Welcome! I'm Sarah and I'm thrilled to be producing this blog which intends to be a place for teachers to think about their lifestyle, their choices, and their time. I’m also hoping this will help us gain inspiration to feel that little bit happier, healthier, and well.
A little bit about me
I am a secondary English teacher with 18 years experience. I've worked in three schools and have been in my current post for ten years, the last two as second in faculty. In that time I've been married and divorced. Consequently, I have been a single parent to my two boys since they were five and three (they are now fifteen and thirteen), ran a household, and have worked full time. Oh, and I have a boyfriend and a hamster. To add to this heady mix, I also have a penchant for popular psychology and self-help literature. Sad, I know.
As many of you may know, this is not easy (the single parent/ teaching full time part - not the boyfriend, hamster and self-help part.) Teaching, although a wonderful vocation in many ways, has its own set of pitfalls, and moments that can be overwhelming and create stress. This has certainly happened to me on many occasions. Oh, those dark January days...
The question is, how do we deal with this kind of stress? Is there something we can do to help manage it?
1. Leave teaching. Believe me, I have thought about it on many occasions (usually numb, sad November days). The problem with this solution is that I do actually like teaching, most of the time. I have friends at work and I like being creative and, oh yeah, the kids are ok :)
Also, let's get practical, the pay packet and holidays are hard to give up after you have been doing it a few years. Trapped by the wage, so to speak.
2. Alternatively, can teachers work together to help themselves? There is so much emphasis on pupil welfare and mental and physical health (and rightly so), but what about ours? We are also buffeting the slings and arrows of school life on a daily basis, as well as managing our personal lives. Where's our protection? What about our wellbeing? Our safe space?
Apologies, there are four questions in the answer to number two - questions and more questions. Ones I wish to explore. Hence....
The Teacher Wellbeing Project
I am the 'the teacher wellbeing project'; my main focus will be experimenting on myself. Very selfish I know but, hey, I'm the one writing this. I hope by using my own experience and testing the wisdom of far wiser people than myself, I can move, along with my fellow teachers, to a more mellow, mindful place where I avoid (or lesson the effects of) the inevitable moments that can overwhelm, resulting in burn-out and anxiety.
I truly believe that teaching is made far more difficult than it has to be. There are a plethora of reasons for this. I'll begin a list (please feel free to add ideas in the comments): Budget cuts, lack of consistency in marking policies and assessment criteria, changing fads and fashions in teaching and learning, not enough PPA, being asked to be 'jack of all trades and master of none', erosion of professional judgement, more learning works and scrutiny, academisation… (I'll stop now. Sorry.)
I think awareness is the key. Rather than getting sucked into the vortex of e-mails, meetings, fads and phases, let us try and rise above the poop and see what actually matters. To me, what really matters is our happiness, health and wellbeing, because without it, let's face it, the rest is meaningless anyway. Days off for anxiety and depression should not be ‘part of the course’ of being a teacher. Being valued, encouraged and cared about should. Win-win for both us and our schools when happiness rises and sick days drop.
What's to be to done?
My first experiment is going to be time tracking. Exciting huh?
Over the next week (so Friday to Friday), I will be tracking everything I do during my 168 hours. Yes, you read correctly. EVERYTHING.
You may ask, what the Dickens does this have to do with happiness, health, and well-being? Well, a lot actually. We only have a certain amount of hours. It does make sense to be aware of what we do with them.
I got this idea from Laura Vanderkam, a time management expert. I love listening to her podcasts 'Before Breakfast' and 'Best of Both Worlds' and she also has books on the subject, her most recent being 'Off the Clock' and 'Juliet's School of Possibilities.' Told you I was a bit weird.
She tracks her time, and gets thousands of other people to do the same, which she then analyses (my kind of job) by using a spreadsheet (shudder) which has a column down the left hand side with the times of the day broken down into 5-30 min chunks, starting at 5am to 4.30 the next morning. So yes, she tracks sleep...
This is then filled in periodically during the day. I will do mine in my notebook which is also my planner and diary. The more I have things in one place, the better.
Foreseeable problems are forgetting to fill it in and getting depressed observing the vacuous nature of my existence. But it's ok, she says to just retrospectively note down what we were doing as accurately as we can. Also, by tracking my time, I might be able to fill the void with stuff that really matters, rather than scrolling through Facebook and checking the jobs on TES for the fiftieth time that day.
At the end of the week I will analyse HOW I'VE BEEN SPENDING MY TIME in out and out of school. The way I see it, there is no ‘home’ or ‘work’; both are my life now. So, what am I doing with it? And, just as important, what are others expecting us to do with it too?
Please read my findings next Friday!
See you soon,