Teacher Wellbeing - Tips for Thriving, Not Just Surviving
So how do we achieve a positive sense of wellbeing when we are teaching?
As I write this blog post, we are nearing the end of a hectic term where time seems to have disappeared somewhere. Both myself and about half of my class are recovering from a nasty head cold. I look at what I had planned to achieve and what I achieved with some dismay. It's going to be an action-packed last week of the term as we wrap up what we have been working on and prepare for the school holiday period. That's fair, it's a little stressful.
Let's be honest though, teaching as a profession is inherently stressful. We are working with people all day, and human beings are complex, sometimes even tricky. And Relating to people is only the beginning of what a teacher is doing as you all know, but I'm not going to spend time talking about what stresses us for two reasons; 1. There is plenty of research and anecdotal data to confirm that teaching is stressful and 2. Spending energy on talking about what stresses often feeds the problem and does not necessarily provide any solution to it. Instead let's look at what can support us to thrive, even in the madness that is a regular day at school for many of us.
So what is teacher wellbeing?
From a positive perspective, a well-being teacher is when a teacher is flourishing in their workplace, as an individual and in relationships with others, by maintaining a sense of balance between their spiritual, mental / emotional, physical, and social needs.
Teacher wellbeing is hugely important. There is plenty of research to support the notion that happy, healthy teachers have more joyful healthier classrooms with learners who seem to achieve better. Simply put, your wellbeing is essential that learners in your care.
So how do we achieve a definite sense of wellbeing when we are teaching? Well, there is no one-size-fits-all, silver bullet solution, but here are seven tips to help you strike a better balance:
Breathe Better To Feel Better
Our breath can make a huge difference to how we think. Deep, slow belly breaths to help calm our stress response, almost like our body convincing our brain that we are safe. Deep, slow belly breaths can help us pause to think before we react to a situation. Breathing well also helps protect your voice by reducing strain.
Try this: Before you talk to a student or address your class, take a deep, slow breathing belly and see what happens .
Be a positive tattler
Being a educator can be a lonely job, too often the good goes unmentioned, while our shortcomings seem to be easily shared and discussed by others. As a profession, we can be better than that.
Try this: Start with just noticing the good things your colleagues are doing and talk to them and others about what you have seen .
Break out your smile
Smile is almost an international language. A smile can change someone's day; It can also improve your mood too. Sometimes we can not find our smiles, and that's normal and ok when it comes to see if you can put something in place and you will see that it makes you smile.
Try this: Put a copy of your favorite memes in different places around your classroom, my favorites are: Smile like a monkey with a new banana; and people will stop asking you questions if you respond with interpretive dance .
Adopt an attitude of gratitude to improve relationships with others and your wellbeing. Say thank you to others, look for the good in your day. Help your students to identify things they are grateful for too, spread the germ of grateful joy far and wide.
Try this: At the end of each day write a list of 10 things why you are grateful .
Be interested in others
Get to know your colleagues and students as individuals. Be curious and excited about their lives, ask questions and follow up on what they tell you.
Try this: Spend 5 minutes each day with a student working alongside them just listening to them talking about whatever is essential for them to at the time .
Be kind to yourself
Think about what you put into your body and how you treat it. Think about how you talk to yourself. Remember that healthy brains need what healthy bodies need; We need to eat well, drink water, breathe deep, get enough sleep, move our bodies, and make sure we have positive people to support us. We also need to cut ourselves slack and start saying supportive things to ourselves.
Try this: Move more .. It might be that you get up and walk around your classroom every ten minutes, you might join in fitness with your class, you could start a routine at lunchtime.
Be clear about why you are here
Why do you teach? What is your reason for getting out of bed and spending a day with a fantastic class of learners? It is crucial that we are clear about why we are here - it helps us prioritize where we put our energy, it helps us through those tough days, it helps us know when we are going in the right direction.
Try this: Write down all the reasons why you teach and then pick the one that drives you-put that somewhere you will see it often to remind you .
Teachers, like most people I would suggest, need belongingness, connection and sense of identity. This, for me, is like our essence that we can come back to when we are making decisions when we are under stress when something does not go right.
As I said earlier, your wellbeing is vital to learners in your care so I hope you will do what you can to help yourself be the happy healthy teaching professional you know your learners deserve.
Megan (M.Ed) is an experienced educator who is passionate about health and wellbeing, and brain based learning. She has worked in a variety of settings including classroom teaching, adult and workplace assessment in the non-profit sector. She is currently teaching full time and is a speaker / presenter.
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