Think About You For A Change

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shutterstock_374772280 woman in office outfit sitting in a chair with some sheets of paper in hand and thinking

Jack Gulston

Jack writes for the Teacher Toolkit site from a primary perspective and is in his third year of teaching. He worked as a teaching assistant in a special needs school for 3 years before going on to complete his education degree. He is currently teaching...
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How do teachers ‘look after themselves’?

“As we all know, the school year is a marathon not a sprint. Hopefully, we all feel refreshed and recharged after the holidays, but how can you maintain this feeling? You need to balance your energy and you can do this by paying attention to your physical needs: nutrition, exercise, rest and sleep.” (Source)

Here’s a simple question to ask a teacher:

  • Do you look after yourself?
  • And, do you ever think about yourself?

Think About You:

As a teacher, other people’s needs and feelings are never far away from the forefront of your mind. But how do often do you think about you?

In the formative years of teaching, we can all think of the numerous times throughout our career and take a step-back and look at things from a different perspective. We may question ‘why am I doing this?’ and ‘what’s the point?’ but there is a reason for doing so.

Teachers need to take a long hard look at themselves and remember to put themselves first for a change. A burnt-out teacher is no good for anybody.

If you are exhausted, this only puts yourself and your teaching into a downward spiral …

shutterstock_85522705 pretty black woman having migraine

Image: Shutterstock

Daily Routine:

As a suggestion, here is a daily routine for readers to consider; feel free to say that the proposal is preposterous – and of course it will not represent the life of all teachers.

  • 06:45am – Wake up
  • 07:00am – Shower, brush teeth, get ready, downstairs
  • 07:15am – Make lunch, then leave the house
  • 07.30am: – Arrive at school
  • 07:45am – Mark books and check emails; get resources ready for the day
  • 08:30am – Staff briefing / assembly
  • 08:40am – Students arrive; teaching starts
  • 12:00pm – Lunchtime
  • 12:25pm – Prepare for afternoons lessons
  • 12:45pm – Teach until the end of the day
  • 15:00pm – End of school.
  • 15:30pm – Mark books and check emails; get resources ready for the next day.
  • 16:30pm – Socialise in staff room or relax on the way home e.g. gym.
  • 17:30pm – Arrive home.

Nice and easy eh?

Of course, this routine will vary significantly for teachers with families and/or personal circumstances and long journeys.

It Can Wait!

Whatever isn’t done by 5:30pm can wait until the next day. If it isn’t important, it gets pushed to the bottom of the pile. We can then aim to have a good evenings with friends, time to ourselves for relaxing, perhaps even time to read an autobiography or watch a film.

Now, this may sound hard-pressed, but try to stick to it as much as possible. We don’t want work to overtake our lives. After all, we should work to live not live to work. Of course, some of us may spend a religious period of time at the weekend, thinking/doing lesson-planning and/or marking, but that should be it! There are far too many good resources out there that teachers aren’t using. What’s the point in re-inventing the wheel?

Outside Education:

It is very important to have friends outside the profession so that you can talk to them about other things in life. This helps you to take your mind off work. Talking about work isn’t a bad thing, especially after a terrible day, but you do need people in your life to pick you up and take your mind away from work. It’s all-too easy to get wrapped into ‘the world of a teacher’ and forget to look outside for support and relaxation.

One of the major things that can help your well-being, is sleeping.

You can’t be too tired to do your job. I’ve learned six hours is the amount of sleep I absolutely need. (Source)

shutterstock_176786162 sleepy and tired man with glasses in white shirt and tie sitting with book

Image: Shutterstock

As teachers, it is vital to be a strong practitioner in the classroom. It is important that you are getting a good nights sleep at home. It isn’t always easy, especially if you have a young family or have personal circumstances on your mind. However, one of the best staff meetings I have ever attended, was about well-being, stress and ‘how we take sleep for granted’.

Too many teachers suffer from sleep-deprivation and we don’t do anything about it. What’s the harm in going to bed 15 minutes earlier every night? In the long run it will make a world of difference.

My advice: aim to be typically in bed by 10:00pm with all devices off. This is the best advice I can give to a new teacher; just reading a book. It’s the best cure for sleep. Just put down that mobile phone!

Get Some Sleep!

According to the Great British Sleep Survey, poor sleepers are “3 times more likely to struggle to concentrate”.

… long-term poor sleepers are 7 times more likely to feel helpless than good sleepers and 5 times more likely to feel alone, but also twice as likely to have relationship problems, suffer daytime fatigue and lack of concentration.”

Great British Sleep Survey

Don’t Panic!

“When it’s Sunday night, and you’re still staring at a mountain of work, your lesson is crumbling around your ears … don’t panic. You are only human and there is only a certain amount that you are physically able to do. Talk [to a colleague] if you find you are consistently struggling to manage workload. Schedule time off from thinking about work and get enough sleep.

Everything seems more manageable when you are well rested.” (Life Hacks for NQTs)

Workload Tips:

So, what can you do to improve your sleep?

Here are a couple of tips:

  • do not work in your bedroom. Use a separate room for schoolwork, or if space is an issue, make sure you hide it out of sight during the night. (Ideally, do your school work at school and leave it there.)
  • write a list. 82% of respondents to the Great British Sleep Survey in 2012, said the top persistent thought that kept them awake was “what happened today and what have I got on tomorrow”.

Jack Gulston is a second-year teacher and writes for Teacher Toolkit. You can follow him at @JGulston90.

Jack Gulston


11 thoughts on “Think About You For A Change

  1. In my NQT I commented that I have a no work after 8pm rule for personal wellbeing. I was told by my mentor that I couldn’t be working hard enough.
    Now I leave for school at 7am and get in at 6pm. I work till I need to go to sleep. I have 4 exam classes across KS4 and KS5- three of which are new specs.
    When I have brought up workload my concerns have been ignored. My Union has been ignored. I am not the only person (teaching in Norfolk) that is in this position.
    Surely the working day proposed above is an experiment in utopia? Is anyone actually close to those working hours?

    1. Your mentor needs to attend one of my courses on how to be an effective mentor! God forbid he/she takes up coaching!! Do not ask for a better work life balance – take it. Teachers do more unpaid overtime than any other profession. If nobody listens, consider moving to a school that respects staff and values them.

  2. I must confess, even though I’ve been teaching for nearly 15 years I do need more time than there is in your timetable for marking so I do work some evenings (as I’m sure lots of teachers do) after I’ve got my own kids to bed. I also find time to regularly do mindful practices to help with relaxation – I would thoroughly recommend mindfulness to help teachers’ well-being.

  3. Wish it would work, life seems to be more complex these days. Different issues spring up daily and alter your well laid- out plans. Or maybe I’m just pessimistic.

  4. I’m a trainee teacher, I work an hour away from where I live, so I need to leave at about 7 to get to work half an hour before briefing. That gives me just about enough time to print off any pre-prepared resources as long as have them all ready. I need to be home by 5 to look after my children, so that doesn’t give me a great deal of time for lesson prep/marking in school before leaving. As such, I tend to work from when the children are in bed at about half 8 til about 11:30 Sunday to Thursday. I can’t really see a way around this. I love the idea above, but every time I’ve tried to reduce the amount of time I spend preparing lessons, the lessons have deteriorated.

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