There’s a reason why we are instructed to fit our own oxygen mask first on an aeroplane – and it’s not out of selfishness. If we run out of oxygen, we won’t be able to help anyone. So, why is self-care often viewed as being selfish?
Starting my teacher training, I was anticipating that the year was going to be intense, full-on and pretty much all-consuming. I’d bought everyone’s presents and cards up until Christmas (and believe me, I’m never that organised!), I’d ticked off my opticians and dentist appointments and I’d stocked up on toiletries and essentials…just in case I was so swamped that I couldn’t do anything apart from lesson plan, mark books and write assignments in every waking hour of the next 4 months. Now, I’m certainly not saying that you shouldn’t be organised (and in fact I would recommend all three of those things!), but should taking a little bit of time for yourself be seen as a luxury, or a necessity?
Being a teacher, you will have never-ending to-do lists (post-it notes are your friends!). You could spend endless hours looking for resources. That lesson you are planning could always be tweaked and changed. There will always be more you could do. So if ‘me time’ only happens after I finish everything else, let’s be honest, it will never happen…
But what I’ve learnt at the SCITT is that taking ‘me time’ isn’t selfish. In fact, investing in my own well-being and self-care is essential. Just as I can’t help anybody else if I don’t fit my oxygen mask first, neither can I give my students the best Me if I’m burnt out, exhausted and running on fumes. I can’t pour out if I’m empty – and believe me, teaching is a job where you will be constantly pouring out.
So, in the middle of juggling lesson plans, assignments and deadlines, how can you prioritise your own well-being during your teacher training year?
Firstly, know that you aren’t alone. Yes, this is going to be an intense year – but there is so much support available to you. If you have any questions, feel anxious or stressed, are falling behind with your work and can’t cope… The key is to keep communicating. Don’t shut down and isolate yourself. The SCITT team are incredibly approachable and supportive. They are aware of how overwhelmed you might be feeling at different points in the year and they are always at the end of an email or phone call (and they aren’t just saying that, they really are!), or you can drop-in to the SCITT base to talk to someone.
Your well-being is taken very seriously at the SCITT. One of your very first training sessions will be on equipping you with strategies to protect your well-being throughout your training year and beyond: recognising your triggers and stress signature, planning practical coping strategies, building stress-relievers into your daily routine, making your own Emergency Mental Health First Aid kit…
You’ll receive weekly well-being updates and practical tips to support your self-care in the midst of the busyness of your training – sometimes you just need a reminder that it’s okay to stop and take time out to do something that refreshes you. The SCITT also puts proactive support measures in place such as access to free counselling and external support networks.
You will have the support of your mentor in your placement school who will have weekly meetings and regular check-ins with you to make sure you are on track. Building a good relationship with your mentor and department is really important as they will provide much of the day-to-day support and input.
You will build great relationships with the other SCITT trainees. You will be able to share stories about your placements and the ups and downs of your experiences as a novice teacher. They will be able to understand, because they are going through the same things as you. You’ll laugh together at things that students said, and pick each other up after lessons that didn’t quite follow your perfect plan (heads up, it happens!).
As a SCITT trainee, you have the extra advantage of having all of the support offered by the SCITT in addition to access to the extensive network of support that the university offers their students: Student Welfare Service, Counselling, AccessAbility, Academic and Learning Support.
There is so much support available to you to help you thrive in your teacher training year, and not just survive it. You obviously have a desire to influence, impact and invest in the next generation to even be considering teaching… But rest assured, you are not expected to do that at the expense of your own well-being. So, make sure you fit your own oxygen mask first!
To find out more about our Well-being programme, click here
If you are considering training as a teacher, come and meet the SCITT team and find out how we could help.