Wellbeing: 3 questions to be a better you

We measure pupil progress, but what about our own? Jo Steer shares questions to help you take stock of your wellbeing

Jo Steer

Teacher wellbeing: Jo Steer shares three questions that you need to ask yourself to take stock

As teachers, we talk a great deal about "closing the gap" between where students are, where they need to be and where data targets claim that they should be.

After all, that’s how we ensure progress.

But what about our progress? How far are we from the place or person we’d like to be?

Quick read: Teacher wellbeing: how to boost emotional intelligence

Wellbeing: The truth about mental health in schools

Want to know more? Why the ‘popular kids’ need teachers’ help

As our lives increasingly revolve around doing well professionally, there seemingly isn’t the time or energy to reflect on how we’re doing – or feeling – personally. 

Worse still, where we’re clear that we aren’t happy in our current situation, many of us feel powerless to change it.

So what’s the answer? How can we close the gap?

Teacher wellbeing: What do you want?

For a start, we need to work out what we really want from life. What does your ideal day look like? Are there skills or qualities that you’re looking to develop?

Are there sports or hobbies that you’d like to pursue? Do you long to be more confident, more energetic, more present? 

Get a clear image in your head of the life that you’d like to create and the person you’d need to be to create this.    

What’s stopping you?

Next, ask yourself: why aren’t I there yet? Do you long to exercise your way to energy but repeatedly hit the snooze button?

Would you like to find peace and quiet, but find yourself in need of noise and distraction? Are the demands of school causing you to deprioritise everything and everyone else? 

Be honest about the choices that you have or haven’t made that have brought you to this point. Once you’ve pin-pointed A and B on the map, you can begin plotting out how to get there.

How can you form the right habits?

Consciously or unconsciously, you’ve created a series of daily rituals and routines, and repeating them has brought you to the place where you currently are. 

So decide what habits are needed in order to move in a new direction, and set about doing them.

Of course, it’s not always so simple. Just because we know what we should be doing doesn’t mean that it’s easy to do it – or not do the complete opposite.

If this is the case, try the following:

  • Ditch your favourite plan. If it didn’t work the last 10,000 times, the chances are it won’t this time either. Try an approach that you haven’t failed at before.

  • Don’t rely on willpower. It’s usually the first out of the door after a hard week at school. Instead, change your perspective. Learning to view exercise, for example, as “me time” rather than a chore, means that you’ll have a much easier time getting yourself to do it. Momentum will take you the rest of the way.

  • Plan for your worst day, not your best. Consider what you’re trying to do and what will likely lead to poor choices. Is there any way to prepare for this? Take pre-emptive measures against yourself. 

  • Overthinking and making excuses? Try Mel Robbin’s "Five-Second Rule". Simply put, it’s a five-second countdown towards action – a perfect distraction for those moments in between deciding we’re going to do something and talking ourselves out of it.

5,4,3,2,1 – get out of bed.

5,4,3,2,1 – speak your mind.

5,4,3,2,1 – start writing.

5,4,3,2,1 – put the marking down. 

Jo Steer is a teacher and experienced leader of SEND interventions

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