Keeping your work/life balance in September

Written by: Julian Stanley | Published:
Image: iStock

Two weeks into the new term, Julian Stanley offers some practical advice on ensuring your work/life balance is maintained as school life gets busy

Just 15 days into September and, for many, the long summer holidays already feel like a distant memory. The reality of the day-to-day delivery of a busy school curriculum is now well under way and the academic year officially in full swing.
In our experience this is a great time to reflect on your achievements so far and to pat yourself on the back for a good start.

It is also a good time to take stock of the aspirations you may have had for making this year the year for your professional development, work/life balance, health and fitness and assess your progress so far.

Treating the beginning of the school year as a chance to focus on best intentions is something I was recently chatting about with writer, academic and senior teacher Emma Kell, who has written an inspiring blog on our website entitled September: A blank page.

In her article, Emma discusses numerous tactics for maintaining a good approach to wellbeing and effectiveness at work – I’d like to recap on some of her advice here.

Focus on your purpose

Emma explains that her own personal mantra was adopted from Ofsted inspector Mary Myatt, who said that we should always try to “keep the main thing the main thing”. What this really means is that it is vitally important to remember that above all, the main objective of your work should be to plan lessons and units of learning, deliver them effectively and monitor student progress according to relevant assessment criteria. So although it can be fun, not every lesson has to be a spectacular show – simply facilitating effective learning is often enough.

Emma also discusses how each school will have its own set of procedures to ensure effective teaching and learning take place, and while it is a contractual obligation to follow these, if there are excessive pressures which you feel are not having a positive impact on learning, you should make time to have the conversation with your line manager. There will always be debate and dialogue around the most effective systems to ensure learning takes place and a good school will ensure all voices are heard.

Review your progress

Now is a good time to revisit the promises you made to yourself about how you wanted this year to be and to track your progress. Remember though it is natural that some of your hopes may not have worked out yet – with a new class, new timetable and potentially a new school setting it is often very hard to maintain completely new habits.

But If you still want to make changes, take time to reflect on why this hasn’t yet happened and then set smaller targets to help you get there. Big change takes place through incremental steps.

Planning and delivery

By compartmentalising the delivery of your work and the associated planning you will find your work/life balance improves no end. Emma suggests having one day a week where you leave just after your students do, at least one day at the weekend where you do no work at all, and at least an hour each day to switch off completely.

She also suggests that you use your non-contact planning time and reflective practice very carefully and ensure it doesn’t get frittered away on smaller unimportant tasks. Instead, you should tackle one important task at a time. In the end, by giving each activity its own space and time you will be better able to separate work, planning and free time both mentally and physically.

Avoid over-planning

Emma warns that you shouldn’t be trying to design overly intricate resources. She explains that this is because your school may well have these in place already and there will definitely be resources available in all sorts of online teaching communities that you can use and adapt.

What’s more, every class is different and you will invariably find that you need to adjust and tweak your lessons and resources from class-to-class according to your students’ strengths and the gaps in their knowledge.

Keep talking

Of the 2,000 people we questioned for our health survey last year, more than half of those who were suffering from health problems such as anxiety and depression said that they felt better after talking to someone about their problems.

So if things aren’t going well, don’t bottle it up. Speak up and feel better. And if you aren’t happy discussing problems with your line manager, go to a member of the leadership team or even another helpful colleague you trust and respect instead.

And don’t forget that the Education Support Partnership provides a confidential 24/7 helpline for all education staff (see below). It doesn’t really matter who you talk to – just verbalising your problems can help.

  • Julian Stanley is CEO of the Education Support Partnership, a charity supporting those working in the education sector.

Further information

  • For help or advice contact the Education Support Partnership’s free 24-hour helpline on 08000 562 561 and for details of other support services, visit www.educationsupportpartnership.org.uk
  • September: A blank page, Emma Kell’s blog on the Education Support Partnership’s website: http://bit.ly/2c98Qqf


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