Schools can be pressurised places at the best of times.
But you may find particular points in the school year are particularly hectic; eg when you are report writing or marking coursework in addition to your usual workload. And in your first few years you may be tempted to take on more than you should.
If you’re involved in running extra-curricular activities such as drama or sport, you may find yourself rushed off your feet in the run-up to the end-of-term production or school sports day.
Find your pressure points
Being aware of potential ‘pressure points’ can help you plan ahead, so that you don’t become overloaded.
Being aware of potential ‘pressure points’ can help you plan ahead, so that you don’t become overloaded. At the beginning of the school year, spend a couple of hours filling in your diary. Make a note of any important deadlines, such as reports and coursework marking, and aim to start at least three to four weeks before each deadline.
Setting yourself manageable daily or weekly targets is an effective way to ensure big projects are completed on time. It will also help prevent you from feeling overwhelmed.
Dealing with stress
- You have a professional responsibility to monitor your health and wellbeing.
- Recognise your stress, and be aware of the issues you face at work and at home.
- Take action. Deal with one thing at a time, and ask for support. Involve your colleagues if the issue is an organisational one.
- Change your thinking. Step back and take a fresh look at the situation.
- Make boundaries - something produced in three hours will be different from something produced in one hour, but is it any better?
- Keep fit. Exercise regularly and make sure you’re eating healthily. Try to avoid increasing your intake of alcohol and caffeine, and although smoking may seem to help, it really doesn’t. A healthy lifestyle makes it easier for our bodies to cope with the effects of stress.
- Rest and relax. At the busiest times, keep at least one day of the weekend free and try to avoid taking work home on at least one evening.
- Make sure you get sufficient sleep each night.
- Avoid paper shifting.
- Visit your doctor if things aren’t improving.
- Speak up when work expectations and demands are too much. Senior staff need to be aware of pressures in order to address them.
- Others will not expect you to know everything or have all the answers - so don’t expect this of yourself.
- Prioritise - try to ‘work smart, not long’. Set yourself a certain amount of time per task, and try not to get caught up in unproductive activities.
- Take proper breaks. This can sometimes be difficult when you have responsibilities out of the classroom, but do your best to break for lunch at least, and get out of the classroom.
- Draw a line between work and home. If you do need to bring work home, make sure you have a designated working area that you can close the door on.
- Try to ensure that family, friends, exercise and leisure activities don’t suffer because of long working hours.
- Assess your work-life balance in collaboration with your colleagues if you can. The more visible the process, the more likely it is to have an effect.
- Remember you are not alone. There are people within your school who will support you, along with ATL, your local authority and independent organisations such as the Teacher Support Network. To ask for help is not to admit defeat, it is a sign of strength.
This text has been adapted from the Teacher Support Network (TSN) publication, Starting out. To download the publication, see the TSN website.
Help and support
For further advice on this issue, ATL members can speak to their school rep, their branch secretary or their regional official. They can also call the London (020 7930 6441), Cardiff (029 2046 5000), Belfast (028 9078 2020) or Edinburgh (0131 272 2748) offices or email firstname.lastname@example.org
For out of hours enquiries, call the out of office hours helpline on 020 7782 1612 (Monday-Friday, 5-8pm during term time).
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Ready, steady, teach!
Knowing where to turn for help and advice before you start your student placement and first teaching job will assist you to thrive, not just survive. This handy booklet - new for 2013 - not only includes tips on things like finding your first teaching job, settling in during the first few weeks, parents' evenings and writing reports, but also answers commonly asked questions and explains how ATL can help and support you. This edition replaces two previous ATL publications, Into the Classroom and Ready, steady, teach!, which were specifically for student teachers and newly qualified teachers respectively.
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