Balance. The one thing that will get you through your gruelling, rigorous and tiresome year of training to become a teacher. If you can’t find a balance between work and life, planning and teaching or sleeping and making resources at midnight, the chances are – you are going to get burnout. Burnout is when you reach physical and mental exhaustion and find it difficult to do everyday tasks. You reach a level of exhaustion that can’t be fixed by sleep and as a result you become irritable, stressed and feel like giving up. I have experienced burnout twice and I am only halfway through my teacher training course. I’m not going to sugarcoat it and say that teacher training or being a teacher is easy, because it’s not!
I like to think I am an organised person, I am a stationary-obsessed-post-it-note-colour-coding Type A kind of person. I thought the time-management part of the teacher training course would be easy for me but I was so wrong! No matter how organised you are, there are not enough hours in the day to do everything you need to do – this is the harsh reality that you need to learn as quickly as possible!
The key to finding balance is to just accept that not everything will get done, your to-do list will never be empty and there will always be a deadline looming over you. It’s easy to fall into the trap of ‘oh I will get everything done, then have time for myself.’ This was my mentality for months. However, I soon realised that the ‘me-time’ I was going to have once I had finished my work, never came. It made me miserable for weeks that my life would be: get to school at 8am, not leave until 6pm, get home, cup of tea, shower, food, then I would work on my laptop doing planning and resources until midnight (without taking a break). Don’t do this. I only realised how unhealthy it was in hindsight once my placements were over.
My advice is to prioritise what needs to be done first. Lesson planning and resourcing should be done before filling in paperwork in your file. Once you have completed the few things in your ‘top priority list’, take a break. Take anything from half an hour to a few hours to just relax and escape from the overwhelming stress that comes with teacher training. I found that towards the end of my placement (when I realised my way of doing things wasn’t healthy for me), that when I took some time to read a book, watch some TV, spend some time with my boyfriend or played my guitar, I was a lot calmer than when I tried to get everything done at once.
Half term is when you achieve maximum relaxation. It is currently half term for me and I actually feel like I have my life back for a short amount of time. I have had time to update this blog, I have the brain space to think of non-teaching related things and I have also had the chance to spent some quality time with the people I care about most. I know that Monday is fast approaching and I will soon be pulled back into the vortex of university assignments, training days and eventually my final placement.
However, if there is one thing I have learnt from my teacher training in the first six months and something I can pass on to those who are thinking about becoming a teacher or are even currently on a teacher training course – find your balance. Your balance will look differently from everyone else’s. Don’t get too caught up on what everyone else is doing. Take a break when you need it. Have a good cry if you must. Enjoy the time you get off and find small snippets of time when you’re on placement to just….breathe. If I can do this, so can you!