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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First Week Done!

It’s Friday! The first week of teaching has come and gone – very quickly! I’ve only had two free periods all week, which I think is part of the reason why this week has flown by. It’s been really good: no major problems with any of my classes, most of the pupils have been really nice and eager to learn, and I’ve been keeping on top of my work. Tonight I marked a set of books, and I’m fully planned up to next Wednesday. So I can chill this weekend.

Having a work-free weekend was important for me this week as we’re off to the West Country to meet my friend’s new baby. We’re driving to Bristol first, and then going in one car to Bridgwater with my other best friend and her other half. I am so excited but I think my husband is dreading it a little bit as he knows it’ll set me off into broody mode once again.

I’m going to try to not get depressed about the fact we can’t start our own family yet – sorry, I know I’m repetitive! But it has been playing on my mind a lot recently as I know a few people who are either pregnant or have just given birth. I just have to keep telling myself that our time will come eventually.

Generally though I’m feeling pretty positive, especially at work funnily enough! Fingers crossed that this feeling endures for the rest of the term, and the year!

Sunday Feelings

So, term starts properly tomorrow. I’m feeling nervous but also a teeny bit excited; does that make me weird? The day will start with me meeting my Year 7 tutor group in the playground. I met them on their Year 6 tranisition day in July but I didn’t actually get that much time with them, but tomorrow I get over 2 hours with them! We’ll finish off the stuff we didn’t manage to do on transition day, I’ll ask them about their summer holidays, and I’ll probably take them on another tour of the school too.

Proper lessons start period 3 and I kick off with a Year 9 mixed ability group. One of the boys in there is a really tricky character but hopefully we’ll get off on the right foot. He is one of those really frustrating boys who won’t focus or do very much in lessons, but does really well in tests! I then have a year 10 group – I forget what ability they are as I’ve got 4 Year 10 classes this year. Then after lunch I would normally have Year 7 but they’ve got an assembly so that’s nice and easy.

After school we’ve got an outside speaker until 5pm – I just hope it’s interesting and interactive, as otherwise I may be in danger of falling asleep! My lessons for tomorrow are all planned, my seating plans are all done and I’ve collected all the exercise books I need. I feel ready. I need to do well this term as it will no doubt determine whether or not my contract is made permanent.

I best go now as my cousin and her fiancé are coming round before we go to the pub for lunch. She’s just about to start her first term as a primary NQT, so no doubt there will be a lot of teaching chat.

Feeling Optimistic

Term starts tomorrow, with two INSET days. I’ve prepared by going into work both today and yesterday to get my room ready, and get some admin tasks out of the way. I’m glad I did because it’s helped me feel more positive about the start of the new school year.

Another reason for me feeling optimistic is that one of my best friends gave birth yesterday to a gorgeous baby boy. I can’t wait to meet him in a couple of weeks’ time. It has, however, made me feel incredibly broody! It is so frustrating that we’re not in a position to start our own family yet.

I’m off now to give blood – I feel very privileged that I’m able to do this. I really could save a life! And that’s a great feeling.

Sorry for the short post; I’ll do a longer one once I’ve been back at work!

A New Term…

… means a fresh start. I always get nervous about the start of a new school year. What if my classes are horrible? What if I don’t stay on top of everything? What if I crumble when I’m observed? I’m trying to push all these thoughts to the back of my head and stay optimistic. I’m going to go into work on Tuesday and Wednesday of this week to make a start on my planning. Thursday and Friday are both INSET days so at least we’re going to be eased back in gently. The pupils return on the following Monday, starting with just Year 7 in the morning with the rest coming in at lunchtime.

I’ve got a new lab this term so it really will feel like a fresh start. I’m looking forward to making the room my own, although I might keep the display about Polish scientists as I have a Polish surname since getting married. I’m very keen to make a good impression this term in the hope that the headteacher might make me permanent sooner so that we can move house and start our family together.

As well as a new start at home we’re starting a new fitness regime at home too. We’ve just bought Joe Wicks’ Lean in 15 book and I’m looking into joining a new gym. I actually really enjoy working out in a gym but the cost puts me off. Whilst we were away on a cruise I went to the gym on most of the sea days and there was no extra cost. I do feel that a lot of people are put of having a healthier lifestyle because of the expense. We did the weekly shop today with some healthier lunch stuff for me, and we spent a fair amount more which will soon add up.

I don’t want to lose loads of weight – I’m actually comfortable being a bigger lady – but I’d like to lose what I’ve put on since our wedding, which is just over a stone. I still want all my clothes to fit – would be such a waste of all my lovely dresses if they became too big for me! Losing what I’ve gained in the last 18 months will mean I stay the same dress size but they’ll fit better and I’ll feel healthier.

So, to all you teachers coming to the end of the summer break – good luck! You’ll be brilliant 🙂

 

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