Now is the time to look after yourself

26th September 2003 at 01:00
Advice for teachers in their early career

The start of the school year is hectic for everyone, and after the summer holidays it can be a shock to the system - like running the marathon without doing any training. Yes, you've been planning and setting things up, but you've been doing so at your own pace. Suddenly, you've gone from second gear straight into fifth and someone else is pressing the accelerator.

On The TES new teacher forum website*, someone cried for help in their second week: "I can't get my head round everything that I need to remember to do. The days are rolling into each other and I'm getting more and more tired. I don't seem to have enough hours in the day."

There's no easy solution to workload. Starting any new job is going to be tough. And stress makes you more tired. This is the time schools should be thinking about how to remodel their workforce so that people don't flounder. Speak up about the things that you have to do which don't make good use of time.

Don't try to keep things in your head - there's too much to handle. Use post-it notes, your diary or school planner to make lists of what needs doing. It's easy to be vague, but you need specific tasks that you can tick off. When you get overwhelmed by demands, ask someone to help you prioritise.

You've got to look after yourself, and that means prioritising. The number one priority is your health and well-being. When you're busy, the easiest thing to do is to forget to look after yourself. Another person on the forum said they'd fallen asleep at the wheel on the drive home. Nothing is worth that.

Everyone knows that they function better with good nutrition and rest, but these seem to be the first things to be neglected. Get organised at weekends so that you have enough suitable food to last the week. Internet supermarket shopping has saved me three hours at weekends and a lot of hassle.

If you work without decent breaks your effectiveness will be diminished.

You will also notice the signs of stress - problems with sleep, eczema, and so on. They are signals to you from your body that should not be ignored.

Don't overcommit yourself, and certainly don't offer to do extras to earn favour.

Most of all, tell people at school and at home about how you're feeling and ask them to help in whatever way they possibly can.

* Sara Bubb's 'The Insider's Guide for New Teachers'

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