For anyone working in schools right now, it is very normal to be feeling apprehensive. We have been in and out of school for the last year and we are hoping that this time it's the real thing; on our way back to normal, except it still isn’t quite normal is it? The children have changed, school has changed and so have we.
A range of emotions will be felt - excitement, stress, motivation, exhaustion. All of these things put together can lead to feelings of anxiety which can manifest itself in all sorts of ways.
It is important to remember that all of us have experienced some level of trauma over the past year. The things we would usually turn to in moments like this, such as family, friends and support from organisations have been removed, making everything all the more difficult.
Be kind to yourself, set yourself realistic expectations and goals. As teachers it’s important we practice what we are expecting of the children in our care. I am certain that most teachers will be ensuring our children return to a calm, organised, caring and supportive environment. We need to show the same level of care to ourselves.
Upon our return it will be likely that we will be supporting children who are coping with upsetting and sensitive issues. The exhausting nature of this means that it is even more important to tend to our wellbeing needs. Ensure you have another member of staff to talk to and share with. Take time at the end of your day to stop and take a breath. How are you feeling about the day just gone and the one ahead? If you feel you are not coping, speak up and get support and with that support adopt practical strategies.
Feeling safe will be on many teachers' minds. Ensure you have read and are comfortable with the Covid-19 risk assessment for your school. If you are not at ease with certain aspects of the policy be sure to ask questions and put your mind at rest. It’s important that schools work together and make their settings work effectively and comfortably for all.
Just as the children will enjoy a level of structure in their lives, so will the adults. Boundaries and expectations make everyone feel safer and routine and predictability will be appreciated by both children and adults alike.
Here are some practical things you can do to take care of your wellbeing:
Sleep - Try to use calming techniques, prioritise sleep and rest so that you feel physically fit and ready in the morning. We tend to catastrophize more when we are tired and emotions are heightened by lack of sleep.
Try to continue or introduce a short exercise routine, even if you have to move your usual routine around as you settle back into school life.
Try to reduce your screen time (social media or watching the news).
Try not to take on extra work if you are feeling overwhelmed, show self compassion by doing what you need to do and allowing yourself and extra time to repair.
Prioritise staff well being over performance tables. If you have healthy staff they can look after the health of the children in school. Nobody is or has fallen behind. This is where we are - it's not a competition or race.
Find somebody in your bubble that you can buddy up with and do a short mindfulness session together or have a cup of tea and chat. Social connectedness improves mental health and wellbeing.
When in use, make the staff room a sanctuary. Add little touches like flowers or nice messages on boards.
Show small acts of kindness - help someone carry something to their classroom, smile at someone as they pass.
Hold onto what you can control and let go of what you can’t.
We can do this.