Welcome to my second 'Friday Finds' of the holidays! This week I've seen a chiropodist which was a new, lovely, relaxing experience, visited the dentist which I always find a tummy churning experience, watched the Lion King at the cinema which was an emotional experience (I always cry TWICE - you know when), and been a taxi for my 2 teenage sons, fare free, which is the usual experience.
The latter part of the week has been fun; I've dined out a couple of times, been shopping for new bathroom paraphernalia, and Mario Karts has come out from the back of the dusty TV unit (amongst a thousand cables and various sweet wrappers); a sign the holidays are in full swing. Tuesday was the grimmest day - the rain came and it stayed far too long. It really affected my mood: I felt so lethargic and lacklustre. The influence of the weather and the changing seasons is something I will blogging about in the late Autumn/ Winter months. For now though, the sun is shining.
Quick Wellbeing Wheel Update
Last week, I reported my progress with the three aspects of the wellbeing wheel I was concentrating on during the six weeks. Here's a quick update:
Nutrition and Exercise:
Nutrition - Errr.... eating too much and drinking too much. I have a sneaky suspicion this will be an area of focused attention when I return from Spain in the middle of August.
Exercise - Errr... Not as 'on it' as last week. Went to an 'Ibiza Flow' yoga class Tuesday night which was awesome. I think that is it though. I have tweeted about exercise; does that count?
I have definitely moved forward with this on the home-front. I've cleared out some clothes, sorted through some books, and started gathering items I can sell (I have so much STUFF). I've had a new boiler fitted and my bathroom renovation project is gathering momentum. My eldest son even cleared out his room and hoovered his 'second' bedroom, aka our living room. This decluttering lark must be catching! However, I think this has more to do with his manipulative plan to drain my financial resources through purchasing away game tickets to watch West Brom (boing boing), and in other nefarious ways, rather than to seek outer order, inner calm.
I find the 'big holidays' very expensive, so I've started watching my spending. I'm inclined to ignore this aspect of life until I start to get scared to look at my online banking app, so I'm having to be vigilant and think of all the things I could be doing if I had more restraint and awareness. It's been a cathartic experience - who knew I could spend so much money at Asda, Tesco and One Stop? As well as New Look, JD Sports, Just Eat, Boots, Primark, Sports' Direct, Amazon and Amazon and Amazon...
Monday, I'm off to Liverpool with the money draining number one son for a day on the 'Magical Mystery Tour' bus and a nose round this fab city! Got rail return tickets for less than £30 pounds for the two of us - not bad huh?
Blog wise, I'm writing some posts on exercise and how teachers fit it into their daily routine. Please look out for these! I'm also preparing for my holidays through waxing, dying, trimming and painting various parts of my body.
Please let me know how you are spending your holidays!
PS: I still haven't made it into work. I just can't yet, Not yet...
The first week of my ‘Big Holiday’ has flown by. 5 weeks left to review, relax and recharge so that I’m ready for September. I've been making the most of the sunshine by sitting in the garden (cheeky mid-afternoon beer anyone?) and generally pottering around, eating the occasional ice-cream.
However, if you are anything like me, this switching off business can be hard, especially when there are loose ends, or whole schemes of work in my case (;/), still flittering over my consciousness like an irritating fly from July.
The wellbeing wheel
In my previous post, I blogged about the wellbeing wheel. This tool allows us to assess 10 areas of our lives, giving each a score out of 10 – 1-3 suffering, 4-6 surviving, 7-10 thriving. It is a ‘wheel’ as each aspect impacts on the others, and our holistic wellbeing.
Nutrition and Exercise
Rest and sleep
Social – friends, family and community
Career / work
Fun, play and creativity
My wellbeing wheel update
From completing this exercise, three areas stood out at this moment in time: Nutrition and exercise , my physical environment and money and finances. So, what have I been doing about them?
Nutrition and exercise
Exercise: I have been to yoga three times this week (all in the morning) and swimming once (early afternoon). If I could fit in a run, perfect. These are three forms of exercise I love and the holidays give me time to do them.
Nutrition: Not great. In my mind I wanted to lose half a stone before my holidays, but this is not going to happen. This is something I’m working through – body image and my critical inner talk. It takes up a lot of headspace and it is not a positive or productive use of space!
Work: The aim was to go in this week, have a general tidy up and cull my resources – they are breeding. Have I done this? No. I needed a break from the place so I’m aiming to visit twice next week. I am a believer in outer order, inner calm. However, it is not something that comes naturally to me!
