Flying at 35,000 feet, you only have seconds of useful consciousness, so that’s why it’s so important for you to put your oxygen mask on first before you start helping others. If you tried to help someone else first, you could end up passing out before doing any good.
It’s not dissimilar to what can happen in your first job. You want to take care of your pupils – that’s why you qualified – you want to contribute to the team, you want to be a good partner/brother/sister/father/mother. But if you don’t take care of yourself and show that proper selflessness, you may pass out!
Some of the tips to surviving your first half term – let alone your first year – are surprisingly basic.
- DRINK: keep hydrated! Get a water bottle for your classroom – make sure you clean it once in a while – and hydrate regularly. So many headaches are caused as you won’t have had anything to drink since early morning.
- EAT: Have some snacks (healthy ones) to hand. It is all too easy to start skipping breakfast, missing lunch and then eating junk for dinner. In the long run that isn’t sustainable.
- MINGLE: get out of your classroom – get to the staffroom, pop into your mentors classroom… be proactive. It is very easy to get trapped in your classroom – you want to keep on top of the marking and you have an art lesson to set up for the afternoon. But that means you aren’t building relationships with colleagues or having the chance to talk things through with others. Take a break – you will have earned it.
The more you care for yourself, the more capacity you will have to care for other people – your pupils, colleagues, loved ones even total strangers.
It can seem selfish, but compassion for others starts with compassion for ourselves.
- Make time every day for something that’s nurturing, that you enjoy, and that you can do alone: running, reading, sleeping, cooking
- Identify a hobby to give you a break from teaching. What will you do to refill your reservoir: go for a walk, make or enjoy some art, meditate or work out.
If you think you don’t have time for it, remember: the Dalai Lama once said that
I meditate for an hour a day, except on really busy days, when I meditate for two.
It is all too easy to think that if you haven’t cracked it by half term then you must be a failure. Remember that you only get 190 days per year to practice being a teacher. By the end of the first half term you will only have taught for approx 34 days… just 200 hours. When Matthew Syed, or Malcolm Gladwell, talk about mastery they commonly refer to 10,000 hours of purposeful, reflective practice. To reach that milestone you would need 50 half terms… about 8 years of teaching!
Don’t be too hard on yourself – setting realistic goals is not the same as aiming low!