Wednesday, 23 November 2016

Addressing your work-life balance; Practical tips (part one)

How much value do you put on your work/life balance? Where has the importance been in terms of ensuring that not only do you work hard but also take time to ensure that your own personal and emotional needs are met? Many articles have surfaced on the internet about the problems faced by teachers regarding recruitment, retention and work-life balance. This is especially prevalent within the FE environment where classroom sizes are increasing and more students require English or Maths at C grade.

What I am going to talk about today is the responsibility of getting your work-life balance in order to effectively perform not only as a teacher, but in all aspects of your life. Please don't take this as patronising, but I will try to elaborate on how I prepare myself for the days and weeks ahead in my working life. I am going to share the secrets to my own personal reflective process so I do not succumb to the day-to-day frustrations of FE teaching and run myself down as the week progresses on.

I discussed with my colleagues today about how they work and what they do outside of their own lives, it's difficult when you have so many other commitments from children, family members, friends and others to make time for yourself. One thing I do is ensure that I make time for something I truly enjoy doing. Last weekend I went to Costa Coffee and had a latte with something to eat, it was my own time to reflect and be happy with my own thoughts and feelings, it's funny how we enjoy ourselves when we are left in our own company just to dream away the time. My first piece of advice is to do something for yourself at least once a week. Maybe you want to go to the cinema with a significant other, have a meal out at the weekend, if you have children then what about going for a refreshing walk in the sunshine (providing the weather is good!). 

The practice of mindfulness (essentially living in the present reality) is becoming more commonplace within work, allow yourself time to reflect on the day's activities (my blog works really well for myself) and consider what events happened and how they make you feel. Question your own feelings and emotions in an objective way to help you restore clarity in your own judgement and reasoning. This brings me onto my next avenue for success, spirituality. I am Agnostic however many colleagues I have worked with in the past have strong religious beliefs, make time for your own spirituality and teachings to feel some faith in yourself again. If you are non-religious, meditation is really good for making you feel present and in the moment, calm breathing and relaxing ensure that you feel more control in yourself rather than how the outside world affects your feelings.

I went to see my sister at the weekend, she has a little girl who has just turned two years old, I had a great three hours playing with her and really relaxing with my valued family members. I couldn't believe how grown up she is, how has it been three months since I last saw them? I now reflect on this and want to see them at least once a month, this brings me to another important pillar in my work-life balance, relationships. Always make time for people and fulfil your social need, ensure that you spend time with people you value and care about, this will in turn make you feel relaxed, calm and positive with how you approach your teaching in the future days to come. Happiness is infectious, and your happiness even more so.

How does this help you teach anything? Well, the more you address and understand your own needs, the more likely you are to respond to the needs of your students. There is more to anyone than meets the eye and the students may not be able to spend time with the people in their lives they care about. You cannot change what is happening in your student's lives, however as they learn and develop into young adults, they may look to you for guidance and support. Support your students by supporting your own needs and wishes first. Make yourself and your health a priority again so you can be effective within the classroom and perform positively in work and life.

I am hoping to expand on this even further for teachers within FE, so please follow the updates to find out when I will be discussing this in another future post. Bye for now!