Home: I’ve had a wardrobe clear out and tidied up my bedroom a little. I would say this is a work in SLOW progress. So many things I want to do, but it’ll take time and…
This is the area I’ve made some headway in. I’ve arranged a loan so I can upgrade my bathroom, boiler and guttering. I cannot wait to have a lovely, soothing bathroom to chill out in. This should all be done within the next few weeks 😊
Please let me know if you have been working on your own wellbeing goals!
The holidays are within reach and we have a good chunk of time to use as we please, right? Well, maybe so, unless you have a family to look after, organise and entertain (and possibly endure :/), work tasks and projects that didn't quite get done before we broke up, and a plethora of other commitments and responsibilities that fill our time.
So, how do we make time for ourselves and, crucially, what do we spend that time doing? I think we have idea of an answer to the second part of the question, it might help us make decisions and find solutions for the first.
The Wellbeing Wheel
This is not a new concept and one that is used widely in wellbeing classes and counselling. I have found it useful in assessing where I am in my life right now - which aspects are ok and which areas need a little TLC.
The wheel looks like the picture on the right. I created my own in order to cover as many of the areas I thought someone working in education would find useful to reflect on.
The task is to rate these different areas out of 10, reflecting on how you currently feel about them: 1-3 suffering, 4-6 surviving and 7-10 thriving.
The table is then used to zoom into 1-3 areas that you feel need some attention. Mine were exercise and nutrition, physical environment and finances. You can then consider possibilities to help move these areas up the wellbeing scale and ONE action you could take to make this happen. For example, my bathroom is VILE and makes me sad, so I'm going to look up different bathroom designs and costings, which in turn will help with planning finance (unfortunately not with exercise and nutrition, but oh well).
The BIG holidays
This exercise will, hopefully, give you a focus for the 6 weeks. We have to remember we cannot do everything - small steps.
Please let me know if you find this useful!
I'm introducing the staff wellbeing week in briefing this morning... Scary! I'm going to talk about how staff wellbeing is paramount if a school wishes to retain new staff, lessen absence due to stress and anxiety, and be a place teachers want to work and thrive!
Awareness is the key, particularly of the fight, freeze and flight response we feel on a daily basis. Our poor brains feel they are constantly under 'attack', whether that be from students, e-mail, parents, our co-workers, management, management's management (QUAD days for example), the government - the list is endless. The tricky part is much of this is subconscious. No wonder we feel exhausted and frazzled.
And this is ok. It will not change; we will always feel under attack as that's how humans process the world around them. It is why we instinctively retreat to places of comfort when it all gets too much - bed for example or the settee or the pub or the staffroom, if this is a place of refuge.
The key to dealing with chronic stress is awareness of our emotional and physical responses to these threats and this is where mediation and mindfulness come in. Through practise, we can become conscious of our natural inclinations, thought patterns, behaviours and choose, mindfully, how we will deal with any given situation.
This does not mean we become passive; the opposite is in fact true. It can help us see what really needs to be done to make teaching a healthier occupation than it currently is. We may realise that certain school policies or demands are unrealistic or adding unnecessary strain. We may find new ways of working that are more productive and avoid duplication. Or, we may find that simply walking away for ten minutes and taking a breath can change our day and help us gain perspective.
And many, many more.
We are professionals - let us start to look after ourselves so we can look after others.
The 'big' holidays are 13 get ups away and it is now time to start to think about what we want to do with them. My usual tactic is to get horrendously drunk on the final Friday of term, have a hangover that lasts a week and then go on holiday to Spain to drink Sangria for 7 days and eat copious amounts of Lays crisps. I then spend the rest of the holidays trying to shift the half a stone I've put on through said Sangria and Lays and kind of worry about September while not doing very much apart from playing Mario Karts and spending money I haven't got. And napping, of course.
Not this year though, oh no. Well, apart from the going to Spain, Sangria, Lays, naps, Mario Karts part. Ok, and maybe the getting drunk on the final Friday BUT not horrendously wipe myself out for days type way. This year I'm thinking ahead...
Making a Plan
I'm approaching the 6 weeks with more awareness than previous years. This is because I know what I'm like. I have ideas of the all the books I want to read, all the places I'm going to visit and the projects I'm going to start. Yet, inevitably, very little of this happens due to the events in paragraph one. I drift into the season of sun with high hopes and aspirations and then wash up in September wishing I'd just taken the time to think this precious time through a little more. So this year, you've got it dear reader; I'm making a PLAN.
