How do teachers cope with difficult periods in school?
It is the time of year in which we may find ourselves with an ‘end-of-winter’ cold, not quite sure how the grogginess is still lingering in our chest and sinuses. The examination and revision season looms and signals the end of the spring term.
It’s that time of the academic year that is known to some as, ‘the silly season’.
This period will manifest itself in several ways:
- teachers may be facing student behaviour that is very challenging
- the school consistencies will be challenged and stretched – students will find the gaps
- the expectation to maintain high standards in the classroom will be difficult, perhaps undermined
- exhaustion levels will be at an-all-time-high and classroom-battery life will be low and put to the test.
- many teachers will question ‘what else can I do?’ and will be unable to stand back.
It is widely assumed that employees’ feelings at work – expressed through satisfaction, stress and attitudes towards their jobs – are related to employees’ performance. While hard evidence for such links is weaker and less common than most people seem to believe, there is no doubt that there are relationships between how people feel and how they behave, and that these relationships are likely to have implications for performance.” (Source – Birbeck College)
What is the Silly Season?
The silly season soon becomes fraught with fear and stress; the season develops into that last-minute dash to collect and mark coursework; to hunt for students who are under-performing and complete assessments; to cram revision and prepare students fully for their examinations. Typically, this is what any school will be doing now and all teacher-efforts will be focused on final preparations over the next 2-3 months.
We do have a duty of care to prepare students for a future that lies ahead of them. To equip students with a passport of qualifications in order to be successful in the adult world and wider society. The silly season is full of jargon we all love to hate. ALPS, ALIS, PANDA, Progress 8, CATs, SATs, GCSEs, ve+ (value-added), RAISE online; end of key stage assessments and option choices; final predicted grades, current grades and target grades.
The need to monitor and show progress is endless.
The Front Line:
Classroom teachers are on the front line; they will be squeezing as much effort out of their students in class as they possibly can. After the Easter period, teachers will know that time is running out for them to help make a difference to children in their class. Anxiety and exhaustion will be reaching its highest peak, especially if we are expecting teachers to do some or all of the following.
The class teacher teaches their timetabled lessons. This is not enough for *some students to reach the expected target, so:
- The class teacher organises revision catch up sessions.
- The class teacher organises even more practice exam papers for students to complete at home.
- The class teacher completes additional marking.
- The class teacher offers motivational pep-talks with students in and out of class.
- The class teacher reminds students what to do in and out of class. Several times …
- The class teacher is told that students have classes with other teachers instead of their own!
- The class teacher has arguments about core subject preferences versus no-core subjects. It is fruitless.
- The class teacher makes phone calls to parent at home and work!
- Because there is no time left, the class teacher organises catch-up sessions at the weekend or over the holidays!
How Important is your Well Being?
With this increasing pressure on teachers to teach beyond the expected standard, well-being in thrown out of the window and this is often the last thing teachers will care about.
Until it is too late …
The Office for National Statistics revealed its latest data, covering 2012-2015, which found that those aged 65-79 reported the highest levels of personal wellbeing. The sample aged 45-59 had the lowest levels of happiness (and highest anxiety rates). “
Average personal well-being ratings: by age, 2012 to 2015 (Source)
This report analyses personal well-being data for over 300,000 adults in the UK, collected over 3 years between 2012 and 2015. It finds that:
- those aged 65 to 79 tended to report the highest average levels of personal well-being
- ratings of life satisfaction and happiness were at their lowest, on average, for those aged 45 to 59
- well-being ratings fell amongst the oldest age groups (those aged 75 and over) – this fall was steepest for feelings that activities they do in life are worthwhile
- those aged 90 and over reported higher life satisfaction and happiness compared with people in their middle years
- average anxiety ratings increased through early and middle years, peaking between 45 to 59 years, but then subsequently falling and remaining relatively unchanged for those aged 65 and over.
Source: Office of National Statistics.
So, to avoid sleepless nights, anxious days at home and at work, here are my top-5 suggestions for teachers to look after themselves during the silly season:
- Ensure students work ‘like-a-trooper’ in all of your lessons. Accept no prisoners!
- Do not offer time after school if students do not focus hard in lessons.
- Think twice before giving up your evenings, weekends and holidays. Why are you doing it?
- Remember that your to-do list will never, ever be complete. Learn to live and work smarter …
- Go home early. That means once a week when the bell rings.
Are You No-Nonsense?
This is all fine-and-dandy for those who teach students who aren’t disruptive, or worse for those teachers who are imposed targets and examination figures in their appraisal. Just think about it for a moment: if you drill good habits into your classroom, students will understand the expectations set by you in your domain and that the business of learning is within your four walls.
If you ignore [behaviour], you condone it.
If you condone it, you are simply telling students that it is fine to ‘waste time’ in your lessons. If you are faced with examination pressures, time is too precious in class to be allowing students to waste time. Your students will feel the anxiety too, so you will also need to consider their well-being needs. If you don’t know where to start, try asking for help from someone who does in your school.
An Own Goal?
At this time of year, we are all feeling the pressure – students too – so it is vital we learn how to look after ourselves and our students.
We need to ensure that we do not score an own-goal – allowing students to switch off in lessons – and then expect that we are there to pick up all the pieces with countless interventions and additional hours.
At some point over the coming weeks, the silly season WILL crack your morale, or worse, the students’, so what we put in place from the beginning will help protect our well-being and maintain the bar in lessons.
Accept no nonsense. Own your classroom …
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