After my physical collapse last year, and my subsequent ME diagnosis, things at work had to change. I've learnt a lot, and if even one person makes a tiny change to their day that helps them keep going, then it has been worth writing this.
I still arrive at work by 7.45am and I still grab a coffee and drop my stuff off. I'm fortunate that my partner works at the same school as me, so now I don't drive to work. It saves a bit of energy, surprisingly, and we've started listening to Radio 3 rather than shouting at the Today programme on Radio 4. It's a more relaxing journey for me - can you lift share with someone and give yourself a break early on in the day?
I am less frenzied in the morning, perhaps because I am getting more things prepared in advance. I always used to, and then I'd forget which class those worksheets were for, or I'd put them down somewhere and forget where. I've reorganised how I store the class sets of books, and I put their worksheets on top of their books as soon as I collect them from copying. A really simple trick is to write the class name on the top corner of the worksheet before it's copied - that's helping me a lot.
My form have been moved to my teaching lab and that makes a huge difference. I wander over there ten minutes before they are due to arrive and get set up for the first lesson, a little starter activity ready to go on the board, books out and on the right bench. Then I sit down. I stop. I close my eyes and take ten deep breaths. I relax my face, my hands, my shoulders. All that tension saps energy so it's important for me to check I'm relaxed before the first pupil meeting of the day.
My little year 7 form are still crazy, but now I get them to come to me with their planners, rather than me going to them. I sit.
The first class of the day arrive. I've stuck my "start of lesson" routine to the outside of the door ready, it seems to help them arrive more calmly. I can open the door to them, smile and greet them all as they arrive. It's a slicker start, and I can have a gentle lean on the door whilst they arrive.
At break I sit down in my room, close my eyes and have another tension check. I'll wander back to the office and chat to colleagues, but I won't check my emails or indulge in negativity.
Again, at lunch I try and stop somewhere. If my lab is being used then I've found myself sat in the staff toilets to get some deep breaths! At lunch I don't work. I'll leave the office ten minutes or so before the final lesson of the day and get back into my teaching lab if I can, ready to set up for the lesson.
At the end of the day, if there are no meetings, I stay where I am and check my classes books from that day. Often it's as quick as stamping "lesson objective met" whilst I can still remember what it was or putting a prompt on about how to improve - this gives me a ready made starter for the next lesson. I only mark in half hour bursts, setting a timer to make sure I stop. A quick 2 minute break and I can carry on. Sometimes I have to take marking home but I am working with a member of the SLT to plan a marking timetable so I don't get swamped.
Once home I spend time with the Stop, Breathe, Think app. It gives me ten minutes or so of calm time where I can empty my head. I'm a scientist so I'm cynical of deep breathing and meditation as a cure all, however I wouldn't be without it now.
I'm not doing anything that the rest of the teaching world couldn't do, and yet I've managed to increase my resilience, get out of the latest ME dip and reduce my stress. My teaching has improved, my classes are happier.
If you do nothing else with your teaching, please look after yourself. Take 30 seconds to relax between lessons, it can't hurt.