My first step is to do what I kind of do for school, if and when I actually sit down to do it, and create an overview of the holidays (I am aware of all the dos in this sentence). We 'design' our kids' curriculum and 'schedule' our other teacherly duties, so I'm going to 'produce' an overview of my holidays. This can be done in various ways but I'm going to 'go about it' in the old fashioned way - a piece of A3 paper and some coloured pens. In fact, I'm going to start 'creating' this in about five minutes.
I'm going to:
1. Draw out the six weeks ( you can spreadsheet, table it, whatever)
2. Make it into a calendar with big boxes for every damn wonderful day
3. Fill in my holidays and events
4. Probably draw a few pictures and smiley faces
5. Sit back and admire
Right, off to 'do' it now.
See you tomorrow for Step Two - what to fill those boxes with (in addition to naps).
As stated in our department group WhatsApp chat at 6.15 this morning, there are 17 get ups, I repeat, 17 get ups, until we, and our fellow educational comrades, (not all I know...) break up for the summer holidays. Hurrah! The ultimate teacher wellbeing season is upon us. However, how can we ensure the month of August is one we use to recharge, relax and reconnect with ourselves, our family and our friends?
Busy, Busy End of Term
Each of those 17 get ups leading up to the 6 weeks holiday are followed by a full, busy day of marking Year 7-10 end of year exams and, for some, ploughing through external exam marking too. As a department we are also thinking ahead to next year - curriculum planning, ordering the stationery (fun) and trying to be reasonably organised for September's new start. On top of that we have year 6 transition days, a MAT Focus day (used to be QUAD day) and many, many in school and out of school activities and trips (bagsy Alton Towers). And, to top it ALL off, we often have to say goodbye to dear colleagues as well, which makes for a heady end of year cocktail of physical, mental and emotional 'bluh' (and a very severe hangover).
A Bump To The Head
The knock on effect of this busy, blurry 17 get ups is that when the holidays do finally arrive, they can often feel like a rather sharp bump to the head. This is the difficulty with teaching that is so often overlooked - we go from intensity to lack of daily structure and routine in one day. I have found this transition very difficult to deal with over the years.
To pre-empt this 'bump', my next few posts will be about planning ahead for the holidays so we do give ourselves a good chance of returning to work in September feeling like we have had a holiday and can take on the challenge of the new Autumn term.
See you tomorrow!
I had some great news today. Prompted by a member of SLT, my Head has agreed to a 'teacher wellbeing week' from July 8th-12th. In this week I'm going to offer mindfulness and meditation sessions, my yoga teacher will be coming in to teach a class or two, and I know we have members of staff who will run dinnertime fun and games with a quiz or a staff bingo session.
Other ideas are in the formation stages but I know it'll be a fine thing to put staff wellbeing in the limelight for 5 days. Hopefully, it will spark discussion about staff morale and how we can work together to make teaching a less stressful (unnecessarily so) career.
Looking to the future, I'd love to help facilitate a monthly wellbeing week. This is where you may be able to help me. Does your school run any wellbeing sessions for staff in any shape or form? Or are policies in place to help teachers manage their workload? If so, I'd love to here from you!
You can e-mail be direct at:
find me on Twitter @teacherwellbe
on Facebook at The Teacher Wellbeing Project
1. Do you wind-down from work?
2. Do you take work home?
3. Do you take work home and not do it? Is it just sitting there, nagging you and pestering you?
4. Do you have boundaries around work?
5. Do you find yourself thinking about work at 2 am?
6. Do you talk yourself out of doing things for yourself, for example exercise, by thinking about all the work you have to do?
7. Would you class yourself as chronically stressed?
8. Are you going to do anything about it?
Here are my answers:
1. Errr… sometimes? Friday - yes. Monday - no.
3. Yes - all the time. I have done it today, I'm not going to do it - I'm tired. It is just THERE.
4. Sometimes yes, sometimes no.
5. It happens. Grrr.
6.Yes - a lot. Although tiredness, need to see kids, CBA all come into play here.
8. Yes I am!
How can we be productive, energised and healthy if we do not give our minds and bodies a rest from work? Well, the answer is we can't. We have 24 hours in a day and 168 hours in a week. You spend on average 7-8 hours a day in bed. You spend 6-9 hours a day at work (this obviously fluctuates). This work involves performing, listening, producing, talking, writing, reading, observing, reflecting, organising (and on and on and on). That leaves 7- 8 hours to travel, cook and eat, do household stuff, spend time with family, shower, prepare the next day, exercise, read, watch TV, go on Facebook, do the shopping, text your sister, join in the WhatsApp chat, read with your children, take the dog for a walk, have a relationship...
