New School Year Resolutions

This post has also been published as a guest post on Schoolwell.

Many of us set new year resolutions in January, but those of us who work in schools have another opportunity to set goals: the start of a new school year. This year I’ve got various career-orientated goals, but what I want to talk about here are my wellbeing targets. This concept may be alien to many of you… but it shouldn’t be. You are a human being first, a teacher second.

As someone who has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, I perhaps focus on my mental health more than average person. This culture needs to change. Everyone needs to focus on their mental health just as much as their physical health. Make time for yourself. Yes, get your work done, of course. But when you’ve done enough, treat yourself. Here’s a personal example from today: we had training after work and then I went back up to my lab and marked a set of books. It was half past 5 by the time I left. I came home and had a bath before having a cup of tea. Your “treats” don’t need to be extravagant, just all about you.

However, my physical health is actually the focus of one of my wellbeing goals. Since our wedding 18 months ago I have put on about a stone and a half; my goal is to lose this extra weight, and perhaps a teeny bit more. I’m being realistic, and that in itself is important. I am never going to be a size 10. When I started wearing adult clothes I was already a size 12-14. I have spent most of my adult life at size 20, and I am surprisingly fairly body confident. I was at my biggest after graduation – I spent several months revising in the library eating a lot of chocolate – when I was a size 24. I was size 20 when I got married, and I’m still a size 20 now. Most of my weight is around the tummy, whereas most of my clothes are fitted around the bust, so going up and down a bit in weight doesn’t affect my dress size at all. I don’t want to lose loads of weight, firstly because I don’t want to buy a whole new wardrobe, but secondly because I’m fundamentally happy as I am, as is my husband.

So, my husband and I have started Joe Wicks’ Lean in 15 programme, and we’ve joined the gym. Luckily I didn’t have to pay as teachers from our school can use the neighbouring gym for free between the hours of 3.30 and 5.30. I normally aim to leave school by 5 so half an hour in the gym is perfect for me. As part of my induction I had a Bodytrax evaluation. I had to stand on a very technical scale which measured my fat and muscle % and all sorts of other wizardry, as well as my weight, of course. It wasn’t particularly pleasant reading, but I’ve found out that as well as having a high fat % – no surprise there – I also have a high muscle %, which means that my BMI score is a bit misleading as it implies I’m more overweight than perhaps I am. For anyone not into fitness, or science, BMI is actually fairly unreliable, despite being widely used by medical professionals, because muscle weighs more than fat. Therefore, muscly people get skewed results which suggest they’re overweight when in fact they’re perfectly healthy.

With regards to my mental wellbeing, my aim is simply to maintain a work-life balance. Some teachers I’ve spoken to don’t acknowledge this as a concept; I’m not going to try and persuade them. I think getting in to work at 7.45 and leaving at 5 is enough. Occasionally I will bring a box of books home to mark, but only if I’ve left early on a Friday, for example. Many teachers I follow on Twitter advocate leaving work early at least once a week – Friday is my chosen day. I also leave earlier on Wednesdays, but that’s to do tutoring so I’m not sure that really counts.

So far this term I am being much more productive in the 45 minutes I have in the morning before briefing, and I’m wasting less time in my free periods too. This has meant that I’m currently planned right up to and including Friday. I’m going to try and keep this far ahead as it makes me less stressed in the long term. It also means that I can spend my free time over the next couple of days doing marking instead of planning. I’m trying to do my marking little and often rather than leave it all until it needs to be done. Our school policy is to mark the books every 7th lesson but I’m doing it slightly earlier as it then only takes an hour to do a whole set. It also makes me feel better so it’s all to the good.

I’m determined not to do any work at the weekend – this doesn’t include Friday night. I firmly believe that we should try and keep our work within the working week. I appreciate that people with families may have different commitments in the evenings, and therefore have to work at weekends instead, but for me at the moment keeping weekends free from work is manageable. If/when I have children I may have to re-evaluate this, but for now it’s fine. We like to visit our families and friends at the weekends – many of them don’t live very close so we can’t just pop in at any time.

I’m also trying to organise what we’re up to in the holidays as far ahead as I can so that I’ve got something to look forward to. I don’t live for the holidays but obviously I enjoy them, as we all do. In October we might go to my parents’ place in Tenby for a few days, as well as see my best friends who both live in the West Country. I haven’t got any plans for Christmas yet, but it’s a lovely time of year so I don’t really mind what we do. We celebrate our 2nd wedding anniversary during the Easter holidays and we’re thinking of going up to Edinburgh for a few days to celebrate. May half term will probably be spent in Tenby again, and then next summer we’re doing a Mediterranean cruise – can’t wait!

In short, focus on looking after yourself. Do things you enjoy in order to unwind. Plan things with your friends and family so that you’ve always got something to look forward to. Eat well but don’t skip the naughty stuff altogether. Do a bit of exercise a few times a week, even if it’s just a brisk walk. Remember: you’re a human being first, a teacher second.

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Long Time No Write!

Hi all! I’m so sorry that it’s been so long since my last post! I’d almost forgotten about this blog to be honest. A lot has happened since I last wrote on here.

I went through a bit of a rough patch at work last autumn/winter. I did badly in a couple of observations and that triggered a lot of drop-ins and an intervention period. I’m not going to lie – it was horrible. I hated going to work. I was so unhappy. I eventually left the school in the Spring term and started a new job after Easter.

My new school is about 5 minutes from my house so my morning commute is a lot easier! The Science department is great – very supportive. I’ve only had one proper observation during the whole term. A few members of SLT popped in from time to time, but nothing official. All of my classes were small intervention groups, which was a nice way to settle into a new school. I’ll have full classes from September.

