Teachers, Are You Being Mindful?

As a teacher, how well do you look after yourself?

I’ve mentioned before how much of an advocate for teacher wellbeing I am.

Teaching is a demanding job. One filled with passionate individuals who often overlook themselves in order to support their students and deliver awesome lessons.

I’ve wanted to mention a great initiative started by some teachers on Twitter for some time now. An initiative to encourage us as teachers to take time and be accountable for taking that time to look after ourselves.

It’s a simple Twitter hashtag: #teachfit. Not sure what a hashtag is? Click here.

#teachfit is a place where teachers can check in and let the group know how they are going with their fitness goals and more often than not, get some encouraging feedback for their efforts. People have shared inspirational and motivational quotes, articles, exercise apps, recipes. We’ve had our encouragement Storify – ed.

The #teachfit hashtag has been building momentum since January when I was looking for ways to get motivated to do more exercise before heading full on into a day of teaching. I wanted to become more mindful of all my habits: eating, exercise, emotional reactions. A core group of us @Madiganda, @torkee and @shhartley worked together initially to encourage each other to meet our fitness goals and from there it grew.

Now it has a nice little core (excuse the pun) group of followers who check in as often as they can. Almost 30.

Wouldn’t it be great if we could keep expanding the group?

My purpose for writing this today is not only to make you aware of the power of a PLN in helping you to achieve professional and personal goals but to also take the time to acknowledge the efforts of my fellow Teach-fitters and their efforts over the past six months and to ask you, how well do you look after yourself as a teacher? Are you mindful of your health each day? If so, that is fantastic. If not, how can we help?

Photo Credit: James Jordan via Compfight cc

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Merry Christmas & Happy New Year from the DTN

I’d like to take this opportunity to say thanks for reading my blog this year. I have appreciated all the comments and feedback and definitely take it all on board when trying to think of new posts to write. I hope you have had a personally and professionally successful year and I hope this continues into 2013. As my gift to you, I have a guest post that I have been sitting on for quite some time written by my PLN colleague JF Cameron.

Funny Pictures

Image Credit: Christmas Buzz

Manage Your Teacher Stress

In light of my theme this week of preparing for the school year which starts tomorrow (eek!) I thought I’d share my thoughts on teacher stress and burn out.

This is a big issue for me. I think teacher stress and burn out (especially with the statistics you’re always hearing) is particularly relevant for recent graduates starting their first full time position but at the same time I feel very experienced teachers need a bit of a reminder from time to time.

My first year was hell. I’m not going to sugar coat it. It was tough and I really struggled. I lacked sleep, I didn’t eat properly, I constantly had headaches, I got sick a lot, I was highly emotional, feeling very alone and needing support but I wouldn’t ask for it because I felt like I needed to show everyone I was coping and capable. This was a big mistake. A huge mistake. Eventually of course, things became easier in terms of managing my lessons and what I was teaching. I worked through my stress by trying to find ways of managing it so that I was living a much healthier, more balanced existence.

It seems that in our culture we feel guilty if we dare take some time for ourselves. Everyone needs to do this in my opinion especially in a job as dynamic and stressful as teaching.

That is why I am now a huge advocate for work/life balance. -Here are some of things that have worked for me. Maybe you might like to try some of these when you’re feeling a bit “stretched.”

