It is fair to say that I have not engaged with blogging as an activity for quite some time now, however I personally believe that this is a topical issue worth sharing some insight into. As the title partly implies, this is my last year of teacher training and I am going to be perfectly honest and say that it has not been an easy first couple of months. I like to think of things in a visual way so imagine a juggler. This juggler represents a fourth year student. The juggler starts by throwing one ball up and down in the air- this ball represents the first task the student has been set for the year. Sounds easy enough? Over time the juggler is thrown more and more balls from university, family, friends and other outside commitments, and is expected to keep juggling, no matter how many are thrown their way. This idea that the juggler will simply manage to keep up-skilling them self by finding new ways of balancing all the balls that life has thrown at them, whilst remaining happy and stress free, is hard to fathom. Did I mention that the juggler had never been taught to juggle more than three balls at once?
While this all comes across as very negative, and you may be sitting thinking “get a grip”, “that’s just life” or what many of us are told at the moment “you’ll get through this”, this is the reality that many people are facing and do not know how to cope. But what if we didn’t focus so much on just pushing through? Once reaching the end of one stressful period there may be a short time of bliss before the next ball is thrown our way. Do we really want to live life “getting through” every day, more importantly, is this what we want to teach the children in our schools?
Resilience is one of the ‘buzz words’ going around at the moment and I agree that it is vital that we help our children to become more resilient in order to face the challenges that life presents. However, as someone who has grown up in an education system, and largely in a society, that teaches to the next test and puts huge emphasis on academic achievement, it can be hard to recognise resilience within myself at times. If this is true of other teachers and future teachers then how can we possibly teach children to be resilient if we are unsure of what it means to ourselves? Is it maybe time that we support teachers in looking at their own wellbeing and how we can lead healthier and happier lives?
I am very lucky to have been brought up in a loving, supportive family and with a strong faith that has given me a good foundation to build on. This is something I will always be grateful for but with a rise in social media use, particularly among young people (myself included) and a strange trend among students to talk more about the negative aspects of our lives than the aspects we are thankful for, it can be hard to come back to those roots.
This is where it comes down to the individual.
The book “What Teachers Need to Know About Personal Wellbeing” (Ferguson, 2008) is what has inspired me to write this post. In her writing Ferguson identifies some of the major pressures that teachers are put under but also highlights that we are our own agents of change. We have the power to choose how we feel and how we respond to what life has to throw our way. We can sit and feel sorry for ourselves, blaming others for how unjust life can be (a pattern I have shamefully adopted for too long now) or we can bite the bullet and spend more time nourishing ourselves and looking after our wellbeing. The poster below is something I have created, with words taken directly from Ferguson’s book, as an important daily reminder to myself.
- What am I going to do today that makes the best use of my time and energy?
- How much energy am I prepared to invest in each situation and how does that nourish or deplete my wellbeing?
- What boundaries will I put around me to protect myself from situations that may detract from my wellbeing?
- What am I going to do today that nourishes me as a person? (Ferguson, 2008, p93)
“Appreciate the force of your personal power and feel the strength in choosing your attitude” (Ferguson, 2008, p93)
Ferguson (2008) also makes a valid point that when we are physically injured or sick, we stop and take time to let ourselves heal but this is rarely the case in terms of when we are not well mentally. I think it is crucial that we are supporting and encouraging not only teachers but our friends, families and colleagues, across society, to put their wellbeing first. If we are not able to look after ourselves, how are we supposed to teach others to do just that?
Let’s revisit the juggler. Imagine they decided to put every ball in a box and take out one at a time, reflecting on how much this ball nourished or depleted their wellbeing, continuing to only juggle those which enhanced their sense of wellbeing. They would still be juggling the remaining balls but perhaps with a smile on their face.
Ferguson, D. (2008) What Teachers Need to Know About Personal Wellbeing. Camberwell: Australian Council for Educational Research.