Tips for teacher wellbeing and mental health

Hi Guys! Chantelle here from Miss Jacobs Little Learners :D

So, we've all been teaching for just over a term now and school holidays have become a distant memory.
Now we are approaching what I like to call 'The Germ Term'. - The weather is changing, daylight savings is over so it's becoming darker much earlier, reports are looming and you are tired. Just tired.

You think to yourself, 'I MUST keep going!' and 'I can do this!' and 'If I can just make it to parent-teacher-interviews!'
But... your immune system is low, you can't remember the last time you did something fun, the kids have snotty noses and have been coughing all over you and BAM! Now you are sick, run down, lethargic and bed ridden for a week. Ugh!

We've all been there.

This post is actually a timely reminder to myself.
As I planned for it and currently sit here writing it, I am reflecting on my day-to-day life and have realised just how much I try to cram into my days. I am guilty of not doing most of the things I have written about here in this post - but its ok I guess, because it is all about making yourself aware of when you need to STOP and SLOW DOWN before you reach the point of no return.

To assist me with this post, I consulted a team of experts! REAL Australian teachers like you and me. I asked them; 
'What advice would you give to teachers to assist them in avoiding becoming burnt out?'. 

A common theme amongst all these tips is 

Here is what they had to say:

Incorporate some form of exercise into your day.

Say what!? I have absolutely no energy after work - as if I can find the time and motivation to exercise!!!?? 
Well, believe it or not, exercise actually gives you MORE energy that what you previously had. There is no need to hightail it over to the gym and slog it out for an hour - a simple walk around your local area will do. Take your dog, the kids, your teacher bestie or go it alone. Some of the teachers at my school brisk walk around the school in the afternoons together before they leave for home - it doesn't have to be too strenuous. Just get out there, get some fresh air and move your body!
You will feel fantastic afterwards and ready to tackle what's left of the day!

Don't be afraid to take a mental health day if you need it.

I can always tell when I am due for a mental health day. It's usually when the kids are ratty (because they can tell I am run down) I am snappy and my patience is wearing thin. I find myself getting annoyed with things I would usually let slide and laugh off and the biggest sign is tension headaches followed by neck pain.

It's important to know that if you are feeling like this, you should really be taking a day off to get yourself back in a better headspace. You are entitled to take a few days off a year when you are sick and mental sickness is just as important as any other sickness - don't feel guilty! Let your daily organiser or AP know that you are not well and you need a day off. You will be amazed at how much better you will feel after just 1 day to yourself to get that balance back in your life and your head back in the right frame of mind.

Put you first!!! You are no good to anyone when you are run down. 
Who wants a cranky, grumpy teacher??

Put aside time for you and your family and friends.

Weekends and school holidays are for relaxing and spending time with loved ones - its not 2 weeks of planning time! Yes, we all use a bit of the holidays to plan and get things ready for the next term but you really need to try to balance it out. Try and limit yourself to only a few work days over the holidays and really stick to it.

Your family and friends love you and enjoy spending quality time with you - so make time for them! 

And don't forget yourself! Treat yourself every now and then. Get a massage or a facial or your nails done or have a shopping day. You really deserve to do something special for yourself from time to time. I like to do one special thing for me each school holidays :)

Close that laptop...SERIOUSLY!

If you are staying back till 6pm each night then there is something wrong. Either your leadership team are expecting way too much from you or you are putting way too high expectations on yourself. In my first few years of teaching,  I was staying back so late every night. To the point the cleaner would be kicking me out. I wasn't the only one though so I thought it was normal. 
Looking back, I have since realised it was due to a combination of unrealistic expectations from leadership and my own time management issues. I wasn't making good use of the time I had. I was also taking on way too much and couldn't let go. I wanted everything to be perfect and I was doing everything myself. 

If this sounds like you, my advice is to choose a reasonable time to leave work each day and stick to it!! Let's face it - the work will still be there tomorrow - there is ALWAYS something to do in our profession!!! I swear, we invent work to be done even if there isn't any.

Staying back late every day does not make you a better teacher than one who leaves at a decent hour. It just makes you more tired.

So close that lap top and GO HOME!!!!

Prioritise & Plan

Write lists and prioritise. You are not going to get it all done this weekend so what is the most important thing? Be realistic when setting your goals and try not to take on too much.

Network & Collaborate

There is no need to re-invent the wheel! Teachers are naturally collaborative people. We love to share what worked for us and what didn't so don't be afraid to ask others for help, advice or lesson ideas. Sometimes, we spend hours searching for engaging and innovative lessons, when all we could have done is ask someone (who I'm sure would love to help) to save all the stress.

