Over the last few months teachers worldwide have faced one of their biggest challenges yet. As schools begin to return to a ‘new normal’ it is important to ensure teachers are protecting their personal wellbeing as well as the wellbeing of their students.

Education Futurist Tony Ryan, shares some personal skills and practical ideas on how teachers can look after themselves in the coming weeks and months as schools navigate change.

Keeping it personal

In unprecedented times, particularly for teachers, it becomes natural to focus on the needs of students above all else. That said, teachers must pay equal attention to their own mental and physical wellbeing.

Daily life embraces four dimensions, the physical, the social, the mental and the spiritual – maintaining all of these is essential, not only for personal wellbeing but also to ensure teachers can continue to meet the needs of students effectively and with resilience.

Resilience, or ‘mental toughness’ is a person’s ability to cope with life. Great educators focus elements such as these to maintain their resilience:

1. Remain hopeful
2. Solve problems and make decisions
3. Contribute to the wellbeing of others
4. Focus on things they can control
5. Identify mistakes as challenges

Although the last few months have been difficult, identifying stress indicators and taking time to de-stress is imperative to maintaining a positive mental attitude.

There are two types of stress ‘Eustress’ – good stress, the kind that motivates individuals to achieve goals, and ‘Distress’, the kind that is based on worry and anxiety. If a teacher is feeling distressed, recognising the signs (eg poor sleep) and putting stress-busters (eg exercise) in place is vital.

Professional development

The second way teachers can protect their personal wellbeing is through continuous professional development. Ongoing learning encourages everyone to seek fresh approaches to problems, and to adopt a healthy perspective towards new opportunities.

With this in mind it is important to keep learning going and to model a love for learning, but to do so in bitesize chunks. Learn one new skill at a time, avoid overwhelming teachers. Each teacher has different skill sets and abilities, nurture these and steadily take on new skills.

Protecting teacher personal wellbeing is just as important as maintaining that of the students. Focusing on the personal skills and professional skills as discussed above will help teachers to adapt to different learning practices as they adjust to the new normal.