff wellbeing and workload and has contributed to a number of educational books on the topic.
‘Wellbeing itself is a broad and perhaps abstract concept. To ask any employee in education, in industry or in commerce what wellbeing ‘looks like’ would generate a range of diverse responses. Defining it is no less challenging: is it merely the absence of illness, the state of being comfortable and happy, or simply a general sense of confidence and vitality? Considered within its broadest definition, staff wellbeing includes: work and workload, retention and recruitment, mental and physical health, resilience and career choice.’ Andrew Cowley, 2019
Wellbeing is used to describe our health, both physically and mentally. Having good wellbeing means we have the ability to cope and ‘bounce back’. So, how can we take care of ourselves as teachers? Here is a list of tips you might want to try, it isn’t an exhaustive list, nor is it in any particular order, but it might get you started:
Working as a team improves your practice and will help you save time. Where you can share the workload on planning and preparation, share resources and share ideas and good practice.
Manage your emails
Avoid checking your school emails as soon and you enter the building / classroom, instead set up for the day and then check your mail. Don’t have your school email on your phone and decide when you will answer emails and have a time to stop checking.
Check the school calendar and be aware of pinch / pressure points in the school year, such as assessment weeks, use these to plan your time effectively.
Eat and drink healthily
Having a balanced and healthy diet is obvious but we all know good habits and intentions can go awry. Have readily available foods that will provide an energy boost when you most need it.
Manage your tasks
Look at your to do list and identify the tasks that are essential and those that are not. Do the tasks that are urgent and important straight away, even if these are difficult. Diarise tasks that are important but not urgent. Identifying and ‘file away’ those tasks that are neither urgent or important and will not have an impact on your work or pupil outcomes.
Manage your stress
We need stress to live, it is a natural by-product of our lives but what we don’t want is prolonged periods of stress. Identify the signs in your body that show you stress is building up and manage these by thinking about and taking part in activities that will help you feel less stressed, the things that will make you feel better about yourself. Be proactive.
Being able to say no to unreasonable requests will keep your workload and wellbeing in check. If you are asked to take on new tasks / responsibilities ask yourself if these are reasonable, within your job description, useful for career progression or negatively impact your workload and wellbeing. Saying ‘no’ or ‘not now’ can be empowering.
Use technology to save time
Use electronic methods for your to do lists, such as Trello and use technology to support learning: Kahoot (online quiz website), QR codes, Typorama (transforms text into graphic designs), Vocal Recall (app that vocally records feedback for students.
Remember in the end teaching is ‘just a job’, it can feel much more than this to teachers but what you mustn’t let it do is take over your whole life.
‘Not once did I ever hear a man say, David, my only regret is that I didn’t spend more time at the office.’ David Bridges, 2014
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