Wellbeing Month – Work/life Balance

This month I started the very first Teacher Wellbeing Week in my FB group ‘The Teachers’ Tribe’ (join here if you haven’t already https://mailchi.mp/76e1652adad4/wellbeingweek).

Each month I am going to bring you a week of information, videos and fun things on a topic to do with wellbeing, and then for the rest of the month, we will continue the journey together.

Why? Because teacher wellbeing matters, and it is more than just yoga and herbal tea.

This month we are focusing on work/life balance, with the first 7 days of the month being a work/life balance intensive. Here is part of what I have shared so far…

Work/life balance in the teacher space is often a dream, a utopia, an untouchable space. We dream of never taking work home, of having work-free weekends and time to ourselves, oh we dream! But here’s this thing… this doesn’t have to be a dream, it can be real.

Work/life balance is sold to us in a way which makes us think work is for work and home is for home, and if we don’t have this than we don’t have work/life balance. Now, what I am about to say may shock you, but this just isn’t the case. Work/life balance doesn’t have to look like this at all. It is absolutely not the only version of what work/life balance looks like, and if it isn’t possible for you, then stop chasing it. That’s right, STOP!

So what can you do instead?

Well instead, you need to write your journey of work/life balance. You need to decide what it looks like to you, what you can achieve and what fits in with your already crazy life.

So, what does work/life balance look like to you?

Only you can decide this, and there is certainly not a right or wrong answer, only one that works for you. All that matters is that you are happy with it.

Something to keep in mind is that work/life balance will look different each day. No day is the same which means you need to be prepared for each day to be a little different. Maybe one day you achieve balance by getting to the gym, maybe one day it’s not taking work home, and on the weekend it’s a sleep in and work-free day.

Keep this in mind when thinking about how you want work/life balance to be. Make sure you set goals in this space that are achievable. No point trying to achieve balance by planning to get to the gym by 5pm when you have a staff meeting that day, or working on nutrition and healthy eating but no time to cook or plan healthy meals.

Make sure you choose things which are easy and something you can do now. This doesn’t have to be every day, sometimes we just can’t do that, but do try put time aside for the balance part a few times a week, the life bit will just happen on its own.

Don’t wait until you retire to start that hobby you have always wanted to take up…

Whenever older staff are retiring, or the conversation of not working comes up, I am instantly one to put my hand up to say I 100% would be OK with doing this now. Don’t get me wrong, I love my work, but the idea of not working and being able to take up all of the hobbies I dream of doing sounds great to me!

But here’s the thing, why wait until I retire to do the things I want to do?The Teachers' Coach

I have been a bit up and down lately (let’s just blame this on normal work and life stress) and when working with my coach (because we should all have one), she asked me what I do for creativity, as an expression of me, where my juices flow… well, nothing really, I thought.

To be honest this shocked me. I am someone who loves being creative and crafty, I always took an art class at school and I love to doodle and draw my way through meetings and PL. What I realised though, is that I have absolutely let this part of me go, or rather, put on hold.

It wasn’t a conscious decision, just something that has happened over time, as life got busy, routine took over, along with longer work hours and trying to balance everything out, my creative outlets have completely disappeared.

Growing up you would find me in my room after school dabbling in all kinds of things; jewellery making, drawing, sewing, baking, knitting, painting… I even painted a giant sun mural on my wall when I was about 15.

Now though, I just don’t do anything. I have tried a few times to get back into it, but this more often than not results in me taking some kind of class, buying all the resources to do this at home, where unfortunately the items just become dust collectors and never reach their full potential.

I have a cupboard full of silicone bakeware from the time I was going to take up vegan baking, a selection of rope from the time I did a macramé class and was going to make something extravagant for my wall, and a bag of stones I collected from the beach from the time I was going to make some stone art for family, and this is all in the last 18 months.

I think I need a hobby!

I mean, I actually need to take up and do one of the hobbies I have started…
I don’t need to wait until I retire to take these things up, what I need to do is make them part of my weekly routine NOW!

I am aware of all the great things having a hobby can do for you, yet for some reason, I think these don’t apply to me. I am wrong though. I need a creative outlet just as much as you do.

So here I am committing to taking up macramé and stone art (I’ll leave the baking this time). Watch this space, there are some cool things coming your way soon!!!

