Teachers have so many skills – but the endless capacity to give, give and then give some more is probably their greatest.
Constantly tapping these vast reserves of generosity is the reason why at the end of the term teachers are exhausted.
But now we have had a few weeks off, hopefully refilling our reservoirs of goodwill, and so it is probably a good time to cook up some strategies for the new year.
Underlying these must be a review of what can make this job easier and more enjoyable for all those involved.
1. Create time for yourself
We all know that almost as soon as we start in September, the holidays will be a dim and distant memory. So now is the time to work out how you can create time for yourself. It is important to recognise that your wellbeing really is your responsibility, and no manager can help you much. Therefore, recognise what is important and what is filler and realise that the extensive "to do" list you have created will never be completed. Most importantly, create time for "you".
2. Tackle the weekend and evening issue
Decide that you are not going to work every evening or every weekend, and have a cut-off time that you actually stick to. Go home early at least one day a week, and stop feeling guilty about it: in fact, if you celebrate it, others will follow and be comforted by it. It is essential that we learn, as teachers, when we have done enough, and recognise that our homes are not an extension of our classrooms.
3. Remember, you do have a family and hobbies
Make sure you have non-negotiable family time at least once a week, and keep doing those things you really enjoy doing. It is essential you do not let the job take it away from you. These activities ensure you can turn off from the job and are crucial for your wellbeing.
4. Try to use your time better
The longer and harder you work, it doesn't necessarily mean it is better for you or more beneficial for your pupils. Set a time limit for school work. Do more marking with the children; stop reinventing the wheel and stop having a piece of paper for everything or planning to submission. Ensure three boxes are not carried out to the car each evening. If meetings take over your life, let those who call them know the effect on you. Essentially, we must ensure each day is not a 12-hour slog.
This all may sound too simplistic, but perhaps that just shows what we have to do – do the simple things and do them well. There is no doubt the children will get a better you. Teaching requires you to be continually at the top of your game – not exhausted.
Colin Harris led a school in a deprived area of Portsmouth for more than two decades. His last two Ofsted reports were 'outstanding' across all categories
To read more of Colin's articles, visit his back catalogue