I count myself incredibly lucky to be working in teaching. I started my career as a Year 4 Class Teacher and thrived off the children’s boundless optimism and excitement at the world.
Over the years, working with children has allowed me to better empathise and support both my students and colleagues, as well as my own well-being. As a society, we have a long way to go to fully embrace and treat our mental health in a similar way to our physical health.
Most people struggle with mental health at some point in their lives. What’s more, as the Christmas festivities come to an end leaving us with the dark, cold winter weather, some people can find themselves down in the dumps.
Known popularly as “Blue Monday”, it is perceived as the most depressing day of the year, however, there are several small steps teachers can take to support and improve their mental health.
1. Get support from your colleagues
Sharing with people you trust can help lighten the load. My mentor has taken the time to help me understand and manage my mental health, alongside helping me deal with the pressure that can come with more responsibility.
Now rather than being stressed, I have the confidence to take on big projects, like arranging a whole school history day planned around World War II.
Tip: Look to colleagues in your department for help, and if you are an ECT, bring up your needs in weekly 1-2-1 meetings.
2. Treat mental health goals the same as professional goals
Whether it’s classroom teaching, lunch duty, after-school classes or marking – as teachers we must be organised. I’ve found that managing my mental health the same way I organise my personal time, lesson plans and career goals allows me to be better prepared for unexpected challenges in the working day.
Tip: try writing down a list of goals to achieve in the New Year. This could be as simple as “working out a way to deal with X issue” or “managing my reaction to Y activity”.
3. Prioritise well-being when searching for jobs
Job-hunting itself can take its toll, and with any career, we spend much of our time doing our job – so it’s only natural that it will impact our wellbeing.
Tip: Use the Department for Education’s Teaching Vacancies service. It can take the pressure off and make job-seeking easier and quicker. The service is now the largest source of primary teaching jobs listed directly by schools in England and the second largest for secondary teaching jobs.
This means that a lot of your hard work finding job roles from multiple sources has been done for you, allowing you to spend more time on your application.
You can filter roles based on criteria including location, job title, education phase, working pattern (flexible hours, part-time) and ECT suitability. You can also save and re-use your application details, saving valuable time when applying for multiple roles.
And when you are ready to find a new role, it’s incredibly important to check that your new school can support you.
Tip: Take advantage of online material about the school, such as staff testimonials and the school’s wellbeing offer.
4. Tailor self-care to your needs
Journaling has always helped me to unwind, so I blog. ‘Teaching isn’t B&W’, is a healthy way I connect with a community, whilst jotting down my thoughts and reflecting on them.
There is no one-size fits all approach to mental health. Like my blog’s name; it’s not black and white. It’s a rainbow containing all the shades of your personality and experience that needs to be managed individually.
Tip: Framing mental health as something to be actioned, similarly to professional development, can give clear steps to take for improved wellbeing. BUT remember, managing your well-being should not feel like another task. If these methods make your mental load heavier then this is not for you.
I hope that these tips will inspire or help you to prioritise your mental health this Blue Monday. If anything in this piece strikes a chord with you, I urge you to try.
Even if like New Year’s resolutions, you try these tips and don’t succeed, you will have taken your first step to better prioritise your well-being.
Emily blogs at 'Teaching Isn't B&W' where she focuses on her development as a teacher and the complexities of students transitioning from primary to secondary school.
Now Teach offers a 2-year programme where you join a professional network of hundreds of other career changers and receive 1-1 support from an experienced Programme Manager.
If you’re looking for your first, or next, teaching role visit: teaching-vacancies.service.gov.uk