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How to manage workload and wellbeing



The Early Career Framework states that teachers must learn how to manage workload and wellbeing, by:

  • Using and personalising systems and routines to support efficient time and task management.

  • Understanding the right to support (e.g. to deal with misbehaviour).

  • Collaborating with colleagues to share the load of planning and preparation and making use of shared resources (e.g. textbooks).

  • Protecting time for rest and recovery.

So how exactly do we do that? This week's blog post comes from @teachersworklifebalancecoach (find her via the links at the end of the article!) and she provides insight onto this very topic. Annabel offers an insight into her Balance Strategy Programme and suggests some ways to find that balance in your life as a teacher.


Is teaching everything you expected it to be or are you absolutely exhausted and wondering how you are ever going to make it past the 5 year mark?


If you want teaching to be your career. To be able to experience class after class and witness those light bulb moments when a child just ‘gets it’ time and time again you are going to have to learn how to put yourself first without guilt. Too many teachers push and push working 60+ hours a week and never learn how to say ‘no’ until one day their body just cannot do it anymore and they choose to leave the profession.


In the 2021 Education UK Teacher Wellbeing Index report 54% of staff considered leaving the sector over the past two years due to pressures on their mental health and wellbeing. We could wait for the education system to change or we can change it from the inside out.


My name is Annabel and I help teachers reduce anxiety and switch off through work-life balance coaching. Balance for Teachers was formed during the pandemic lockdowns when I could not bring myself to read one more social media post of a teacher experiencing burnout knowing I had proven strategies that could help. Teacher burnout was not a new occurrence the pandemic simply shone a light on the existing problem. The Teacher Wellbeing Index shows that from 2017 - 2021 over 50% of teachers had considered leaving the profession over the past 2 years due to mental health and wellbeing.


OVER 50%. That is half of the teachers that you graduated with considering leaving due to mental health and wellbeing within their first 2 years of teaching. Could this be because 74% of teachers consider their initial teacher training course did not prepare them to manage their own wellbeing?


Possibly. How much time did you spend discussing how to say ‘no’, what a work-life balance looks like and how to not worry about what other people think when a parent takes their anxiety out on you. I am going to guess never or very little.


Here at Balance for Teachers we coach simple, proven strategies to help teachers discover life outside work. One of the core strategies is our Balance Strategy™. Over 5 days we show teachers for free how they can discover life outside work by giving themselves just 15 minutes a day to complete a mini me-time assignment to learn how to apply the Balance Strategy™ on a day to day basis to reduce anxiety and switch off without guilt. If you wish to join the next free challenge you can do so here: https://bit.ly/balance5daymrst Please note it only runs four times per year so make sure your register your space for the next one.


Let me give you an example of a mini me-time assignment. If you haven’t got one nearby then please grab a pen and paper and lets take 15 minutes for you. Make sure you are in a space that you feel safe in, calm and that you cannot be disturbed. Maybe light a candle and get some cosy cushions out or sit in a bubble bath whatever feels good for you in this moment. If you have more than 15 minutes great, you deserve it, if you just have 15 minutes then that’s a start and movement in the right direction. I’d call that a #win!


Okay… are you ready to put yourself first?


Often when I speak to teachers in their first few years in the education sector they have not yet defined their boundaries. Boundaries for me is another way to say guidelines. Do you know your personal guidelines to be able to show up as the teacher you choose to be?


When we are becoming a teacher we follow instructions from our placement or University and we begin to create a picture of what a teacher ‘should’ look like. We are working towards an exam to achieve the qualification to become a teacher. It’s a checklist. A to-do list that has an end. When the work is complete you hand it in and it gets graded and then you switch off and rest before you move on to the next thing. If you say ‘no’ you are not going to do it then you do not pass and you cannot qualify. As humans our experiences growing up create behavioural patterns that once served us but may no longer do so.


Once you have graduated you now get to be the teacher you choose to be. You set the boundaries, you decide when you work and when you rest. There is no exam at the end to let you know you have finished because every academic year a new class will be placed in front of you and there will always be something to do, learn and/or improve on. There is no finish line (unless you count retirement and lets face it that is a long way off!) So you need to start to navigate your own work-life balance.


