“You get long holidays!”
Michelle Obama affirmed, “We need to do a better job of putting ourselves at the top our own ‘to do’ lists.”
When I became a teacher, the first thing people in other professions would say to me is, “You get long holidays!” As a newly qualified teacher, I quickly learned that statistics showed that “Almost one in three teachers leave the classroom within five years of starting teaching. And teachers are now more likely to drop out after their first year in the classroom than at any time since 1997.” I quit my job working at a Global Bank in Australia to become a Teacher and doubts have sometimes crossed my mind about leaving the safe and comfortable Corporate world to pursue the harsh realities that Teachers face. I have chosen to focus on why I do what I do and practical ways to care for my health.
The year 2020 will forever be remembered as a historic year and it is clear that the job of an educator is more complex than ever before. While an Education Minister (Gillian Keegan) enjoyed a holiday in France, thousands of students were facing A-level chaos in England. Additionally, teachers have been navigating virtual learning, risen anxiety and stress levels from parents and students, and trying to manage their own families and emotional and mental wellbeing.
When I moved to London in January this year, I started teaching a Year 5 class at a State school in West London. I was surprised to see that the Mental Health board was practically empty in the staffrooms and the Senior Leadership team were entirely focussed on OFSTED Inspectors visiting soon and how to maintain a good OFSTED rating. Ever since the global pandemic, I have been intrigued by the scarcity of news reports and educational discussions concerned with developing, equipping and caring for teacher’s mental health and wellbeing.
I recently met up with a friend who is also a newly qualified Primary Teacher in London. We went to a kickboxing class together, followed by a half price lunch and some good quality chats. During term time, most teachers would consider this a luxury because even though we get “long holidays”, we work overtime every other day during the term.
So, I have researched some of the best and most practical ways to self-care as a teacher. Maybe you can help me to add more to this list?
– Mindfulness: practise stopping; find a comfortable sitting or lying down position, close your eyes and breathe while listening to still, calm background music.
– Exercise regularly: pump those endorphins!
– Healthy eating and drinking: Friday night drinks are great but also remember to eat your greens and have your lunch!
– Maintain a routine: whether at home or back at school with a new routine – organise your time and make space for relaxation too.
– Social connection: meet a friend, colleague, family member, new person, even if it is over Zoom, we are wired for human connection and relationships, you are not alone.
– Embrace vulnerability: even superheroes need to ask for help; talk to a counsellor, close friend, family member, or reach out to an expert.
If you are a Teacher reading this, be encouraged that you are important to society. Teacher retention could be improved by prioritising the health and wellbeing of Teachers. What can you do differently today to increase your “Teacher self-care”, even if it was increased by only 1%?
Produced by Su Pheng Lim, 26/08/20