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Teacher wellbeing: Why looking after ourselves and others should be top of our 'to do' lists

Published: Aug 20, 2021 3 min read

Mary Howell

Professionla Development Leader Education consultant/adviser

National STEM Learning Centre

Concerns about wellbeing and particularly mental health are currently hot topics in the press and social media. Quite rightly, we are increasingly aware of the need to support our students’ welfare. However, when it comes to our own wellbeing as teachers, we might not be quite so good at looking after ourselves, looking out for colleagues or knowing where to find help. Too often we put ourselves and our own wellbeing last on a long list of priorities, but surely teachers who are well and looking after themselves will be able to do a better job, support good habits in their students, act as good role models and not least be more likely to stay in the profession.    

Whether you are starting out in teaching, an experienced classroom practitioner or leading others, your wellbeing matters. Being able to support learning and help students be their best – and managing to be a balanced and functioning human being – requires you to ensure your physical and mental wellbeing is a priority. What tips and hints would you offer to a colleague or friends? This is probably the advice you should be taking yourself. 

Education Support is an independent charity that gives teachers and others in education practical help with issues such as financial problems, stress and anxiety. They’ve written a blog about practical ways to look after mental health which is well worth a read here. This particular one is aimed at headteachers, but even if you’re not a head, nearly all of it applies to the rest of us too. You can also find a handy poster of Education Support’s top tips here. Their suggestions include:

  • Consciously planning to make good use of holiday time
  • Setting aside ‘worry time’; a dedicated slot to think about and process your worries
  • Having your own wellbeing ‘non-negotiables’ such as making sure you have time to see family and friends, plus regular exercise or a hobby to keep your life in balance

They also post useful tips and infographics regularly on Twitter @EdSupportUK – a recent favourite of mine, especially because I know many perfectionists in education, is 'You don't have to be good at something for it to be good for you.'

The Association of Science Education (ASE) has recognised that sometimes, a teacher’s wellbeing can be neglected for so long that they reach crisis point and begin looking for options outside of teaching. The ASE SOS campaign provides a non-judgmental tool to help teachers weigh up where they have got to, consider what they do and don’t enjoy about the job and whether they could make changes and stay in teaching, or consider what other options are available.

What are your top teacher wellbeing tips and your well-being ‘non negotiables?’. I'd love to hear them - join in the discussion on STEM Community in the link at the bottom. One of mine is to make time to watch or read things I find funny, for example @GeorgePointon often writes about advice his primary school pupils give and one of my favourite recent threads is this one where he asked Y1’s for ‘pearls of wisdom.’  A great reminder that even when the job is stressful, we work with imaginative and inspiring young people.