However, this is assuming we do not bring work home. If so, add that to the 'leaves 7-8 hours...' list.
No wonder we are exhausted. I'm exhausted writing that list!
I know, I know. Realistically, there are times where the boundary between work and home-life are crossed. I work full time and have two teenage sons. I often pick them up from school and this may mean I have to prepare the next day through a 'split-shift' (although the second shift is always very fretful and irritable and I'd rather be watching Homeland). This is the case for many parents and those with care responsibilities. Knowing what can reasonably be done at 8pm when you've been up since 6am can help. Answering e-mails? Maybe. Searching TES? Probably. Marking a set of year 7 writing assessments that you promised your class to be marked tomorrow? Unlikely without putting your wellbeing out the window and the chance of a good night's sleep.
Do you have a boundary between work and home? Or do you have a cut-off point at home when work is done for the day? If so, do you have a ritual?
Alternatively, do you have no boundaries? How do you manage this?
Please let me know! I'd love to hear from you.
A scan over a google search on teacher wellbeing is not pleasant reading. Article after article tells of teachers facing an excessive workload, daily chronic anxiety and stress. A recent Guardian article cited, '1 in 5 (teachers) felt tense about their job most or all of the time.'www.theguardian.com/education/2019/feb/25/teachers-experience-more-stress-than-other-workers-study-shows
Now, this is not new news. I do feel since I began teaching a dizzy 19 years ago that teaching has become for more stressful. Why? Well, for one, the constant surveillance and level of scrutiny is far beyond anything I used to encounter in 2002. I used to have one full observation in term two and then another half an hour observation later in the year. And are my results any different now due to countless learning walks, drop ins, book trawls, mocksteds, deep dives or any other form of the word observation that we can conjure? No. And this isn't a reflection on my place of work. From what I can see, this happens in many schools.
For two, the lack of trust in teachers to do their professional duty is staggering. Check the checkers doing the checking doing the checking is bureaucracy gone mad. Add the horrendous lack of funding in education, no wonder google searches do not dig up diamonds.
What are we going to do about it?
For me, teacher wellbeing is paramount. If we do not have healthy, happy, energised teachers, we have a system being driven on empty. Yesterday, I asked WHY do we teach. Today I ask, if we DO want to teach, how can we reignite the spark that has been dampened or is dwindling out?
It starts with YOU: Track Your Time
How can we improve our wellbeing when there is always so much to do, to say, to write, to read, to track and to change? To begin with we NEED to know how we use our time or how we feel obligated or expected to use our time by others. It is easy to do. On a spreadsheet or in your diary or notebook, write the times of the day down the left hand side and make brief notes on what you are doing in 30 minute chunks. You can always do it retrospectively if you forget or scribble it down on a post-it and add it later. The aim isn't to be perfect but just to see what is.
I would love to see how you track our time and what you find. Please respond to this blog or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org
PS: I will not track your tracking :) I trust you
This term, I am a 'caretaker' Head of English until our new boss takes the reins in September. In this role I'm asked to, and enjoy, reviewing the curriculum and evaluating and amending it for the new school year. Many questions are posed to the English team. What is working? Should we start GCSE a little earlier in year 9? Where's the interleaving and spiralling (buzz words 2018/19) Are we finally done with studying 'Holes' with year 7 and 8?
However, the one question that I feel needs to posed more than any other is, WHY are we doing this in the first place?
The Big Why
Now, I'm the first to put my hands up and say that I rarely ponder this question - I mean REALLY ponder it. So, let's have a go. There are the obvious and, let's face it, incredibly important practical reasons. It pays reasonably well, we get good holidays, you can finish at a reasonable time and, maybe, fetch children from school, nursery or nan and grandad so that we can spend some time with them before bed.
There are, of course, more individually and socially fulfilling reasons to teach. We can make a difference to kids. Guiding, nurturing and possibly inspiring them to read that book that hooks them, or see a scientific truth that changes the way they see the world. We might be that role model who listens to them, has time for them and encourages them and helps gets them back on the right path after a wayward turn.
Or, for you, it might be your subject that drives you on: your passion for Picasso or Dickens or Darwin. Your niche may serve as a creative outlet that let's you indulge in your penchant for YA literature or solve those mind-blowing equations.
Let's ask it
My question to you today is, why do you teach? The answer may be as clear as crystal to you - you love the kids, your subject, your school. Or, you may be someone who has some reasons to teach that are strong enough to keep your head above water and afloat. Alternatively, you may find that the answers do not come that easy. All are fine - honesty is the best policy. Just see what is.