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Do teachers of English have time to think about their well-being?

Balanced work and life

As we started the new academic year, we decided to try and draw the attention of our community onto teacher well-being. But what does that really mean and do over-worked, stressed-out teachers even have the time to think about such things?

The answer is generally no. We get so many emails from teachers who are struggling to keep up with everything they have to do and the idea of telling them to take some time out for themselves is often met with a laugh! “Me? Have some me time? When? How? Not possible!”. Sound familiar?

When I interviewed the lovely Maria Glazunova in our Facebook group last month, I was struck by what she said about teachers just expecting to be burned out. It is true that over the past 20 years I have met teachers of English from all over the world and their stories were always full of restrictive curricula, limited resources, endless meetings, long hours and very little recognition. Bizarrely this was always communicated with a sigh of resignation…. this is just how it is.

If, on top of all the above, teachers want to develop either their own language skills or teaching skills, then they have to find extra time in which to do so. It is rarely factored into their working life. I cannot tell you how many wonderful teachers I know who have said that they love the idea of joining our membership, but they just wouldn’t be able to find the time!
But what if this is all back to front?

How can a teacher with all the best will in the world be an inspiration to their students and perform at their best in the classroom if they are wrung out and exhausted? The answer is, they cannot.

We asked our members to really think of the things in their life that they do or would like to do that make them feel their best. The answers were varied but generally beautifully simple… for example, long walks in nature, exercise, yoga, home cooking, time with good friends and quality time with family. But when we feel overwhelmed and too busy, we have generally not been able to do any of these things.

So, we looked at our energy and ability to inspire others as a bucket. When we are doing the things that make us feel good and put us at our best, our bucket is full and overflowing in energy to give to others (i.e., our students). But when the pressures of life (meetings, colleagues, stress etc.) put holes in our bucket then we end up depleted, empty, and unable to give to others.

Which kind of teacher would you prefer to have? So, what if we had permission to do those bucket filling activities in the knowledge that we were going to make ourselves far better teachers in the process? Doesn’t that just sound like a win/win situation?