I think these owls appear in my favourite meme when it comes to depicting teacher tired! Although I would disagree that they depict the beginning and the end of the school year, my teacher tired kicks in at the end of each term! I begin each term fresh as a daisy, the first three to four weeks are great, because of course my students are fresh as daisies too. I happily and enthusiastically get on with my day to day tasks, marking, behaviour management, yard duties, staff meetings, parent conversations, professional learning teams, parent teacher interviews, collaboration and observations, assessments, excursions, not to mention report writing. The list of what we do on a daily basis is extensive and I love it all, but there is absolutely no doubt that by the end of term I am exhausted!
I came to teaching later in life, I had always worked with children but never daily face to face work. I wrongly assumed that with my new career choice, all of my holidays would be wonderful, full of fun and best of all work free. How very wrong I was! Teachers do an immense amount of work during the holidays and if you are anything like me, they also get sick! Teachers are notoriously bad at looking after themselves because they look after so many others during their day. I tend to forget about my own self-care, so as soon as the holidays hit, I relax and boom, I get sick! This means that the first week is always spent in bed. This list is just a few ways I have learned over the years to help me avoid that first week in bed;
Its an obvious one but it really does make a difference. Staying fit gives you the stamina you need to get through the end of term exhaustion that comes with being a teacher. I started to walk my dog every morning before work. It means I have to get up 30 minutes earlier which sounds counter intuitive, but it really helped me raise my energy levels to survive the last couple of weeks.
Another obvious one, however a very important strategy. Getting up 30 minutes earlier to walk the dog meant going to bed 30 minutes earlier. Sleep is important for rest and regeneration and REM sleep is important to process all of the nonsense from the day. I developed a really good bedtime routine of end screen time at 9pm, bath and book, then bed for 9:30pm. I can’t even begin to explain the difference this made to my day, most of all I was able to deal with those high stress moments we get in schools - whether in a staff meeting or an issue in the yard - I was able to remain calm.
I’ve put this strategy in because it kind of goes hand in hand with exercise and sleep. I’ve never managed to maintain this one, mostly because I am partial to a sweet treat and we all know that sweet treats appear in the staffroom far too often! I know that eating well is a way of living rather than a diet. Avoid hasty dieting decisions as they may have a detrimental effect on your overall wellbeing.
This one encompasses both professional and personal organisation. When I do my planning during the holidays, I used to do a bit here and a bit there and before I knew it I was planning throughout the entire holidays and was going back to work feeling like I hadn’t had a rest. Now I treat my planning like a work day, I choose two or three days - however many it takes - and I set my alarm for those days as though I am going to work. I get up, shower and eat breakfast as though I’m going to work. Then I sit at the table and I do my planning in those days. More to the point, I finish my planning in those days. I usually have my planning days as early in the holidays as possible, leaving the remainder of my holiday for rest and recuperation (and fun with my own kids!).
In my personal life, when those last few weeks at school can get extremely hectic, I try to keep my weekends relatively free and restful. I also make sure I get the sleep I need at weekends, so I’m not playing catch up during the week.
This is a biggy and a game changer! When I first started teaching sure I had the curriculum to follow but I was making up lessons myself using the curriculum as a guide. I did this, busting a gut, for years because I thought that was teaching. When I completed my Masters of Education a few years ago, the discussion was always centred around evidence-based practice. There are programs and strategies available to me as a teacher, that are proven to work! I don’t have to make up my lessons and hope that the kids learn from what I consider to be engaging! Around the time I completed my masters, I moved to a school that values evidence-based practice and this has changed my teaching immensely. So how does this help my well-being? It helps in lots of ways, I have more time! I’m not making stuff up and spending hours of my time doing it, I’m following a program proven to work. My classroom behaviour management has become fantastic, the kids are settled and learning - because I am following evidence-based strategies that are proven to work. How does this help my wellbeing? I’m not dealing with anywhere near as many behaviours in my classroom as before. This means that I go home in a calmer state.
Plan something to look forward to
It doesn’t have to be an expensive treat, but you do need a treat to look forward to at the end of term. I have a friend who goes somewhere hot in the winter break and that gets her through. I’m happy with a planned spa day and a deep muscle massage. Maybe it’s a long awaited shopping trip for those coveted boots. My favourite treat days are in winter, when I always plan a pyjama day. I choose my favourite movies and line them up on Netflix, buy in my favourite snacks and leave my pj’s on all day - heaven. In summer, my treat day is a day at the beach, with a good book - also heaven!
Finally, all of the above is easy for the most organised person in the world - I’m not that person! It’s also easier said than done to maintain all of the above, life kind of gets in the way sometimes! So I developed a selfcare checklist for myself. It is a list of all of the above well-being pointers - plus a few others that are exclusive to me and my situation - and I keep a check on how often I follow my own advice. I aim for four times per week e.g. eat healthy at least four times per week, exercise at least four times per week etc.
If you are interested in finding out more about evidence-based practice in education take a look at our free publication available on iBooks.
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