Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Getting a Grip...

This week I've started my 25th year of teaching.  I started work at a small Upper School (actually a Secondary Modern) in Buckinghamshire back in September 1989.  I've taught ever since - without a break for Maternity Leave but in a variety of schools and situations, which has kept things interesting.

This week has caught me in a slightly pensive and reflective mood. 

I still love being a teaching as much as I always did.  I adore getting to know the kids, and trying to match my enthusiasms to their interests so that we both benefit from being in the classroom.  I think I'm lucky to have chosen Music teaching as my career.

BUT.... I'm not keen on the idea that another 12 months of teaching is going to have another 12 months of 'wear and tear' on me. 

IF.... I handle the 5.45 alarm calls; the 70 miles commute; the considerable workload; the additional concert schedule and stress generated by the general staff politics in the same way as last year.... I will just end up in the same place at the end of the year.  I was drinking a bit (sometimes a lot) too much wine; far too much coffee and virtually no water.  I slept badly and the sleep deprivation made the stresses and stupidity harder to handle.  I was too tired to function in the evenings and the cycle just kept on repeating and growing. Standard stuff really.....


SO.... I'm implementing some 'New School Year' Resolutions.
  • Exercise every evening - in the form of walking (while the weather is dry and we can get out) and Pilates (when the weather is wet).
  • No 'habit drinking' - especially while I'm cooking or continuing through the evening after the meal while I'm watching TV. 
  • Driving myself whenever possible, so that I can get home a little earlier and start dinner before Mark gets home.
  • Doing everything I reasonably can to ensure that I sleep properly when I go to bed.  (This may result in a trip to the Docs - but we'll see..).  If I slept every hour that I was under the duvet, I'd never be sleep deprived again! 
  • Working out some of my priorities.  I can't remember the last time I went out to be sociable mid-week because I'm become frightened of missing out on sleep.
  • Keeping a sense of perspective - after all, 24 years at the chalk face must generate some useful prior experience!!!!!
Wish me luck.....

I hope that the new academic year is going well for everyone.


  1. I couldn't cope with your commute. Mine is 45 mins max. and that gets me down. You have to have a good work life balance to have the energy to cope with the demands of teaching. I've changed a lot in my life over the past few years and feel much better for it. Good luck!
    Kathy x (primary teacher of 35 years)

  2. I truly admire you Jan, as you know I work in the public school district and I'm surrounded by teachers. I KNOW how hard you work as a teacher, I KNOW what you do and how you do it. And I admire you, You are rocking it and I want to personally thank you for all that you do for the children that you teach.
    I also admire that you have set out a definite set of rules that you want to follow, just keep in mind that if you ever fail, it's okay, because we all make mistakes. That commute has to be the stressful of it all, I communted an hour to work and an hour back every day, and I hated the time I missed out with my kids. So if you can maybe apply to another school? What do you think? I know you said you couldn't transfer, but maybe apply as a teacher to a whole new district or school? Anything to not be stressed!
    Much love to you and great peace and luck this school year!Tammy

  3. Teaching in the school next door can be shattering let alone with a long commute! You must get your work life balance back... I wish you every good thing in the year ahead and a chance to stand and stare a bit more. I like your list; good things to aim for for everyone!

  4. I hope you manage to sort out the life/school balance. From past posts I can see how much effort you put in to teaching, you've got such a great relationship with your pupils so you're definitely doing everything right there. Now you need to work out what you need, don't neglect you or else everything else will fall down. Hope you manage to get everything sorted and good luck with your return to school.

  5. I really wish you all the best with making your changes. You actually deserve a medal for still being as enthusiastic and dedicated as you are after 24 years. As you know, K is a high school teacher, who has a long commute ( 2 buses each way as she doesn't drive and no longer has a lift). She has only been teaching for 2 years and has told me that she cannot envisage doing it long-term as she is exhausted most of the time. She has hopes and dreams of doing something else which she loves, and which she has a talent for.
    I am impressed that you have made a plan of action and hope that it works for you. Have you tried using a relaxation tape or looked into mindfulness at all? Both of these were very helpful when I was seeing the psychologist due to stress, and may be of some use to you.

  6. I had no idea that you have been teaching that long. So many get burned out before that. Your list sounds doable and one that will bring good results. Sleep deprivation is awful....When I worked, I was always sleep deprived and it is so hard to deal with.
    Hope you can take some "Jan time" soon.

  7. It might be good for everyone concerned, if you took a 3 month holiday in the summer like we do here in the states? Are your class sizes large? Do you teach all day long or have an hour off to take a nice walk? Well--I don't know any answer. Usually here, teacher's retire at 20-25 years service. They have nice medical plans and a good pension. Carry on--stiff upper lip you know :-)

  8. Good luck with your list Jan it sounds like a great list to get your head around (I might even try compiling one myself!) and congratulations on your 25th teaching anniversary.
    Patricia x

  9. 25 years is something to be celebrated but as you say the wear and tear of the commute and sometimes stressful working conditions must take their toll. Your list is full of good ideas to keep your energy levels as high as you can - it is the lack of sleep that wears you down, I'm often awake at 3 or 4am and can't get back to sleep and it does catch up with you. Good luck with your new regime:)

  10. I too have a long commute (45 mins to 1 hour each way), a stressful job, 2 kids, and am newly 'single' again, so am feeling the huge financial stress of being alone. It's very difficult, but what's the alternative? I wish I knew. I need the money, and after 23 years it would be hard to find a comparable income. I'm putting the wine away too, and having 'Dry September' as I managed to do it in January, and you feel so much better physically, mentally and financially!

  11. I wish you well Jan. You have such a long commute, I dont know how you do it.I would be exhausted by the time I had got there. Good luck though with your new routine!!

  12. Teaching is one of the most stressful and rewarding professions. My mom taught 8th grade for 33 years and those last few terms just about depleted her. My grandmother (her mom) was a teacher/principal but I took a different path. I respect and admire teachers so very much but just couldn't make the commitment. Congratulations as you begin your Silver Anniversary year. -- Jan

  13. Good luck. I don't know any teachers these days but I do admire them because the kids today are far beyond what they were when I was going to school.

  14. Congratulations on the 25 years. I could do with following your advice about finding that balance.

  15. Stay positive Jan - and admitting where you have gone wrong - that extra glass or two of wine etc - shows you are aware and on the road to sorting everything out. I admire your honesty and hope all goes well as you start your 25th year teaching. You deserve a medal - well done, and keep smiling x

  16. Good goals and I think they will help your stress. 70 miles, is that round trip or one way, is a long commute. The good thing about that is that when you leave for the day, you really can leave it all behind. You don't have to worry (much) about running into anyone from school, especially if they were the one causing your stress. Do you listen to books on tape while commuting or make use of your drive in other ways?

  17. Like your list it has given me food for thought - good luck x