Many teachers get stuck in this rut of waiting for an external person or source to give them permission to stop and rest. Instead of the exam they focus on getting to half term and the holidays which are preset for them. They end up living in an ‘all or nothing’ cycle that is perpetually looking forwards and never being present. They work 60+ hour weeks during term and then crash in the holidays. The human body just does not work that way and existing like this opens the door to Leisure Sickness a term first identified by Dutch psychologists Ad Vingerhoets and Maaike Van Huijgevoort in 2001 and eventually burnout.


Chronic stress is defined as any more than four weeks worth of stress. ‘Stress’ physical and mental is all dependant on the individuals toxic load (physical) and perception of what their brain perceives as being a ‘threat’ (mental) in any given moment. This makes it unique to everyone so we have to learn to be able to listen to our own mind and body to create our own boundaries.


In order to set your personal boundaries we must first decide what our purpose is as a teacher.

In this mini me-time assignment I would love you to close your eyes and place your hands on your heart. Why did you become teacher? When you stop teaching what would you like your legacy to be? There is no right or wrong, just what fills your heart with joy and places a smile on your face.


If you find it challenging sit with it for a while and notice the moments when you feel in alignment and on purpose during your day. What were you doing that felt natural and easy and what was the outcome that helped you to feel joy?


At Balance for Teachers my purpose is to reduce stress related illness in the education sector. Having reached stage 5 burnout myself to a point where my body would shut down and have seizures, I never want anyone else to experience that, so every day I am motivated and choosing what I could do today to ‘reduce stress related illness in the education sector’ and that includes me. It took me ten years to learn how to listen to my body to reduce anxiety and switch off to not only recover from burnout but to avoid it too. My experience of trial and error allows me to coach teachers in 12 weeks to understand the concepts that took me just over a decade.


Here is why your purpose goes beyond helping others and actually teaches you how to put yourself first. I am not reducing stress if I am stressed myself because how am I then inspiring others to reduce stress if my energy is depleted and I cannot hold space for them? Phew.. that was a lot lets say that one more time.


If my purpose is to reduce stress then my actions must reduce stress not only for others but also for myself.


If you became a teacher to ‘inspire the children to be all they can be’ then how do you look after you so you can ‘be all you can be’ so that you can show up in your full capacity to hold space for a child to become all they can be and in turn fulfil your purpose.


Once you have your purpose we will move on to creating your core values. The ‘how’ you achieve your purpose.


Are you ready? If not then book mark this blog post and return to it once you have your purpose. Heck, bookmark it anyway because what we are covering today is the start of what could be the difference between you having a life-long career teaching or burning out within 2-5 years.


Lets us do this together.

At Balance for Teachers these are our core values:


CHALLENGE

We challenge the status quo of stress related illness in the education industry

And ask ourselves the question daily…

How have I challenged the status quo of stress related illness today?


EMPOWER

We empower the individual with the tools they need to succeed

And ask ourselves the question daily…

How have I empowered someone today including myself to avoid stress related illness?


PRACTICE

We practice what we preach

And ask ourselves the question daily…

How have I prevented stress related illness in my own life today?


SIMPLE SOLUTIONS

We keep things simple and solution focused.

And ask ourselves the question daily…

How have I kept things simple and solution focused today?


SEEN & HEARD

We believe everyone deserves to be seen and heard

And ask ourselves the question daily…

How have I really listened and seen somebody including myself today?


There is no right or wrong to what you choose for your core values. Life is an experience of trial and error to see what works for you. Your core values are how you achieve your purpose each and every day so here is another mini me-time assignment for you. Decide what are your core values?


Now that you have your purpose and your values you can start to decide on what your work life harmony looks like for you. Notice how I said harmony. This is because there will never be an exact balance. Maybe you will have 60% work and 40% life maybe it will be the opposite the main thing is how do you feel with the ratio you currently have. Are you energised and feeling calm and present or are you ruminating over past experiences and worrying about what the kids will need tomorrow in lessons instead of sleeping?


If it’s the latter then you can start to begin to tweak your work life balance to align with your purpose. You can either choose to reflect or plan. Looking at the previous week what were you doing that did not align with your purpose and is not necessary or 100% required in your job role? W