Why asking for help is the best teaching strategy you will ever use!

I was recently asked how I got so good at teaching, how I know so much and why I have a large suite of skills in the teaching and learning space.

Apart from this being a massive compliment, it was also a bit of stump for me. How? I don’t really know… I have over 12 years experience, surely that’s why?

I sat with this for a while, playing the questions over and over in my head, when I finally realised how…

In my first years of teaching, there was no denying I was eager to please and ready to do my best. I certainly didn’t know what I know now, and there was so much I had to learn as a new teacher, and that’s exactly why I did. I learnt.

At every moment possible I asked for help. I was constantly in my mentor’s office asking for help on this and that, having her in my classroom model lessons for me and help me, set up groups. I was like a sponge, and probably like that annoying student who never stops asking questions too.

Asking for help was the best thing I could have done as a new teacher. I learnt so much, was keen and eager and certainly was not afraid to fail.

Asking for help can sometimes make you think people will judge you, making you wonder if you are good enough, or that you don’t know what you are doing when you’re should or that you’re failing at teaching.

This isn’t the case.

Asking for help is a strength, not a weakness. It sees you improve and be even better. It shows other you too are here to learn, grow and improve. Not because you aren’t good enough, but because learning never ends, for our students and us.

Be brave. Ask for help.

Lean on those around you. Ask your colleagues and teacher friends, or the teacher you don’t really know but who everyone says is amazing, ask your school leader or principal, ask in your network or neighbouring school. The great thing about teachers is that they are always willing to help.

What do you need help in?
Who can help you?
Can I help you?

Asking for help is the best thing you can do, no matter where it is you are needing help, or where you want to improve.

What you need to know before we begin semester 2!

With the first half of the year over, it is a great time to reflect on the year so far, as well as begin to think about the next half.

At this time if the year though, it is common to hear teachers comment thing like: 
‘OMG, the year is half over!”
‘Where did that half of the year go?’
‘I feel like we have hardly achieved anything!’
‘I have so much to do in the next 2 terms!’

And yes, this is all true. The year goes quick, it can feel like we haven’t done much at all and like there is way more to do than we can fit into the rest of the year. In fact, if you are new to teaching, you need to know this is how you will feel every year, and if you are an experienced teacher, well, here we are again.
At this time of year though, I like to take some time to acknowledge what has been done, and also set some new goals for the rest of the year.

So, as you read this, I want you to pause, grab a pen and paper and write 5 things you have achieved so far this year already…. DO IT NOW!

There is always something to celebrate; the new reading approach you started, having all your books marked on time for student feedback, getting reports in on time (finally), actually committing to your wellbeing and not doing work on weekends…

I promise you, you can find 5 things, and if you haven’t done it, do it NOW!

Next step, let’s think about the second half of the year.
What are your new goals?
What do you want to learn about?
What do you want to try next?

The best way to decide on your new goal is to ask yourself these two questions:

  1. What challenges have you had that you want to improve?
  2. What area do you want to stretch yourself in?

Now, as most teachers do, there will be a list with, let’s be honest, more on it than you can do, so here is my advice. Pick 2 goals for the remainder of the year. 1 for school, and one for home.
Focus on these, do these well, and commit to having these embedded by the end of the year.

It is having goals that keep us focused and moving forward, it can also help with the overwhelm we all face. We can’t avoid the pressures from outside, which come from whole school or government initiatives, but we can give ourselves something to focus on which we have chosen too. This will give you joy in moments of frustration, something to always come back to and a real sense of accomplishment once you tick these goals off.

 

I’d love to know what your goals are, let me know by commenting on this blog or sharing in our FB Group ‘The Teachers’ Tribe’

Work/Life balance means sometimes doing more work

So here’s the thing. We all want work/life balance, but work/life balance comes in two parts; work and life.

This means that whether we like it or not, as much as we have life, there is also work, and sometimes this means rolling your sleeves up, putting in the hours and getting the job done!

There are times as a teacher where our workload can be a little, or even a lot higher. For me, I find this occurs around 2 key points. Reports and end of the term.

Reports are probably the most time-consuming part of our job. The hours spent analysing student work and assessment, moderating with colleagues, compiling and writing comments and ticking boxes, it’s a big task. End of term for me is similar because I am a believer that if you do the work at the end of the term for the next term then you really can go off and enjoy your holidays.

