Four steps to being a happy teacher

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Good teaching relies not just on what we do, but how we feel, argues Jo Steer in the TES.

So much is said, written and known about what it takes to be a good teacher. But how much is known about how to be a happy teacher? It turns out that in today’s climate, you can follow the “great teaching” map, do everything right and still find yourself feeling inadequate, hopeless and miserable.

Schools need to help teachers with their wellbeing, but we can also do some things ourselves.

1. Assertiveness

Learning to say no can be incredibly difficult, especially if you’re a hard-worker with people-pleasing tendencies. But if you say yes to everything, you’ll go under.

If you’re struggling to say no, take a moment to weigh up the immediate short-term pain of an awkward conversation with SLT and minor heart-palpitations, versus the long-term pain of saying yes to a commitment that you don’t have the time nor will to complete.

And don’t be afraid to negotiate. If I agree to this, what other work can be taken away? When will I be given the time in school to do it? What other deadlines can be pushed back? Remember: if you don’t ask, you don’t get.

2. Organisation

The impact of being organised – or disorganised – can be measured as much in your mood and wellbeing as your professional success. Failing to plan ahead – to pre-empt what could go wrong; to save and file, physically and digitally – leads to ill-afforded wasted time.

Delegate appropriate tasks to colleagues where you can; develop structured routines before, during and after regular class activities; and trust (and train) the students to help, not hinder these routines.  

3. Take a moment to do nothing

With our enormous and ever-changing workloads, many of us can feel like our attention is constantly being pulled in different directions.

Spend more time in the present moment, with your breath, body or senses; when your attention drifts away, bring it back. Developing mindfulness into a daily habit will make you less vulnerable to the stresses of modern teaching. Plus, it’ll help you to actually notice the good stuff, too.

4. Laugh

One last thing: work to keep your sense of humour, at all costs. Because as some wise soul put it: “Life is better when you’re laughing.”

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