Are you feeling as though the start of 2020 is dragging its heels? Do you feel like you woke up on the morning of your first day back at school, full of ‘get go’, bright eyed, bushy tailed and eager to go, but your sparkle has dimmed over the past few weeks? 

Sometimes it’s hard to get back in sync with work life and the everyday demands of school life, an extra shot of espresso in your coffee may help in the short term but if you want to feel like you’re striving rather than sinking then you may need a more substantial plan.

If you’re not sure where on earth to start, don’t worry, the first months of a brand new year is notorious for giving everyone the blues, but when you’re a teacher getting back into that rigid class routine can be a nightmare. Never fear though, as usually we can help you get back into the swing of things in no time with some quick and easy tips.

1. Keep to a schedule

Like anything, a schedule will help you feel more put together and will go a reasonably long way towards helping to banish any of those back to school blues, if you are feeling like you have a plan, then you can tackle any unexpected issues better and you can begin to feel like you’re not just floundering about, not knowing where to start or what to do. Plans help us to feel less overwhelmed, and overwhelmed is an understatement those first few days or weeks back at school.

The Christmas holidays of course is a fabulously festive time where time seems to slip away from you and you can let your hair down and enjoy yourself but its important to stick to some sort of routine when you go back to teaching and reenter the ‘real world’. You can sleep until 11am during the holidays, go to bed whenever you feel like it and spend the days doing what you want to do, but term-time? Its wise to wean your way back to some sort of routine early on.

Granted it’s February now, and if you’re learning from your mistakes now, wishing you’d not left it until the night before the first day back to get your sleeping routine back….then take it into account and note it mentally for the next holidays.

But right now? Set enough time to wake up each morning and leisurely get ready without rushing. Put aside set time for marking and planning, time for yourself and time for friends and family. Yes, you might feel like you need those extra ten minutes in bed but you’re not going to thank yourself later when you’ve missed the bus and are rushing to get to class on time.

2. Take time for yourself 

The point above leads into this very important note. Make sure you’re taking time for yourself. Yes marking and lesson planning is important, yes it needs to be done, but its easy to throw yourself into work when you come back from a break and find yourself drowning in piles of papers and highlighters with no end in sight. 

I know it seems like in every single one of these blogs, I mention taking time for yourself and managing workload efficiently. that’s because its a growing problem, not just amongst teachers, but throughout our society. We’re workaholics and don’t seem to be able to separate our home and work lives well. Your mind is important, it needs to be taken care of, just the same as you’d take care of your body by eating well or going to the gym, your mind needs attention too.

Obviously work needs to be done, and you should give it your all, but make sure you are setting aside time to read, watch TV, see friends or family or just genuinely relax in a bubble bath with a glass of wine, whatever floats your boat. Also marking papers in a bubble bath probably wont go down so well so make sure you’re completely focused on work whilst in work mode and completely focused on you when in ‘you’ mode’. 

Work/home balance is talked about so much nowadays, and the reason? Its because it really is so so important to ‘balance’ not just haphazardly juggle the two, it makes all the difference to your own mental health. You don’t want to end up burnt out before the term concludes, that wouldn’t help you, you class or your colleagues. So pencil yourself in for some ‘me time’ regularly.

3. Don’t overwork yourself, leave plenty of time

A good tip to avoid the pre-mentioned burn out and feel more in the swing of things is to not leave things to the last minute.

If you have marking or planning to do then get it done as soon as possible, you’ll probably feel more productive if you do it when you first get home, then its out of the way and you can relax for the evening, also if you’re still in ‘school mode’ then you’ll probably feel more inspired, have better ideas and your brain will be able to function better.

Leaving it until 10pm the night before will not help you, you’ll feel even more stressed and you probably wont produce your best plans or be focused on the marking as much as you should be. Leaving things to the last minute just encourages you to let task build up and up until you’re stressed, frazzled and unsure about where to even start. Its vital to get things done in good time. You’ll feel much more in sync with yourself if you make a conscious effort to do this.

4. Talk to your colleagues and help each other along 

If you’re struggling, who best to talk to than others who are in exactly the same boat as you? Your colleagues are there with you, often feeling the same, facing a lot of the same issues, so why not grab a fellow teacher and talk, laugh, cry about the stresses of school life in the staff room at lunch.

Sometimes knowing that other people feel the same as you helps. Other times they might have some little gems of advice themselves, you can share with each other and if all else fails as least you have an ally to make you a cuppa when you’re looking like a heap of stress on a Thursday morning. You and your colleagues are a team and sometimes being part of a team makes all the difference, so bear this in mind. 

5. Reorganise

You know the saying ‘a cluttered work space is a cluttered mind’. Well, it can actually turn out to be quite true. If your desk is tidy and you can find things easily, then you are in turn able to think better and feel more ‘there’. If you’re struggling to get back into the swing of everything then try the simple task of tackling your working space first. 

A clean and decluttered space will help you to feel like you have your mind and thoughts together, and then you’ll essentially be at your very best, productivity wise.

So, there you go. Try out these tricks and hopefully your sparkle will return and you can make the most of this year and maybe make it your best yet!

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