This is all part of work/life balance.

If you want to enjoy holidays or weekends, than at these crucial points in time the workload during the day simply must increase. Otherwise, the choice you are making is to take work home and complete it on weekends and holidays, now if this works for you then that’s great, but for me, I like my life part of work/life balance to be exactly that – life!

Now because this is my choice, around report writing time and end of term I simply work harder, more hours and stay later to get the job done. I choose two nights a week to stay until between 6 and 7 pm to do reports, and at end of term another late night or to make sure the next term is organised to where I know I won’t have to do work in the holidays and can start week 1 day 1 as if it was tomorrow.

What does this mean? Well, by doing a few late nights, putting in the time, and getting organised I am now free to enjoy weekends and holidays, rest and relax without the doom and gloom work cloud looming over my head and can switch my brain off completely knowing everything I need for when school goes back is taken care of.

For me, this is self-care, this is work/life balance, this is what allows me to not have to work at home – EVER! This means I can do all the things I love; travel, spend time with family, read, play, be outside, rest, relax, laugh, sleep in and try every new coffee shop in town, EVERY weekend and EVERY holiday!

 

Now I understand this option isn’t available for everyone, but you do have the choice to decide when you can work hard and when you need time for other things. You have a choice around how you use your time. The thing here is to use it so that it serves you, whatever that may be for you. For me, it is a no-work holiday and no work on the weekend. If you feel most of your holidays or weekends are spent working, especially at these points of time through the year, ask yourself where you can make some small changes to allow you to have better work/life balance?

Stuck? contact me and mention his blog and we can work it out together.

I have been slack with my blog, because, well, life happens… and it’s OK

Sometimes Life happens…

I have been a bit slack on the blog front lately, I am not sure why, I was in a really good routine with this, then life happened, and I lost it.

It can happen that easily. We are onto a good thing, weeks or even months can pass and we don’t skip a beat, then all of a sudden life happens, we lose our routine, pick up bad habits and are back right where we started. So what do you do?


Well, first of all, know life does happen, because you are, after all, only human, which means you never really know what may come your way. As fast as it took for Harry Potter to be scared with a lightning bolt for life, we can lose all routing and things we thought we had control over. Just like that.

Now don’t beat yourself up about it. I’m not. I mean the first step to getting back on track is having an awareness that things have gone sideways, and let’s be honest, my blog writing certainly has. But here I am, picking myself up, and getting back into it.

You see, when life does happen, we need to go with it. Ride the waves. But as soon as we are back with two feet on the ground it is time to reassess and get back into it, which means for me Thursday is Blog Day – No Matter What!!!

We have all had good intentions before, mine with a blog every Thursday, which did last a good few months, to be more active, lose weight, read for 20 minutes a day (another one I am working on), give more time to family, be a better listener, stay calm when life doesn’t go according to plan, but we also all know that it just doesn’t happen like this, and that is OK!

Now you know that, you can let it be. Now that doesn’t mean stop forever, it just means let go of the guilt of letting it go in the first place, and when you are ready, get back to it. Or maybe not even when you are ready, but when you can.

If we always wait until we are ‘ready’ then it may never some, ‘ready’ leaves too much time and space for ‘I’m not ready’. This is just your ego keeping you safe. Instead, ask yourself ‘Can I now….’. If the answer is yes, do it. No but’s, maybes or when I am ready. Just do it.


Life happens. We fall off the track sometimes. It is getting back on though that we must commit to.
So here I am, committing to a blog every Thursday, just for you, so keep an eye out and make sure you keep reading them.

5 Tips to Starting the Day Right!

Where are my shoes?
I don’t have anything for lunch?
What was it I needed to remember to bring in today?
Sound familiar?

Too many of us are starting our day like this.
Rushed. Frazzled. Overwhelmed before the day even starts.
Have you ever stopped to consider how this may be affecting the rest of your day?
If you are starting your day rushed and frantic, it’s more than likely how you will continue your day as well.
Getting to this point happens pretty quickly and pretty easily.
Standing in the kitchen sipping your cup of coffee when all of a sudden you glance at the clock and panic hits. Instantly your emotion changes from calm to manic. Just like that. Once we are in this state it’s hard to come back down, and this really can change your day.

