B is for Balance


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!



Teacher Training Diaries: First Placement.


Four weeks I ago, I started my first teaching placement. I had been in my home school for seven weeks, I knew the staff, the children and the way the school day worked – I felt prepared. Little did I know that the following month was going to be the hardest, busiest and most tiring month of my life.

The pre-placement stage of my training was a lot of observing, taking notes and settling in to the classroom environment. During this time I still felt like a teaching assistant, I was in my comfort zone and naive about the thought of starting my first placement. On my first day of my placement, I was still very much in the teaching assistant role. On the second day of my placement, it was my turn to teach.

My knees were shaking, my heart was in my throat. I started to panic about the thirty little faces staring up at me from the carpet. I remember thinking why are you scared of a group of five and six year olds? It wasn’t them that I was scared of. It was the realisation that I had a responsibility. To teach these children. To get everything right. Well, I guess I worked myself up, put too much pressure on myself and the result was – my first lesson was a disaster!

My class teacher and mentor informally observed me and she was quite positive considering how bad it really was. We both agreed on the ways forward and I forgot all about it. The next few lessons I taught after that were better, the nerves started to melt away and I actually started to enjoy teaching. My mentor and my course leader came to observe me in my second week and their feedback gave me plenty to work on including deeper questioning when teaching the input to the children, work on pace and transitions within the lesson and most importantly have more faith in myself and have a can-do attitude.

Fast forward four weeks and I am a different teacher entirely to the quivering wreck that I was during those first few lessons. I am more confident, I laugh things off if they go wrong in a lesson now and think on my feet to change them (rather than panic and get myself into a state), and although I have a long way to go, my mentor must believe in my potential or she wouldn’t have let me teach three lessons every morning during my last week on placement and even teach every lesson (Maths, Phonics, English and Science) on one of those days.

I have many ups and downs on this first placement. I have had days which have ended with me in tears wondering if I can actually do this and I have had days which have ended with me humming Christmas play songs at home and smiling about how good my day has been and how much I love to teach. There have been a lot of obstacles that I have overcome to get to the place I am in right now. A few weeks ago I couldn’t plan a lesson, I couldn’t manage the behaviour of thirty children or know how to track pupil progress but now I do and there is still plenty more to learn in these areas and others too.

During the past month, I have seen how strong, confident and capable I can be when I set my mind to it. I have worked through exhaustion and illness to show not only my mentor what I can do but prove to myself that I can actually do this – I can become a qualified teacher. People were not kidding when they said this would be an intense course and the career I am going into is challenging and exhausting but it is also the best decision I have ever made and I know all of my hard work this year will pay off.

I am getting ahead of myself because I’m not even halfway through my course yet and there are plenty more training sessions to have (they resume this week now my official placement is over). But I know how quick this year is going to go and soon I will be a qualified teacher and terrified of having the responsibility of my own class. Although this is a scary thought, I feel a little more hopeful now that with more time, training and guidance, I will get there.