Wellbeing: it’s not just a buzz word.
We all hear the age-old phrase constantly within teaching: ‘Don’t burn the candle at both ends’. Often, teachers find themselves struggling to balance out their personal lives – the things we both want and need to do! – with the work commitments we have.
At first, we think we can juggle it all like the highly skilled performers we are, but eventually things start to drop – a night out, a brunch, a birthday… We miss them all because we’re too tired, or need to get something finished. But we still feel like we’re juggling effectively. Until one day, we realise that the only things left in the air are work commitments. It happens to the best of us; at some point, we realise that we need to find a solution. Not a compromise – that suggests that we are having to give up some of the things we love. We need to balance both parts of our lives.
Speaking from experience, it can be difficult at first. The amount of times I felt that I wasn’t giving my best in school, or to my friends and family, made me think I was doing something wrong. In all honesty, a lot of the problem was the expectations of the school. Some days I would be there until 7pm marking or getting resources ready. I found it hard to say no.
Then, as I became more aware and experienced, I realised this wasn’t what others were expected to do in their schools. I began to make sure I was leaving at a reasonable time in the evenings. Sometimes, I took work home (as I could make it more flexible around my own plans), but it still often meant late nights. Because I was run down, and constantly busy, I found it was harder to give my students the best experience. Essentially, we are performing to the class – we need to be constantly ‘on it’. Some days, I was too tired and felt it hard to concentrate; I hadn’t had the time to research a topic because I was laden with marking; I just wanted to make it through the day.
But then I changed schools. The work/life balance here was so much easier to manage. I was able to have time that was completely to myself and switch off. Because of this, my class definitely benefited. I was able to be ‘on it’ throughout the day, spend extra time on some lessons (but importantly, this was choice) and best of all – I was genuinely happy in my classroom. The students feed off the vibes given to them – if the teacher is content, it’s easier for them to be happy too.