The only major problem with the job is that I’m on a one-year contract to start with; the uncertainty is a tad unsettling and it means we can’t get a bigger mortgage until I’m made permanent. I’m finding this very frustrating as we can’t really get a dog or have a baby until we move to a house with a garden. One of my best friends is due to have her first baby in a couple of weeks time, and I’m more than a bit envious.

Of course the other obstacle stopping us from starting a family is my medication. The effects of quetiapine on babies in utero are not well documented but my GP has advised that I’m fully off it before trying for a baby, so that’s the plan. Last year, after my episode before our wedding, I reduced my dosage from 300 to 200mg but there’s still a way to go. My plan is to keep on my current dosage until at least October half term; I don’t want to decrease it when work will potentially get more stressful than it has been.

So that’s what’s been happening with me! At the moment I’m enjoying the summer holidays. I go away on a Mediterranean cruise a week tomorrow for a fortnight – can’t wait!

Procrastination

I have many skills; I am a master at procrastination. I can always think of something to do rather than work. Blogging is a good example of this. I’ve sat down with a cup of tea to plan some lessons for the first week back, and instead I’ve opened up WordPress and started writing this post. I’ve also tidied the dining table – it’s a permanent mess – ahead of my parents coming for dinner tomorrow evening, watched Tattoo Fixers and continued to pack for our cruise on Sunday.

This is the first time I’ve sat down to do work this holiday, and I’m proud of that. Despite what the general public and the media seem to think, we teachers deserve this long summer break – we work damn hard during term time. My Head of Department recognised this and point-blank refused to give us our Year 10 controlled assessments to work over the summer. Aside from a few lessons to plan I won’t be doing anything else; our new GCSE and Year 8 schemes of work were completed before the summer holidays.

I’m going away on Sunday for two weeks, then the day after I get back I’m off to Cambridge for a Sutton Trust residential. I’ll get the majority of my work done after I get back – I’ll probably go into work as I’ll get more done there – fewer distractions! And with that… work is calling!ahh-procrastination

Summer: Time to Chillax

I’m writing this post from my parents’  holiday apartment in Tenby, Pembrokeshire. I’m here for a few days with my two best friends – also teachers – for some chill time. The weather may be a bit pants but having a change of scene, especially away from the South East, and by the sea, is just what I needed after an exhausting end of term at school. I am, however, missing my husband a bit but I’ll see him tomorrow evening, which I’m looking forward to.

I’ve got a busy weekend planned: I’m (bizarrely) taking part in a plus size beauty pageant on Saturday in Brighton – don’t ask! On Sunday we’re dog sitting which means we’ll be walking a lot- can’t wait as it’s a good substitute for not having a dog of our own full time.

Next week however I have nothing planned, apart from a trip to the doctors to discuss potentially reducing my meds. The long term plan is to wean myself off my meds before we try for a baby. My GP has said that the process will take at least 6 months; I don’t want to rush it so I’m aiming for it to take even longer than that just to reduce the risk of relapse as much as I can.

And then we’re off on a cruise with my parents to Iceland; I’ve done cruises for over a decade but this is a totally new destination so I’m even more excited than normal. 

After the cruise I’ll start getting back into work mode; I’m going on a 2-night Sutton Trust residential for Biosciences teachers at Cambridge and then it’ll be GCSE results day which I’ll go into school for. Then I’ll have one more week which I’ll use for preparing for the new term.

What are your plans for the summer break?

The Final Countdown…

Under 7 weeks until the Summer holidays… (Not that I’m counting ;))

I hope that all my readers had a pleasant half term break; apart from coming into work to run a revision session for some Year 11s I did NO work! And I’m proud. I needed a proper break as exam season had clearly been taking its toll.

I spent the half term doing what I love: going to Wales, seeing Busted live, catching up with family and friends, getting my hair done… all finished off by celebrating my 27th birthday with my husband at the Harry Potter studio tour, and then with my parents in their garden followed by Cafe Rouge.

My new half term resolution is to do more of what I love: getting outside (weather-permitting!), swimming, seeing friends and playing Mariokart. I also, genuinely, love getting right into projects at work so I will actually enjoy writing the new Year 8 scheme of work that I’ve been asked to do during my gained time.

So, as we look forward to the summer hols, try to #domoreofwhatyoulove 🙂

Half Term

When people I ask why I’m a teacher I don’t usually tell them the truth – that I loved learning when I was a pupil, and that I’d like to pass that on to the students I teach. I normally joke, and say something along the lines of, “because of the long holidays”.

But I’m only half joking; I always look forward to the holidays we teachers get. We deserve them though – we work much harder than other professionals give us credit for. Cast your mind back to when you were a teenager – imagine your average temperament, and then imagine yourself in a room with 30 of your schoolmates.

Then put yourself in my shoes. I am trying to teach this group of teenagers about something incredibly boring, like how to use a quadrat without going outside, because it is raining. The boys are throwing paper balls at each other while the girls check their eyebrows in the compact they keep in their cosmetics bag-cum-pencil case.

This is an exaggeration. But imagine doing this for five hours straight every day with a few breaks. That’s what being a teacher is like, on a bad day.

The positives outweigh the negatives though, in my opinion, otherwise I wouldn’t continue in this job. The children are SO amusing to watch and listen to; and it’s great when they are genuinely interested in what you have to say.

Nevertheless, Friday can’t come quick enough. This has been a fairly short half term but now that exam season is well underway, we are all knackered in my department. I’ve got lots to look forward to, including seeing Busted live at the O2, going to Tenby for a few days, my cousin’s birthday, seeing my friend and her two-year-old daughter, and then going to the Harry Potter studio tour for my birthday at the end of the week.

Whatever you guys get up to, have a good one 🙂 x