Developing Resilience and Wellbeing

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Ross Morrison McGill founded @TeacherToolkit in 2010, and today, he is one of the 'most followed educators'on social media in the world. In 2015, he was nominated as one of the '500 Most Influential People in Britain' by The Sunday Times as a result of...
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This is a blog about developing your own resilience and teacher well-being.

As teachers in the UK reach another half-term, students are in the thick of the examination season and teacher wellbeing is wafer-thin! This is a blog about teachers looking after themselves and developing teacher resilience.

It’s Friday night as I write this, I’ve just calculated from last Monday to Friday, I’ve completed at least a 55-hour+ working week on school premises. Compare this to just 30 hours of sleep – on average six hours per night – and it is no wonder that most teachers collapse on their sofas and beds over the weekend! Is this typical for you?

Bombard teachers arms and car-boots with a sackful or two of marking, revision papers and assessments; teachers’ workload becomes excruciating, when week-on-week demands on wellbeing and teacher-hardiness accumulates.

It’s no wonder this working life is sustainable, therefore, every teacher must learn quickly how to look after their wellbeing.

shutterstock tired businessman yawning and sleeping at work with pen in hand

Image: Shutterstock

Recently, I blogged about teacher well-being, particularly my own five-a-day promise to myself. I also shared with my readers, some alternative ideas for developing your own resilience in the classroom. This pre-half-term blog is a reminder to all teachers, to look after yourself and develop a degree of resilience – but most of all an awareness – to enable you to remember what is most important to you during a very stressful (and exhausting) time of the academic year.

Stop. Breathe …

In the past I’ve blogged about the Silly Season, and the Guilty Teacher. A mixed dichotomy between the frenetic push on progress in schools, versus the guilt we all endure when forced with being absent from school for one, single working day. This is particularly stressful during a period of revision and examinations. I’ve always believed; “If you’re tired; then the students will be probably be feeling tired too, and that everyone in the school will also be feeling the pinch!”

“Make sure you look after yourself; an exhausted teacher won’t be able to get the best out of 30 students.

We all know teaching can be gruelling, especially during exam season, or when many coursework and assessment deadlines are looming, not to mention things like Ofsted, formal lesson observations; and that’s before we even think about any home-life demands!

But, at these difficult times in the school season, it’s vital that we look after ourselves so that we give physical and mental wellbeing the best chance to meet our least favourite challenges head on. The nightmare of a difficult class, the pressure to make all students progress and the ever-changing syllabi might be that bit less scary after a long soak in the bath and an early night.

Here are my ideas for ensuring calm teaching and wellbeing in ourselves, and also in our classrooms;

shutterstock So Tired card with colorful background with defocused lights

Image: Shutterstock

Top Wellbeing Tips for Staff:

  1. You cannot beat a good nights rest. Get to bed early. Yes, I mean before 9pm! It makes all the difference, especially before a (knowingly) busy day.
  2. Breathe in slowly through the nose. Hold it for 10 seconds; then exhale slowly through the mouth. You’ll be amazed how simple this technique and level of awareness can help you make more rationale decisions in difficult situations.
  3. If you move between classrooms, walk slower than usual. You can be forgiven for being 30 seconds later than you’d normally be. Taking it slower will allow you to gather a little more perspective.

Top Wellbeing Tips for Students:

  1. Every so often, ask your students to take time out. Get them to place their heads gently on the table. Ask them to close their eyes and reflect on the day’s learning. Thirty seconds is often enough and your students will appreciate this if it becomes a routine during their own busy schedule.
  2. Encourage and promote healthy eating as part of your lesson plan. Offer segments of fruit and water to promote active thinking and learning.
  3. Loosen up the rules now and then especially, during a long term and dark winter days. Allow students to take their blazers off, or give them a ‘1-minute learning time out’ to discuss what they do out of school and how it can influence their decisions and thinking in the lesson.

Take It Further:

During your most stressful periods try something new: lead your class in some calming meditation. A brief escape from the worries and fears that surround us can do wonders to clear our minds and actually make our work more productive and more rewarding. It’s a bit wooly I know, but academic research from Birbeck University clearly states;

“happy teachers = happy students = happy outcomes.”

Why can this not be applied to students? That “happy students = happy outcomes = happy teachers.”

Wherever you are reading this, I wish you a restful weekend and happy half-term. You can read more here.


5 thoughts on “Developing Resilience and Wellbeing

  1. They are great tips as they are workable and I believe that they work (it’s another question how important a role this “belief” plays in their effectiveness). Only question mark I feel needs to be on the “going to bed early”. Yes, I agree it makes a massive difference and hence can/should be used on occasion. However, it doesn’t go together easily with a) the workload, b) home life demands and c) the need for ” your own time” which usually has to wait until the kids are in bed etc.
    May I add one tip:
    Get up early. Apart from the obvious knock on effect this has on “having more time” for everything that needs doing in the morning, being early at work without having to rush around and having time to get sorted for the day (surely these are enough benefits on their own) there is another point. I feel much more positive for the entire day, as a late start induces a sort of guilty feeling for being slack. This then combines with the very real need to constantly catch up with the demands of the day into an unhealthy stress level – even before anything goes wrong…

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