Who looks after the Teacher?

In a lecture last week a discussion arose on the role of the teacher. A teacher is many things in the classroom and one of the primary roles a teacher takes on is one of carer. Students look to the teacher for guidance, support, encouragement, praise and so much more. Most of the teachers time in school and at home is spent thinking about his/her students. We think about how to improve their educational experience, we think about what resources and ideas they will respond well do, we think about their well-being, we think about what we need to do to help them in lots of different ways. When you think about teaching like this it is not surprising that teaching has an association with a nurturing role. This role can be extremely rewarding but it can also be extremely draining. If a teacher has eight classes a day with approx 25 students in each class that is a lot of thinking, worrying, planning and nurturing that a teacher does in one day. And at the end of that day who looks after the teacher?

Teachers rarely see themselves as the ones who need to be looked after but they could not be more wrong. In order to be fully capable to look after your students you first have to make sure you are completely healthy – physically, emotionally and mentally. After the discussion on the teacher I went online to look for ways that teachers can look after themselves to ensure they can do their job without burnout. From the different articles and advice columns I found I have compiled a list of advice for teachers. Some might seem obvious but its amazing the little things we sometimes forget to do.

  1. Keep track of your feelings. Note things that make you stressed, worried, anxious and also happy and excited. This way you can try avoid the stress but also be aware of what is happening daily in your life.
  2. Write down 6 highlights from your day. Often we focus on what went wrong in class and the positives get forgotten about. If you have the highlights of each day noted at the end of the week you can remind yourself why you love your job.
  3. Focus on what you can control. Teachers are not super heroes. We cannot control every single thing that happens in a class or a school. Do not take on the responsibility when it is out of your control.
  4. Say No. Again we cannot do everything. Time management is crucial for teachers. Taking on a lot extra curricular activities may make look good on the CV but realistically when will you fit in time for sleep?
  5. Find a stress management technique that works for you. Some people go to the gym, some people read a book or some people scream into a pillow. Whatever you feel works do it!!!
  6. Try to keep a healthy lifestyle A  healthy body can handle much more than a tired worn out one. Healthy eating and exercise might not sound like fun but the rewards are there to be reaped.
  7. Talk. Whether this is to a friend, a family member, a fellow teacher or someone on an online blog. All teachers need support at some stage and there is plenty available if you ask. Like the old saying goes ‘A problem shared is a problem halved.’
  8. Have an off switch. Teachers often have to bring work home with them. This happens to everyone at some stage but this does not mean it is ok to sit up until 3am preparing lessons or grading tests when your alarm is set for 5:30am. Set a time limit on school work and stick to it. Make time to have dinner, see family and go to bed at a reasonable hour.
  9. Think Positive If your are having a bad day try to think positively about tomorrow. Smile even when you do not feel like it. It is amazing the power the mind can have over the body.

This list is no where near exhaustive but I think its a good starting point that I plan on using myself. Feel free to add to this list in the comments or add your own stress management technique. It might just help someone else have a good week. 🙂