This week, we're joined by Claire Morley from @keepsthemoutofmischief
Having spent 20 years in the classroom, Claire now a local authority Behaviour Support Teacher supporting nurseries and schools to understand and create provision for children with social, emotional and mental health needs and to promote positive behaviour support. She knows that the wellbeing of school staff has a massive impact on their ability to support and regulate children with additional needs so she also provides support with this.
There are few authorities in the UK where a service like hers is still funded so she started her blog, Instagram and Facebook pages because she wanted to help others, especially those at the beginning of their teaching career, to access practical strategies and advice to support staff wellbeing and promote an ethos of positive behaviour support. You can also read this post on her blog - www.keepsthemoutofmischief.wordpress.com - posted on Sunday 6th December and reposted here, with permission from Claire.
There’s no tired like ‘end of term teacher tired.’
Hang on a minute - that needs rephrasing. There's no tired like 'end of term, working in a pandemic, teacher tired.' Anyone else utterly exhausted? 🙋♀️ I know I am and I’m not in the classroom everyday.
The autumn term is always tiring. You've welcomed a new group of children into your class, formed relationships, assessed what level they're working at and started to move them forwards. If you're a teacher in your early years of the profession, you're also learning how to do your job without the support of another teacher in the classroom.
But this year, you've done all of that and you've settled them back into school after a lockdown, an opening up and then the uncertainty of when new restrictions were going to be introduced. You've created a whole new curriculum to reflect where the children are at now and had to develop a plan, in the background, for all manner of 'what if' scenarios. You've probably had to get to grips with new technology, new policies and work out how to work within your staff team. You've likely managed your own family on top of this too. It's exhausting and the end of term still feels like it's weeks away.
It's time to take action now to make sure you don't survive until the end of term, only to get ill in the holidays. You're going to collapse in a heap at the end of term, because we all do, no matter how long we've been working in schools. Let's do something positive now to try to help to reduce the effects of the exhaustion.
I find a list useful. I used to be a Post-it note person, but I always ended up losing them and getting even more stressed because I missed things! I've been using this system for years and it really helps in the end of term madness, especially in the run up to Christmas.
Make a list. Write everything that you think needs to be done before the end of the term. Everything that's rattling around in your head or keeping you awake at night. Dump everything out of your brain onto a piece of paper. It doesn't matter what order or how pretty it looks, just write it down. Often this first step helps immediately - you realise that there isn't actually much to be done. Or it scares you silly - if that's the case, read on!
Once everything is written down you're going to create another set of lists using everything from the original list. The picture below shows the 'Eisenhower Matrix'. It's a really useful way of sorting out your tasks and prioritising what you've got to do. Now you may be thinking, 'I haven't got time to write another list!' Hang in there, I promise this will actually help because it's going to help you decide what actually needs doing and what you can leave behind.
Firstly, you've got to be ruthless. This is about survival. If it's not absolutely essential that it gets done in the next 24 hours, it's not allowed to go in the urgent box.
Secondly, you've got to learn to delegate, for your sanity, and you might have to accept that other people won't do a task in the same way or to the same standard as you. This is ok. If it helps you, it's ok. Think about who can help you. Asking for help is not a sign of weakness/ that you're not coping/ that you're not doing your job well enough/ whatever else you might say to yourself. Are there people you work with who can help? Often children in your class are keen to help, let them. Are there people in your family who can help? Train members of your family to cut out resources for you/ laminate (leave it and save the planet!)/ help you with household chores.
Think about what you can eliminate. If a task has been on your to-do list since the beginning of term, it's likely that it's not important and it can be eliminated. This is my favourite list because you get to cross things off as soon as you write them because they're no longer needed. This does wonders for your stress levels!
Work through your original list, transferring tasks into the correct box, remembering to be ruthless. Once you've done, get rid of the original list, otherwise you'll just end up confused!
Now, cast your eye over your grid. Is everything in the right box? If not, move it. I find it's generally a move down in importance that's needed, especially when you start to value your wellness over 'shoulds'.
You're now ready to schedule in all the not urgent but important tasks. Make sure you spread them out over the coming days in your diary. Think about other events that are going on and plan accordingly.
Now crack on with the 'urgent' list. Pick some easy wins first if that helps you, or do the task you've been dreading the most to get it over and done with. Hide your phone, close social media on your laptop and get on with it. You'll feel better for crossing some things off the list!
Teacher burnout is real and self care isn't just about candles, hot baths and hot chocolate. Sometimes it's about getting stuff done so that you're not having to carry it in your 'mental load.' At the start of your career you can feel like you have to prove yourself, but you're still learning. Part of learning to be a successful teacher is learning when something's urgent and/or important and when something can eliminated.
Take care of yourself. You can't pour from an empty cup.
Be kind to yourself. We're all learning how to teach and look after ourselves in this strange situation.
Ask for help. Nobody expects you to do this alone.