I mentioned the ‘S’ word in a recent blog. Having suffered in the past quite significantly, I have, over time, found my own toolkit to work through particularly difficult times (one of which is to label it as ‘challenge’ not stress). My symptoms include IBS, hives, fatigue and (according to Barry) all round grumpiness! I follow a routine of diet, sleep, exercise and mindfulness in an effort to keep the physical symptoms to a minimum. (Writing it down like this makes me wonder whether my job is worth it!) I am pleased to say that it does work, but how can a new teacher possibly have all those tools when they start in their career and would they believe me if I told them?
Teaching is a tough profession. Outsiders point to the 13 weeks holiday, the 8.30-3 day and the ‘fun’ of working with young people. What they don’t see is the massively long hours at every level, the pressure to perform, the results and target driven environment, which isn’t going to mean you fall short of selling a few widgets – this will affect someone’s life path. In addition you’ve got the pressure to conform, innovate, progress in your career, support others, deliver a curriculum dictate (with minimal budget), and, often, be a main carer for the pupils in your class. All alongside colleagues who are under similar pressures.
And they wonder why NQTs don’t stay?
I’ve done HSW surveys and time diaries with staff and they are always the same. They work too long hours, they don’t feel supported adequately and they don’t see a way out of the spiral. I’ve sat in SLT meetings and said “Sally is working too many hours” but what can we do? Sally is keen, she wants to progress both herself and her students, she wants to be a leader, she wants results. We certainly don’t want to temper her motivation and enthusiasm, but she can’t see what is round the corner…
I believe it is up to us SBMs to help her by telling it to Sally like it is. We’re not going to be popular and no one is going to thank us but if we can keep her long term in her chosen profession, I would chalk that up as a success.
So here is what I’d say to new teachers;
1) Be gentle with yourself, walk away at the end of the day, find other interests, love your family.
2) Sleep. Be horribly selfish and get what you need every night. Remember your old Mum’s bedtime routine, bath, milk, book bed? I promise you it works. Put the screen down!
3) Spend at least 20 minutes every day raising your heart rate with exercise (walking, running, swimming, cycling, gym – whatever does it for you – do it) note that playground duty does not count (unless you’re chasing a football, of course).
4) Watch what you eat and drink. Listen to your body. It will tell you if it doesn’t like something or, more likely if it thinks what you’re eating doesn’t mix with your current level of stress. I’ve got a lot of personal experience with this one but that might be another blog.
5) Get into yourself. This is good in the morning and can go well with a spot of yoga. It’s a fabulous way to start the day.
I guess my message is that you can’t help anyone unless you look after yourself and as selfish as it might sound, you have a duty to your pupils to put yourself first. Only when you have done this will you be able to successfully manage the highs and lows, the pressures and pitfalls, the energy and fatigue that is the Teaching Profession.
PS This also applies to SBMs!!