Here are my 5 tips for ensuring you have a calm start to the day and make it to school without feeling stressed, frazzled or overwhelmed.

1. Give everything a home.
Frazzled mornings can very much be a result of spending valuable time looking for things. Instead, ensure everything you own has a home and put it back there as soon as you finish using it. Your keys, TV remote, diary – everything.

2. Organise yourself the night before
Just like you did when you were a kid, pack your bag, make your lunch and lay your clothes out. It will save you so much time. Take it one step further and make all your lunches and choose all your outfits on the weekend. Imagine the time you will have each week if you do this!

 

3. Keep a list
Don’t rely on your brain. It’s already too busy. Need to remember something? Write a list and check it before you head out the door each day.

4. Keep it real
Don’t over commit. There are only so many things you can do of a morning. Usually, that is getting ready and making it to school. Don’t plan on getting heaps done before the school day starts, this can very quickly lead to a rushed and frantic state as you try and get things done before the bell rings. Instead, make sure everything is in order before you leave the day before.

5. Develop a routine
Your brain loves routine. The predictability and sense of knowing what to expect helps with being calm and organised. Develop a routine and stick to it. This way you know what to expect, what to do and that everything is taken care of.

Try one thing today and make tomorrow morning even better 🙂

Amy x

Morning Rituals – How to set your day up for success.

I’m sure you have heard of the different things successful people do to start their day. I’m sure you’ve heard of the 5am Club, the people who get more things done before you even get to work and people who say that doing things soon after you wake are the best times to ensure success.

Myself, I’m a big believer of morning rituals. How you start your day really does shape how you see your day. How you start your day can be what impacts whether or not you’re in a good mood or a bad mood, able to see the positive or the negative, whether or not you’re calm, relaxed and easing into the day or whether or not you feel rushed, anxious or already overwhelmed before you even enter the workplace.

It’s the morning rituals that we go through that not only shape our day but also shape us, they allow us to check in with who we want to be and they allow us to ensure that the path we start on at the start of each day is the path we end on. Morning rituals are more than just a ritual to get you out bed and out the door quickly, they are designed to become our habits, the things we do consistently.

Morning rituals are about checking in with yourself, they are about tuning into your brain and your thought patterns. Morning rituals are designed to ensure that you’re healthy, energised, feeling positive and have everything you need to start your day. Morning rituals are like lesson starters, a tuning-in activity. What you doing your morning ritual allows you to set the scene, it allows you to capture your audience, it allows you to get your brain ready and prepared to take on any obstacle with ease. If you ask any successful person they’ll tell you that a morning ritual isn’t just about making sure that you’ve had a strong cup of coffee and checking your Facebook feed, morning rituals include things like setting your goals, revisiting goals you have already set, exercise, meditating taking your vitamins, habits which ensure that you able to take on your day in a way that will move you forward.

Imagine someone who has a morning ritual which goes like this; their alarm goes off but they hit snooze three times before they have even managed to roll out of bed, when their feet hit the floor they’re tired, they yawn, they slouch over, they stumble and fumble as they try to get up and slowly make their way to the kitchen. Here they boil the kettle, and before they’ve even really opened their eyes, they down a cup of coffee. A second cup of coffee follows them into the lounge room, where they sit down and turn on the morning news and watch headlines, they see nothing but sad stories, doom and gloom, and things which just don’t inspire us. Before long they realise they are already running late. They rush to have a shower and throw whatever clothes on they can find, they search for their car keys and head out the door, their lunch is still in the fridge, their laptop is on their kitchen bench. Then, because they’re rushing, they find themselves stuck in traffic, they find themselves racing against the clock and realising they’re going to be late. When they arrive at work they are already filled with stress, overwhelm and are annoyed at themselves because they’ve allowed themselves to start their day like this. Now because this person has started the day in such a bad place, everything else that happens to them during the day is going to be even harder, even more stressful, even more overwhelming, because if we don’t start our day in the right place, everything else that comes our way seems even harder to manage.

