5 ways for teachers to beat the back-to-school blues

As school staff prepare to return from their summer break in Scotland, Gemma Clark shares tips for starting ‘Teacher New Year’
10th August 2022, 4:44pm

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5 ways for teachers to beat the back-to-school blues

https://www.tes.com/magazine/pastoral/scotland/5-ways-teachers-beat-back-school-blues
5 ways for teachers to deal with the back to school blues

With most schools in Scotland poised to return for a new school year early next week, many teachers are starting to feel the dread kick in. And, with memories of Covid wreaking havoc in schools in 2021-22, that back-to-work anxiety could be particularly intense this year.

But there are things we can do to take the sting out of the end of those much-longed-for summer holidays. Here’s what works for me:

Tips to ease teacher anxiety about going back to school

1. Have things to look forward to

It may sound obvious, but don’t underestimate the benefit of having things to look forward to, both in the short and longer term. We all need special dates in our calendars to put smiles on our faces.

Have something nice planned for one of the evenings of your first week back. It could be as simple as coffee with a friend or a walk in a park. Also make a plan for that first post-summer weekend. A trip to the cinema, dinner or a yoga class, perhaps. It doesn’t necessarily need to cost any money I’m looking forward to trying out a new running route the weekend after I return.

Thinking slightly further ahead, the long September weekend and October holidays always creep up quickly. Make plans for them, have something to look forward to. October can be a lovely time to take your annual holiday, as many places are still warm but not so hot that we Scots are going to wilt. October can also be a beautiful month for a staycation, which leads to No 2...

2. Embrace the seasonal change

In Scotland, we will start to see the first signs of autumn over the next few weeks. Taking time to get outside and notice the changing leaves and colours can be a beneficial mindfulness practice. There are many things to embrace in the autumn, from cosy sweaters and toffee apples to walking in crunchy leaves. Find out what fun things are happening in your local area. I always enjoy the local scarecrow festival and look forward to Halloween films and bonfires. And I get excited every year about Banned Books Week and Bonfire Night.

3. Make appointments for things you enjoy

When your workload is intense, it’s very easy to let slip the things that matter to you. Prioritise what you love and treat it as an appointment (every bit as important as everything else in your teacher diary). I love to go to my local park run on Saturday mornings. My friends and family understand that this is my “thing” and that I’ll only miss it in an emergency. Everyone should be entitled to a few hours to themselves every week - the world can cope for an hour while you have a wine with a friend, go to a yoga class or read a book.

4. Make ‘Teacher New Year’ resolutions

Teachers are notorious for sacrificing themselves “for the children”. It’s time to start calling out that emotional blackmail. Teaching is an important job and we make a difference, but it is still just a job, not your whole life.

Teacher New Year (also known as Term 1) is a good time to set some boundaries. You can’t do everything. If you really need to take on new responsibilities, then an after-school club might need to go instead. Teachers cannot fix all societal problems, nor should we be expected to. If you have a lot of after-school meetings, then you need to say “no” to other extras in those weeks.

5. Know when something isn’t right

Most of us know that once we get back into the swing of things we’ll be quite content back at work. However, it is important to know the difference between normal levels of stress and signs that something is seriously wrong. If you are trying to look after your mental health but still feel overwhelmed, it may be time to look deeper into the causes. Is your workload reasonable? Are you getting the support you need? Maybe it’s time to speak to your GP or take advice from your trade union. This does not make you a bad teacher - a teacher who is overwhelmed cannot be at their best for the children in their care.

It’s a simple truth but worth restating at this time of year: when teachers are healthy and happy, the whole school community benefits.

Gemma Clark is a primary teacher based in Scotland and a co-founder of the Scottish Teachers for Positive Change and Wellbeing group on Facebook. She tweets @Gemma_clark14

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