Get ready for the year ahead

By John Dabell

Post-summer hols, your mojo should be in fine fettle; you will feel reborn, revitalised and ready for the new term ahead.

Apart from having the ‘Back To School’ blues, most of your tingles will be excitement and you’ll be itching to get back to your class bright eyed and bushy tailed.

After you’ve had a real chance to rest and relax, the trick is to keep on top of your wellness - maintain and nurture it so you don’t fizzle out by the October half-term. Overwhelming workloads and the intensity of school life can take their toll unless you have a ‘look after number one’ and wellbeing plan.

Teaching isn’t about treading water and surviving, but thriving. Take a look at the following tips for helping you be the best you can and for keeping mind, body and soul ship-shape.

Remember: well teachers, teach well.

  1. Pace yourself

The new term always starts at 100 mph but that doesn’t mean you have to spend your whole time in the fast lane with your pedal to the metal. Take your foot off the gas and pull into the services for a rest. What this means is look after yourself and don’t go hell for leather! Not every lesson has to be supercharged; focus on your wellbeing, be good to yourself and slow down. Slow your movements down and your mind will stop rushing around – you will find yourself more centred, more observant and less distracted.

    2. Think like Eisenhower

Dwight D. Eisenhower, 34th President of the United States from 1953 until 1961 had a lot of tough decisions to make. He didn’t find this easy so he invented a system to help him plan and prioritise and understand whether he needed to decide, delegate or delete. Why not use the Eisenhower Matrix yourself and take the stress out of your decision making? Use your time, don’t let it use and abuse you.

    3. Think like a champion

If you adopt a positive outlook then you are giving your mindset every opportunity to flourish and grow. 98% of us might get trapped by fatigue, lethargy and feel a bit jaded as heavy workloads kick in but 2% employ world-class thinking by being optimistic and refusing to see obstacles as problems, but challenges and learning curves. They deliberately reject negative thinking and avoid mood-hoovers while making a deliberate decision to be positive, smile and have fun.

    4. Don’t do all the work

Canny teachers are adept at being economical with their time; they squeeze the most out of every opportunity and encourage pupils to do the same. Sometimes it’s hard to remember not to do all we can for the pupils we teach – while our instincts tell us to do everything possible, school isn’t a place where children go to watch teachers work, the most important thing we can teach pupils is to drive their learning themselves. Plus, if you are a micromanaging helicopter teacher then you are going to run out of fuel pretty fast and come down to earth with a big bang…!

   5. Prepare yourself…just not too much

It goes without saying that preparation is key. The 6Ps tells us that ‘Prior Planning & Preparation Prevents Poor Performance’. There is a lot to be said for being prepared and it makes sense to get things in place to make life easier but it is easy to over-prepare and spend too long planning. Why add to your workload unnecessarily by gold-plating everything and polishing the polish? Lessons don’t need hours of preparation, 20 bullet-points and differentiating 30 ways – that’s a one-way ticket to collapsing on the school field or during assembly.

    6. Breathe

Most of us forget to breathe - this sounds silly of course, but it’s true! Those of us who take a few deep breaths over the day find themselves more composed. Deep breathing can lower your blood pressure and help you keep your composure. Deep breaths fire more oxygen to the brain and this gives us more energy, reduces tension, sharpens our minds and brightens us up. You don’t have to do this in secret either - get your team or class to do it and practice deep breathing together, everyone will benefit.

    7. Become stress hardy

Stress is inevitable and we all have the capacity to cope with it healthily by developing stress hardiness. People who manage their stress and ‘cope’ shared two specific characteristics:

  • Commitment – people who are highly committed find real meaning in their work and always give everything their full effort. They see complications and stress as setbacks rather than major hurdles. A setback is a challenge and an opportunity to grow and develop.

  • Control – if we see ourselves as victims then we will become victims. Whilst we can’t change everything that happens around us and what others say, we can learn to control how we react and respond. Those with a strong internal locus of control have a strong sense of self-efficacy rather than feeling powerless or feeling like a ‘victim’.

    8. Use the 3As model

3As model is a really useful tool to help you get through the fog and treacle of life. Stress management is a decision making process where we can ask three questions: Can I alter this situation? Can I avoid it? Must I accept it? This helps us with our emotional intelligence and can keep the plates spinning. Some situations we can alter and change, some are unavoidable and others we just have to accept.

   9. STOP

Another useful model to keep in mind is STOP, introduced by W. Timothy Gallwey. In his book The Inner Game of Work, Gallwey explains that by thinking of ‘STOP’ we can take control of our thinking:

S – Step back

T – Think

O – Organise your thoughts

P – Proceed

    10. Be kind

If you work in a school with a healthy environment, it makes all the difference to your health and wellbeing. Why not agree to adopt a random act of kindness strategy across the school? This could involve surprising a colleague with a present or kind word, creating a ‘Kindness Activity Wall’ where you record particular examples of children and adults being kind, having a Kindness Jar full of slips of paper with acts of kindness written on them that children and staff take, using positive sticky notes, having a compliments box, or starting a staff meeting with an inspiring video.

   11. Have fun

Working in a school is all about engagement and motivation (broadening the horizons of pupils and all that!) so huge dollops of fun and laughter are needed to oil the machine and keep everyone happy…including you. Do something different, throw off your fear of looking foolish, step out of your comfort zone, tell jokes, play with words and inject humour into class life, office and staffroom and reap the benefits.



Read more blogs from SIMS Independent here

John Dabell

About John Dabell

John Dabell is an experienced teacher having taught across all key stages over 20 years. A trained Ofsted inspector, John also provides teacher training and writes regularly for a range of magazines and websites. He is the author of 10 books and over 1000 articles.


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