  •  Snacking 101 – Recess, Lunch? What are they? You know what I’m talking about . We’ve all been there. More than once. We don’t sit down to eat our lunch because we’re dealing with something or other. The amount of times my lunch doesn’t get eaten until after the school day has ended? Countless times. To avoid this I eat breakfast. Low GI carbs and some protein. My other trick is to carry around portable snacks and a drink bottle with water. Nut bars, carrot sticks, bananas, almonds. Anything I can fit in my pocket or pencil case. You’re topping up your energy levels with slow burning foods to get you through in case you miss another break. So make sure it is the right foods. Other ideas might be a tuna or chicken sandwich or a salad. I will sometimes make a batch of savoury muffins or a slice on the weekend, freeze it and take out what I need during the week. Great if you can’t be bothered making your lunch the night before.
  • Prepare the Night Before – Planning meals and preparing the night before is crucial. You don’t want to feel flustered in the morning because you have a million things to do. This should include preparing your clothes and you bag. I know it sounds simple but so many people don’t do it and a calm start to the day sets the tone (hopefully) for the rest of it.
  • Keep Watered – I carry around a 750ml bottle and by the evening I have to have filled it up and drunk it all twice. Make it visible on your desk so you don’t forget to take a swig after each period. Keep one in your car or in other high traffic areas to remind you. If you’re lucky enough to have your own classroom keep one in there.
  • Take 5 –  Before you switch off the lights and shut the door to move onto the next period, stop for five seconds and ask yourself out loud how you think the lesson went. Decide how you feel and how you want to deal with it. What do you need? Remind yourself to get what you need and make it a priority after the school day is over.
  • Get a Massage – To deal with my headaches I started seeing a chiropractor and from there it was recommended that I see a masseuse to loosen muscles in preparation for my adjustments. Well, it completely changed my life. This is remedial massage so it’s not necessarily relaxing at the time but afterward you feel immediate relief and calmness. The way I handle stressful situations has improved immensely because I am not holding on to so much tension. This is my time during the month that I make for myself.
  • Move – Exercise, I believe is absolutely essential to maintaining a healthy balance. When my kids frustrate me I go to a boxing class. My biggest exercise outlet though is running. Whatever your choice (walking, swimming, cycling, yoga, pilates, zumba) make sure you’re doing something. Get that heart rate up at least three times a week. Your body and mind will thank you for it.
  • Treat Yourself – I like to have something to work towards. So whether it is a holiday, a new gadget or a nice night out at a restaurant with friends, treat yourself to something at least once a term and tell yourself you worked hard for it. Say it out loud if it helps. I like saving mine up for the last day of term as a celebration.
  • Connect with a Professional Network – Seek out networks to support you with any help you need in your classroom. Consider professional associations, attending a TeachMeet or Twitter. I’ve blogged about Twitter and its benefits here.
  • Don’t Be Afraid to Ask – This is especially important for all new teachers beginning this year. Don’t be afraid to ask someone for help. You are not incompetent. People just assume you know what you’re doing. You’re learning and it will take a while to learn how your school functions. This goes for experienced teachers as well. Don’t bury your head in the sand. Ask for help if you need it. No man is an island.

and finally if you are feeling under the weather…

  • Take a Mental Health Day – If you are feeling stretched sometimes it is OK to take a Mental Health Day. If it’s becoming a regular thing however consider talking to your school’s Counsellor, your GP or EAPS.
  • If You’re Sick Stay Home – I don’t want your germs. If you are sick stay home and rest. Your body is telling you it needs rest so don’t ignore it.

Your health and mental wellbeing is so important. You cannot be an effective teacher without being mentally and physically on top of your game. So make sure this year you take some time for yourself and don’t feel guilty for it.

All the best for a great year.

What ways do you keep balanced? Comments appreciated.

Image Credit:ParentsPstcrd_070610.jpg / Carolyn Sewell / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Teachers Are Awesome. You Are Awesome. Keep Being Awesome.

I’ve been having a bit of a rough trot at school lately and am trying to channel all the resilience I’ve got.

It’s no secret that I’m a huge Glee fan and tonight this episode just happened to be on. It came at a good time. I thought I would share it with my network of readers.

I’m thankful that I now have a network of people who can support me when I’m finding it a bit tough. I’m also proud of the fact that I’m out there and admitting I’m finding it tough which is something that I find really hard to do but with the support of my PLN the tougher teaching moments don’t seem so hard.

So thank you.

Teachers are awesome. You are awesome. Keep being awesome.

In Bed with Media

It’s late on Friday night. I’m in bed. I have just survived the first day back at school for teachers and I’m exhausted from:

a) having to wake up before the sun does,

b) dealing with the abhorration that is starting my working week on a Friday and

c) listening intently to an avalanche of information about the expectations for the new school year.

I’m also thinking:

a) did the holidays even happen? and

b) when am I going to find time to complete  the Edublogs Kick Start Activity 6 – Embedding Media whilst attempting to apartment-hunt, do my laundry and grocery shop for the week?

