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Does teaching have to be this way?

The answer has to be no

This article is a bit of an impulse-write. I was thinking about the block that many teachers, including myself once upon a time, have to invest in themselves.

They invest in their students and their classrooms but when it comes to investing in themselves, there is either an assumption that this is the responsibility of the school or that there is simply nothing left in the pot (whether time, energy or financial in nature) for themselves.

When there is an investment in the individual teacher, it is often focussed, often understandably, on CPD: how to make you a better teacher or a better leader in school.

The individual human being behind the role lies forgotten.

Then this image came to my mind:

Image by Gemma Drinkall

I could feel the weight of the whole triangle bearing down on the individual teacher.

All of that responsibility.

All of those needs.

All of that expectation.

Loaded on top of them.

Whilst they are at the bottom of the pile.

I thought, “No wonder teachers burn out. They’re literally squashed like a bug by the job”.

With this mindset, that everything and everyone has got to come first, it is little wonder that teachers don’t think about their own wellbeing until it is too late. Until they’ve been squished out of the job they once loved and have given so much of themselves to.

There must be another way.

When I thought about the alternative, this is the image that came into my mind:

Admittedly, I struggled to find an image that didn’t involve a bride and groom on their wedding day but you get the idea!

The key part of the image is that the champagne pours from the top to fill the glasses below.

The diagram version looks like this:

Image by Gemma Drinkall

Just like the champagne flute pyramid, everything in teaching comes from the top, from within the teacher.

The lessons.

The learning.

The care, dedication and attention.

The learning environment.

The marking, the report writing, and the data captures.

Everything comes from the individual teacher.

This makes me really question this traditional concept that teachers need not invest in themselves. The learning of our students does not occur without you. And that isn’t just about making sure you’re up to date with the latest pedagogy and retrieval practice techniques. It goes beyond that.

It goes right to the core of your humanness.

You are a human being first and a teacher second. You have got to make sure that you are a fully functioning, happy and healthy human being if you are to give anything valuable of yourself to your students.

With the new school year upon us, now is the time to start pouring from a full cup.

Now is the time to be professionally selfish so that you can consistently be present for your students.

Now is the time to put yourself first because without you, your whole triangle crumbles.

“You have got to make sure that you are a fully functioning, happy and healthy human being if you are to give anything valuable of yourself to your students. ”

This is what I am dedicating myself to doing this academic year: helping teachers to recognise their own value, invest in themselves and be the best version of themselves for themselves, their students and most importantly, their families beyond the classroom.

And the first step? Getting The Thriving Middle Leaders membership off the ground. Learn more about this new opportunity here.

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The author

Gemma Drinkall is an Educational Wellbeing Coach dedicated to helping middle leaders in education to create clear boundaries so that they can thrive in teaching.

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