Working with children and young people in an educational setting is equally rewarding and challenging and can enhance one’s mental and physical well-being or adversely affect it.
The secret is to acknowledge the enormously of your role and the part that you play in positively contributing to your school community. Once there are acknowledgement and affirmation there will be a personal licence to ensure that you keep yourself well and cared for in order to perform your professional function, but equally important function as a person in your own right in all areas of your life (yes there is a life outside of school that needs nurturing and investing in!).
Experience has taught me the importance of looking at and establishing routines around the following areas; being a teacher, being a colleague, being a leader, being a parent/friend and being kind to oneself.
This covers the roles and the relationships that we all may encounter throughout our lives and looks at simple ideas for managing how we respond to incidents and experiences and ultimately how we then process them and allow them to affect us; both positively and negatively.
Being a teacher
The role demands direct contact with pupils, other educators, administration staff, parents/carers, governors and a myriad of visitors and guests. We have numerous encounters that are planned and unplanned and sometimes can feel like we have given our all for very little return, sometimes feel like we could win teacher of the year and usually feel like a sponge and have soaked up all the positive and negative energy from everyone we have met that day.
Take control of your day. Plan, teach, assess, care for and listen as best you can. Review your day and leave it there – in the past. Any lessons you need to learn, look at them and jot them down in your notebook an anything you were fab at also jot them down in your notebook. Your character will then decide what to do with these notes. Chat about them with a friend/parent/partner; think about it by yourself (max. 10 minutes and then leave it) or leave it there on the page and move on.
Being a colleague
Often it is colleagues in our setting that can make us feel 10 feet tall or reduce us to a sobbing heap. People are people and we all make others feel dreadful or boost them up. Schools are no worse or better than any institution, but at least in a school, there are policies and procedures for professional conduct.
The mantra I always use is ‘be kind’. So, you cannot legislate for your colleagues, but you can be kind to those you work with and to yourself. We all know what being kind looks like and we all know when others and ourselves are not being kind. It is also how we choose to respond and feel that matters and this is where we have the control.
‘It is not what happens to you in life, but how you react’.
Being a parent/friend
Some of us are parents and some of us are not. Those of us that are, need to learn to not feel guilty about feeling tired at the end of the day; everyone who works, in any profession, the world over feels tired, it is the nature of work! We also need to learn to not parent our children as if they are our pupils.
Enjoying our children’s entities, humour, fun and love is the role we often forget to allow ourselves as we organise, schedule and control. Equally, enjoy your friends. Going out on a school night is often a great idea as it allows for a break from the constant cycle of school/home/school/home. Doing an activity with a friend or a group of friends is essential for refreshing existing friendships, but also forming new.
Remember you will need people around you in the holidays and you need to invest in your friends throughout term time as well!
Being kind to oneself
This will look differently for everyone. For me, it is about being organised and on top of things. Emails, phone calls I need to make, shopping for food items, cleaning the house, doing the laundry and organising my to-do-list.
Getting things done makes me feel better. I have also learnt, however, to sometimes not do things and switch off completely. Whatever works for you and is not causing you harm and further issues down the road is the right thing to do. You know yourself and what makes you happy!
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