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5 tips on surviving the pandemic as a teacher

Posted by Hlengiwe Zwane on 27 July 2021 2:30 PM SAST
Hlengiwe Zwane photo

Article by Paula Talman

The changes for schools have not just been big; they’ve been continuous. The uncertainty of the situation coupled with the pressure you might feel to provide leadership for your pupils could be why half of education professionals recently reported a decline in their mental health, according to research reports.

Teachers often say that when they’re preparing for wellbeing lessons using the free mental health and wellbeing curriculum that they also learn a lot about their own mental health.

Make time to reflect
Reflective practice is the ability to reflect on your actions on a day-to-day basis as part of a process of continuous learning and it’s key to self-awareness. If we’re doing something we’ve done a million times before we can easily drift onto autopilot.

If busy, we can sometimes miss the opportunity to reflect because our mind is going on to the next thing. Making a conscious effort to reflect can really help you to identify ‘what went well’ in your teaching, which can boost your confidence.

Considering the ‘even better ifs’ can enable you to better anticipate challenging situations and strengthen in those areas too.

Reflective practice can also help guard against negativity bias, which can cause us to register negative experiences more readily than positive ones. The reality is that most of us have more good experiences than bad. Through reflective practice and gratitude, we learn to feel better about our lives.

Choose positivity
When you’re in a negative state of mind it is common to shut down. Through positive thinking, we can tackle challenges head-on and move forward with optimism.

Psychologists believe that by actively choosing to engage in certain activities such as smiling at someone and them smiling back, for example. We can experience micro-moments of joy. Being in school  gives us a chance to build emotional connections with colleagues and pupils in a way that just isn’t possible through a screen.

In these challenging times we need to find positivity in the little things. Hobbies can be a great way to unwind and can increase feelings of happiness.

Practising mindfulness can make one feel more present in the moment, enabling one to truly enjoy everyday things such as the taste of your morning coffees and the sound of laughter.

When you build your inner resources like this,you selflessly allow yourself time to recharge, and one is then capable of giving more back to the children you teach and engage with.

Do not underestimate yourself
Anything is possible as long as you believe it. What you and your fellow teachers have achieved over the last few months shows that this is absolutely true.

Before the pandemic, few of you or your colleagues would have felt confident about the idea of delivering lessons online, with all of the IT skills and communication challenges it entails and yet you all did. Then when schools reopened you implemented new safety procedures to minimise infections and to allow schools to stay open, almost overnight.

Most people underestimate themselves, but as educators  you should be really proud of what you’ve achieved throughout the challenge of Covid-19. 

Recognise your emotions
Self-regulation is about picking up on our emotions, asking ourselves what those feelings are telling us and knowing the right tools to apply to settle and understand them.

With schools having just opened it is easy to feel anxious and to worry that you’re at increased risk. When anxiety strikes you should be self-compassionate, talking to yourself in the way a best friend would by offering reassurance that is free from criticism.

Breathing exercises can help you to tame your emotions and thinking about practical steps one can take. A good routine provides a solid foundation for self-regulation and can help you to feel grounded and reduce anxiety.

Eating well, being active, getting outdoors in nature, getting plenty of sleep and taking time out for hobbies and relaxation can have a big impact on your wellbeing.

Reach out to others
It’s so important to stay connected to those around you right now, both for your own benefit and theirs. When one connects with others through conversation, eye contact and laughter it makes you feel safe and actually has physical benefits too. If you see a colleague struggling, reach out to them. There's no doubt they will do the same for you. 

It appears that the impact of Covid-19 will be upon the globe for some time. Building your resilience, finding new ways to grow and increasing your feelings of positivity will help one to continue to do a brilliant job while leading content and fulfilling lives.

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