I’m staring at my laptop across the dim room thinking, “Maybe I could just bring it into bed with me and I can be cosy and comfortable and do my activity that way…”

I’m sure many of you are feeling similarly conflicted about how to manage your working schedule with that of families and other commitments. For me, it is something I’m quite eagerly in search of. Ways in which we can manage our lives and keep our minds calm. At the above thought I promptly said to myself, “Are you mad? Why do I even have my laptop in the room?” One thing I certainly would never do is bring my laptop into bed with me. However, the temptation is there. Some of you, unlike me, may have happily taken your laptop to bed with you. You may even think I’m barking mad because I’m not doing it more often. Enjoying a wild romp in bed with media and technology.

Lying there, staring into the blackness, trying to calm my mind after the days chaos, this laptop temptation did also make me consider how our students may also feel. Particularly at the beginning of a new school year (think Year 7’s) or around exam time . Many of our students are under similar pressures. Often these expectations can be trying to maintain good academic grades as well as play a team sport, learn a musical instrument, maybe maintain a part-time job, have some sort of social life (OK, a rather large social life) oh and then, maybe eat and at the very least sleep for at least 8 hours a day.

Both us as teachers and our students are making choices on what to prioritise in our lives and technology is certainly making the maintenance of our social lives a little easier, but it can become unhealthy. Students seem to be saturated by the availability and ease of technology and the need to use it and consume it at all hours of the day which in turn is affecting their physical social contact and contact of any other kind that requires them to leave their computer screens.

I’m not suggesting for a second that blogging or any other use of the computer is anti-social or detrimental to your health. Quite the contrary. I believe it is tremendously rewarding and enjoyable to connect to people through common interests. I wouldn’t be doing this Challenge if I didn’t think so. Similarly, it is OK to chat to your mates on Facebook or tweet an update about that cute guy on your favourite TV show. I’m not advocating for anything in particular other than balance. I’m not here to discuss cybersafety.

I guess I just wanted to make this post not only about the media I have embedded into it but to remember that as teachers I feel we also have a responsibility to ensure our students are maintaining a balanced lifestyle with plenty of sleep, healthy eating and drinking, safe social habits online and when in physical human contact with others. I can’t really believe I have to distinguish the two!

The above video just reminds me that it is important for us as teachers to model the enthusiasm we feel when we meet up with friends, read a new book, go for a walk or discover something new. For us to encourage parents to ensure mobile phones and laptops stay out of their bedroom, that they talk with their kids about their day, not feeling like technology is alienating them from their son/daughter, that it is OK to embrace it and use it but to also  just connect with them daily, face to face and to really listen, share and care.

In reviewing the tools I have used for embedding, YouTube was very simple and easy to embed. I became confused between Wallwisher and Answer Garden because I thought Answer Garden didn’t allow anyone to add a suggestion and was simply a picture of suggestions made during a class and uploaded to Flickr. Alas, I was wrong and inserted a Wallwisher thinking this was the case but I think I’ll try Answer Garden in the future. The difficulty I had was inserting a poll. I think it would’ve worked better in the side bar above the links rather than in a post but I wasn’t sure how to do this and embedding the code into the theme page confused me. Does anyone know how to do this and would like to share?

Also, in what ways do you ensure your students are maintaing balance? What strategies do you have on a whole-school level? Do you feel we do enough as classroom teachers? Is it our responsibility at all? Share your thoughts in the comments or add to my Wallwisher.

http://www.wallwisher.com/embed/balancestrategies

Image Credits:

Photo “Basking in the Glow” by pmarkham under the Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Video: “Is Technology Weakening Relationships?” by MsAshbrown, 2/9/2009.

Kick Start Your Blogging – Extension Activity 1

I have recently re-invigorated this blog as part of the Edublogs.org Teacher Challenge.

As part of the extension activity for Week 1, we were required to write a post about why we joined the challenge, what we wanted to learn more about and what in particular, about blogging had I been struggling with.

As you can well see, I created this blog over a year ago.

It has never been used.

What was stopping me? Not technophobia but rather a lack of confidence in my own ability to express my opinions in a public forum.

Today I want to try to overcome that fear and make connections with teachers not only in Australia but world wide so that I can become more knowledgable about my subject area. Also, I have been reminded through this challenge that blogs don’t necessarily have to be about expressing opinions and that is what I needed to be reminded of in terms of how I will direct my teaching to my students. I have some less opinion-driven ideas for blogs for the kids to be involved with.

So, what I would most like to learn is how to engage more readers. This has been something I have struggled with and would like to improve.