How does our own well-being contribute to our students’ learning? As we get deeper and deeper into the school year, we can easily forget about ourselves as we get caught up in the daily responsibilities of administration, correction, and lesson preparation. We may even tell ourselves that “we’ll relax over the weekend”, “we’ll read something for fun during the holidays”, and “we’ll recharge when we have some time to spare”. However, it’s essential that we give ourselves enough attention all through the year. We have collected some ideas to inspire you to engage in some much-needed self-care.
We can view our well-being from two perspectives: as professionals and as private individuals. We are teachers, but after all, we are also people.
Tips on professional well-being
1 Listen to your students.
Dedicating some time to qualitative feedback is worth both the time and effort. At the end of each term, ask your students what they liked and didn’t like in your lessons. It’s also important to ask them to share at least three things they learnt. If your course had any specific activities, ask them what they think about them. And don’t be shy to ask them for their own suggestions. Your students’ answers might focus on their likes/dislikes, but it will show you how much you have achieved with them during the term and give you an insight into how to engage them more in the following one.
2 Colour your lessons with some fun.
Whether it is a museum visit, a science experiment, a joint lesson with any other subject teacher, a visit to a park or library - do something fun with your students. You can choose a story to read each term and set up fun project-based activities or themed parties around them. You can organize a reading marathon or a book swap day.
It may seem difficult or even impossible to squeeze in an extra activity as you also need to follow the curriculum and perhaps are also preparing for an exam; however, it’s important to establish some teacher autonomy, and a creative project can serve this purpose. Your students will love it, especially if you involve them in setting up the event or project.
3 Do something really practical.
We should feel that our work is meaningful and that we contribute to our students’ preparation for tasks outside of school. You know your students best, and you should come up with tasks in English that they are likely to come up against in their everyday lives. Are they planning a trip abroad? Do they like watching Facebook/Instagram videos? Maybe they like making them? Do they like writing reviews of films and video games?
Teach them how to book their own tickets. Help them with writing a good CV.
Explain to them the basics of a good review. Ask them to bring their own favourite games/films/books to class and present them. Give feedback, and encourage peer review.
4 Join a teacher community
Is there a community or association either locally or nationally that you can join? Do IATEFL or TESOL have an association in your country? Do they organize conferences? Are there any special interest groups (SIGs) you could join?
Publishers, English language bookshops, private language schools, and public schools also organize events for teachers. If you can’t take part in these events, check out the programmes to stay informed.
It is an excellent idea to organize monthly/bimonthly events with your colleagues where you can share your ideas, talk about challenges, and get some inspiration. It is important to talk about our experiences in the classroom. Make it an informal event with some tea and biscuits, and you will immediately feel better.
- Follow the international IATEFL and TESOL websites
- Check out other teacher’s conferences in your country.
- Sign up for updates on this blog to get weekly ideas on teaching.
Tips on personal well-being
1 Stay active
The old saying ‘a healthy mind in a healthy body’ is true for everyone, but especially for teachers. We look after our students’ mental, emotional, and physical well-being every day, all through the year. It is a difficult job if we don’t look after ourselves. Find an activity that switches you off, that makes you feel really good in your body, and try doing it a couple of times a week. Go for a walk, swim, do rock climbing. Anything works.
2 Love the language you teach
When we need to teach the same topics and answer the same questions about grammar and vocabulary every day, using the language can become quite monotonous. Although students do surprise us with interesting questions, it is good to remind ourselves how much we love the English language.
Read poems, novels, newspapers for fun. Remember how fascinating this language is: listen to radio stations in different dialects. Don’t feel bad about binge-watching a TV series in English: you can switch off and improve your advanced language skills at the same time!
3 Learn another language
As a language teacher, you probably speak at least two languages. Switching between languages can feel like a superpower, and it is definitely beneficial for our cognitive skills. Train your mind by starting to learn a new language. Your teaching will also benefit from it: seeing the classroom from the other side can make your relationship with your students even better.
4 Do creative things
Apart from learning a language, it is also important to remind ourselves of things we love. Are there any hobbies that you love but had to give up because of time constraints?
Pick one and start doing it again!
Maybe you love going to concerts, or you can’t remember the last time you went to the cinema or theatre. It’s time to start doing things that we love.
What makes YOU feel better as a teacher? We’d love to hear your ideas.