Here’s a different story. This person starts the day out with their alarm going off, as they hit snooze they know that they have 5 minutes to lie in bed and practice their affirmations and some deep breathing. When the alarm goes off again they know that they need to get out of bed. They gently stand up and stretch, walk towards the kitchen boil the kettle and make themselves a cup of hot water, green tea, lemon and water or apple cider vinegar, something that is good for their insides and for waking up the body. This is followed by some journalling, some writing of gratitude or writing goals and things are they aiming to achieve. Some days this is even followed by 5 or 10 minutes of meditation where this person gets to check in with themselves, do more deep breathing and focus on what it is that they are driving towards achieving, maybe this is a goal, maybe this is clarity, maybe this is success, maybe this is acceptance, maybe it’s confidence or maybe it’s trust. By doing this, this person is now in a calm state and it means that when they have their shower and get dressed they can do it being calm and mindful. This person heads out the door grabbing everything they need, their lunch, their water bottle, their keys, their work items, and they calmly and easily make their way to the car. This person has left that was more than enough time to get to work on time and when they’re there, they have time to grab another cup of coffee, check in with friends, colleagues and people in the workplace. They’re able to set up for their day and when they’re ready they can begin their work in a calm, happy, mindful state. Because this person has started their day with solid rituals and their body knew what to expect, it means that this is the habit of how they feel and their brain naturally feels calm. Whatever else comes during the day, they approach in a more mindful, positive, vibrant way because they’ve allowed themselves to set this up right at the start of the day before they even leave the house.

So, thinking about these two examples, how do you start your day? What are your morning rituals? Do you have any morning rituals? Maybe you’ve never thought about this, and this is OK, but now you have read this article, ask yourself, how do you want to start your day? What changes could make? Maybe start with not pressing snooze three times? Maybe get things ready the night before? Maybe it’s starting the day with a drink that’s going to energize your body; some hot water with lemon or a cup of green tea and following that with some journalling or some goal-setting or just a few deep breaths.

TEACHERS – Work hard, play hard!

As the week, term and year goes on, it can be easy to get caught in the whirlwind of teaching. The displays, the marking, the gossip… all of this can quickly and once again take over our lives, and we are left wondering, ‘What happened to our holidays, to the fun, to that feeling of being free?’.

All of a sudden our feelings are taken up with the need to rush, to be busy, to feel like it never ends, and the lightness we felt in the holidays is long gone, a distant memory.

Now unfortunately, we can’t be on holidays forever, but what we want to try and do is keep some of those feelings around.

How do we do that?

Through play.

Yes play.

No – your’re not too big to play, in fact you need it, it is essential to down time, to happiness, to relaxing.

Play shouldn’t just be saved for when you are on holiday. Play is essential to your wellbeing, and is needed more than every 10 weeks.

In an article on First Things First  they report that:

The National Institute for Play (NIP) believes that play can dramatically transform our personal health, our relationships, the education we provide our children and the capacity of our corporations to innovate

 

And reported benefits of play to be:

  • According to the NIP, play is the gateway to vitality. By its nature, it is uniquely and intrinsically rewarding.
  • Play generates optimism, seeks out novelty, makes perseverance fun and leads to mastery. Additionally, it gives the immune system a bounce, fosters empathy and promotes a sense of belonging and community. Each of these byproducts are indices of personal health, and their shortage predicts impending health problems and personal fragility.
  • It also enhances relationships. The NIP cites studies that indicate that play refreshes a long-term adult-adult relationship.
  • Some of the hallmarks of its refreshing, oxygenating action are: humor, the enjoyment of novelty and the capacity to share a lighthearted sense of the world’s ironies. Other hallmarks are the enjoyment of mutual storytelling and the capacity to openly divulge imagination and fantasies.
  • Playful communications and interactions, when nourished, produce a climate for easy connection and a deepening, more rewarding relationship – true intimacy. Who wouldn’t want this in a relationship?

 

So with this in mind, why wouldn’t you be longing for holidays again, especially if it is the only chance you have to play.

So how do you play? Well play is different for everyone – it is playing in a team sport and having fun (not competitive), rollerblading or surfing, it could be laughing and joking with friends or playing angry birds or candy crush or a good old fashioned board game . Whatever it is for you, make time to do it often, more than just in the holidays. Bring it into your classroom, the staffroom, even meetings could do with some play every now and then.

Sometimes it’s ok to play. Life is busy. We work hard, give time to others, our students, our family and children, our job, our routine. Days pass with familiar events. I challenge you to stop and play

We know for our students play is vital to their development, their well-being, their creativity, and truth is, it is the same for you.

Take some time to play while you can.

Amy – The Teachers’ Coach