Let off steam for smooth school life

26th May 2006 at 01:00
Tired? Stressed? Filled with dread every time you walk into the classroom?

New teachers who feel overwhelmed by school life can sort out their problem purely by drinking a fruit smoothie, investing in an answerphone, and going for a long walk every day, according to the Teacher Support Network.

The charity has published a list of its top 10 tips designed to ease over-stressed teachers' daily lives. These tips involve relatively minor changes to the daily routine. For example, teachers are recommended to add a piece of fruit, a salad and a fruit smoothie to their daily diet. TSN says: "This will help to keep colds and infections at bay, and to keep energy levels stable throughout the day."

It also recommends that they undertake regular physical activity, such as a brisk 20-minute walk every day. And they should avoid distractions to their working routine, for example, putting their phone on voicemail and avoiding email if they are faced with a large pile of marking.

A good bitching session is also good for the new teacher's soul. TSN says:

"Share work-related issues or niggles with a friend, family member or colleague. You may find that letting off steam is all you need to begin to resolve the situation."

And seemingly unmanageable situations are often better than they feel. TSN suggests that teachers facing problems with disruptive pupils should write down the number of pupils who were disruptive, and for how long. It says:

"You may be surprised to find you are in control of your classes most of the time."

New teachers are also recommended to plan their most taxing work for the times of day when they are most alert, and not to agree to requests from management until they have assessed the impact on their own workload. And they should avoid procrastination, instead breaking their work down into manageable chunks.

Unsurprisingly, the final two tips recommend that teachers make use of the charity's helpline and online services.

"The physical, emotional and mental health of teachers is key to the effectiveness of their teaching," says Patrick Nash, TSN chief executive.

"Teachers have very busy lives and juggle many things at once, often causing them to neglect their personal wellbeing. Small changes may, in turn, make a big difference to their overall health and work-life balance."

TSN's tips were published to coincide with the Department of Health's "small change, big difference" campaign, which is encouraging all people to improve their diet and take more exercise.

Sara Bubb, of London university's institute of education, agrees that it is vital for new teachers to eat and sleep healthily. "Without those things, people become more stressed," she says. "Then it's a downward spiral.

"But the most important thing is to notice stress in yourself and nip it in the bud. When people leave it too long, it becomes unmanageable. Then they get ill. Rather than sticking your head in the sand, recognise the problem and address it."

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