Our job is like no other. If we are under the weather, have a headache or feel low, then we can't "work from home", hide behind a computer or take a long lunch until we're ready to resurface.
That is just not the reality for teachers. We need to be all-singing, all-dancing, entertaining, enthusing, engaging and damn-right inspirational every day. And we have to fake it until we can make it.
This half-term is by far the most gruelling of the academic year. As the days become shorter, inevitably you will eventually wake up in the dark, leave home in the dark, arrive at school in the dark, leave in the dark and live in the dark.
Then there are the mock exams if you are in a secondary setting, both GCSEs and A levels. Before you know it, it's lesson-observation season again. Assuming, of course, that you haven’t already been hit by/with Ofsted.
As the months become chillier, pupils may arrive at lessons feeling cold, wet and miserable. Research has indicated that the windy weather can also cause students to behave more boisterously than usual.
The winter season brings the sniffles, sneezes and germs, so where we can, teachers need to take some precautions. Yesterday morning, I distributed a small token of appreciation to my department. I created small – and I hope useful – care packages, including:
- A nice red marking pen (anything to make that process easier)
- Ginger and lemon teabags
- Hand sanitiser
- More ginger teabags
Some may see this as unnecessary, and yet more hassle and expense. But I would rather create the packages than set cover endlessly for teachers who don’t feel appreciated and are run down during this extremely challenging half-term.
Other tips that can help:
Use hand sanitisers…
…and keep a stock of tissues for those students that don’t mind sneezing into their hands, sleeves, pencil cases and fellow students. And keep hand wipes at the ready for when that inevitably does happen.
This is essential. Wherever you teach, the heaters will be on and this can be dehydrating for us teachers. Drinking enough water is essential.
Get some sunshine and fresh air
As the days become shorter, make an effort to go outdoors during the hours of daylight.
Drink ginger and lemon tea
This is sure to pack a punch and bring back your zing. The spice from the ginger is great, especially if you start to feel the onset of a sore throat. If you feel something more serious looming, then you might want to try an echinacea tea.
Whatever you do, do not skip meals. If possible, try to increase your intake of fruit and vegetables. If you can eat satsumas, clementines, blueberries and kiwis, they can all help boost your immune system.
Don’t think that you can burn the midnight oil continually and still be at your best during the day. You need to be well rested to maintain your optimum level of energy.
Do me a lemon
When life gives you lemons, make lemon water: cold lemon water, hot lemon water, lemons with carbonated water. As a rich source of vitamin C, lemon juice can help protect the body. Said to have powerful antibacterial properties, lemon juice can also help to fight infection. Drunk with warm water, it can keep the body hydrated, as it provides electrolytes to the body.
Suck throat soothers
Our voices are our most useful assets. We need to protect them against germs, overuse and stress. A few years ago, I ended up with a horrible bronchial infection that brought on a period of asthma. It had been caused by standing outside in the freezing cold, in a blouse and a pair of tailored trousers, during a fire drill. Never again. Stay wrapped up. Protect your throat, neck, chest, as these can be prone to infection when your immune system is flagging.
Ultimately, self-preservation is warfare. If you are well, you will live to fight another day. Looking after yourself means that you can be fighting fit to teach your students the next day, and the next, and the next. So look after yourself – there’s only one you and you’re needed by every student that you teach.
And, of course, roll on Christmas! (Not that I'm counting the days…)
Anjum Peerbacos is a secondary English teacher in London