There are some AMAZING Facebook groups which I highly recommend you join. We share stories, ideas, resources and offer lots of support to one another. 

Here are a few:

I would like to give a shout out to all the teachers from the Australian Prep Teachers FB group who assisted me with creating this list of tips! You guys rock!

Hi everyone! It's Casey here from Little Lifelong Learners.

Many teachers are now back at school for Term 2 which means many of us are now being stretched to our limits trying to fit everything into our very busy schedules.

Sometimes it feels like we have more things to tick off our to-do list than we actually have time to complete! So today I want to share with you a little time saving tip that I use in my own classroom to help me stay organised and on top of things in my classroom. At the end of the post, you'll also find a link up where you can read more great tips to help save time in your classroom (and you can add your own!)

In my classroom, I have 5 baskets set up in my main teaching space - one for each day of the week. Inside, you will find all of the resources I will need for the week. This might include specific books that I will be reading with my class, numeracy resources, photocopies, WALT and WILF lesson posters and so on.

On Monday morning, I head to school a little earlier than usual so that I can gather my resources and sort them into the baskets.  Next I head to the copier and do all of my photocopying for the week. You will not believe what a difference this makes to my week! I can actually enjoy my lunch while it's still hot! And we all know that's a luxury that is hard to come by some days.

Sometimes a resource is used each day so at the end of the day, that gets moved into the next basket ready for the following day. This system means I don't have to waste precious teaching time searching for resources - it's all there at my fingertips. This also makes it a heap easier if I have to call in sick because it's all ready to go!

I've included a little freebie of my weekly labels so that you can make your very own time saving baskets as well. Just click here to grab a copy from my google drive.

I hope this little time saving tip helps bring some more time to your busy schedule! Please take some time to read through some of the other amazing time saving tips below and even add your own if you're a teacher blogger too!

Hello Everyone!  It's Stephanie from Fishing for Education here and in case you didn't know, I'm originally from Florida, U.S.A.  I moved to Australia in June 2014 and started teaching in Australia that November.

I was doing relief for a few months and was exposed to a variety of "new to me" books.  When I was hired full-time I was exposed to more and found joy in creating lesson plans around some awesome books.

Here are a few books I've really enjoyed along the way!  Hopefully this will help new to the country or new to teaching be exposed to some amazing books.

My Favourite Books

This was the first true Australian book I was exposed to.  I was in a Year 3/4 split class and our History curriculum had us explore early settlers and the impact they had on Australia.  It also focused on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander history.  This is such an AMAZING story. This was great for my Year 3s as it exposed the story and helped explain both sides of the story.  My Year 4s were able to extend their thinking and analyse the story and imagery.  The IMAGERY!  So much detail.  We spent a few days analysing each spread and discussed what they were implying.  

I'm in a Year 4 class this year and my team teacher and I wanted to expose the students to chapter books.  This book has a good 6 chapters, so it wasn't too long for the students.  There are TONS of great vocabulary words related to the time period and boating.  My students were amazed to learn this to be a true story and living in WA they enjoyed the fact they knew what Fremantle was and instantly shouted out "I've been there!"  It has a great theme of courage and determination, not to mention anyone can make a difference.  

We were talking about characters and understanding characters based on actions, thoughts and what they say.  My students were good and understanding fictitious characters.  This book was a great transition into biographies, which we've noticed non-fiction was challenging for our Year 4s.  This book doesn't come off as your typical biography.  The images really seem to come alive as you read and my students thoroughly enjoyed the story.  We then took some time to research more about Banjo Paterson and they were amazed to see him on a $10 note.  (I'm finding myself learning more Australian history than some of my Aussie friends!)  She also has a whole series of famous Australians.  I definitely plan to get some more books in this series.

Here in WA we're now on your School Holidays and ANZAC Day right after our last day of term.  Since the students wouldn't be in school for this day we decided to have our ANZAC service this past Thursday.  We've read a variety of books, but most of my students felt the books to be too sad or overwhelming for them to follow along.  When I read this story I grabbed everyone's attention, even my special needs students who don't like stories about ANZAC as they found it too violent.  The students told me they really enjoyed hearing about the stories just like how the boy in the story did.  We used the books we had read to write about "What is ANZAC Day and why is it important?"  Majority of the writing in my class had information from this book specifically.

I'm still getting exposed to more and more, especially the books on The Children's Book Council of Australia.

What are YOUR favourite Australian Children's Books and why?

I'm sure we ALL would like to learn more about them and be exposed to some amazing books!

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