Step back with a smoothie

28th April 2006 at 01:00

A daily fruit drink, some time to reflect and a brisk walk can add years to a teacher's life. Jon Slater reports

Forget smaller class sizes and better-behaved pupils. Teachers can improve their personal well-being by drinking a fruit smoothie every day and ignoring emails.

Small changes to teachers' lifestyles can make a big difference to their mental and physical health, according to the Teacher Support Network.

Its top 10 tips for teachers are backed by research which shows that relatively minor changes in day-to-day activities can extend a person's life by up to three years.

Teachers worried that disruptive pupils have taken a class beyond their control should spend time reflecting on how many pupils were disruptive and for how long, the network suggests.

"You may be surprised to find that you are in control of most of your class most of the time," its advice says.

Tips also include sharing problems with a friend, taking regular exercise and learning to say "no" to requests from management and colleagues.

The charity's advice was published this week to coincide with the Department of Health's new "Small change, big difference" campaign, which aims to encourage people to improve their diet and take more exercise.

Research by Professor Kay-Tee Khaw of Cambridge university's school of clinical medicine at Addenbrooke's hospital shows that eating an extra piece of fruit each day or doing extra exercise by walking up stairs rather than taking a lift can extend life.

The network recommends fruit as a means to ward off infections and keep energy levels stable. Other suggestions include breaking down big tasks into smaller, more manageable sections and planning activities to make best use of the times when teachers are most alert.

Fiona Allen, head of Corsham primary, in Wiltshire, was named headteacher of the year in 2003 for her efforts to ensure a work-life balance for staff. Teachers at the school have their own personal assistants, are offered annual flu jabs and can raise concerns about workload in an anonymous online survey.

Mrs Allen said: "This list sounds like sensible stuff. The problem is, when you are stressed the little things become big things and it sometimes becomes hard to see the wood for the trees."

She has a tick sheet of tasks and crosses off those completed at the end of each day. She said: "If I haven't done any of those on the list, I write on what I have done and cross them off. It makes me feel better."

Patrick Nash, chief executive of the Teacher Support Network, said:

"Teachers have very busy lives and juggle many things at once, often causing them to neglect their personal well-being."

Perhaps unsurprisingly, two of the tips involve using the charity's services. Mr Nash said: "Teacher Support Network's trained coaches and counsellors can help teachers and lecturers to work through issues of concern, be they large or small."


Top 10 tips

* Let off steam about work-related problems to friends and colleagues

* Do some physical activity - for example a brisk 20-minute walk each day

* Add a piece of fruit, a smoothie and a salad to breakfast, lunch or dinner

* Learn to say `no' or at least learn not to say `yes' to requests from management before you have assessed their impact on your workload

* Plan your activities for times of day when you are most alert

* Do not procrastinate. Break down tasks you are putting off into smaller sections

* Avoid distractions, such as checking emails during planning, preparation and assessment time. Put your phone on voicemail if you don't want to be disturbed

* Problems with disruptive pupils? Jot down the number of pupils who were disruptive and for how long. You may be pleasantly surprised

* Call Teacher Support Line free on 08000 562 561 for support and counselling

* For a wide range of resources and fact sheets on issues of concern, see www.

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