Becoming a more resilient teacher

Over the last few years growth mind set has become prevalent in school, most schools I walk into have lovely posters often made by children in PHSE explaining growth mind set and the importance of resilience. Resilience is becoming a new buzz word in end of year reports; Billy’s resilience has grown so much this year! Molly has shown true resilience when overcoming obstacles in her learning. However, how often do we apply this word to the staff in schools. To my mind it seems important that we should for one be modelling the mindset we want children to adopt and for two if the pressures on students these days require them to have a strong innate resilience I would say this is doubly so for the staff with a school!

So let’s look at how we can do this. Firstly it’s important to create self-awareness; becoming more aware of your thoughts and actions can help to notice patterns or areas for improvement. It can also help you to recognise aspects that are going well and need to be celebrated. To become more self-aware it’s important to listen to your body…how do you react to stressful situations? Do you sweat? Does your stomach churn? Do your thoughts race or do you repeatedly play one scenario? Try writing down a list of your stress symptoms and the stressors themselves.

For me: My palms itch, my stomach churns, I feel like I can’t breath, I start talking fast and loud.

Once you have this list the next time you notice one of these things starting you can stop and repeat your list checking if you’re experiencing any other symptoms. This gives you a minute to stop and recognise your feelings which is actually more calming than you might think. It gives you a chance to reflect on what is causing the symptoms is it true, is it real, is it rational…this gives you perspective.

Secondly it’s important to focus your attention on the present moment. It stops your mind racing ahead and going to the what-if thoughts that add additional stress to the situation. This is something that I find very hard to do as an anxiety sufferer my mind will always try to run to the what-if thoughts and it is something I constantly have to work on. One thing I find helps me in the moment is to focus on my surroundings; in my head I say the name of all the things I can see on my desks and the tasks I am going to be doing for the next 30 minutes.

It does take additional practice however for example I go for a walk every morning before I start work (sometimes it’s as short as 5 minutes, sometimes longer), I focus on my route, I notice the colours I see around me, the colour of the leaves or grass, the sound the sea is making, the feel of the wind or sun. I try to notice as many details as I can and focus only on these things. By taking the same route I then compare it, in the car on the way to work what was different from the previous day? This way my time before going into work is focused on the now not on worrying about what I might experience once I set foot in the classroom.

I also look for other chances in the day when I can practice this technique so I can get used to doing it in a busy work setting…when I’ve finished a focused task with a group of children I take a few moments to look around my class and note the sounds the children are making, the colours in the room, how busy it is etc. At lunch I focus solely on my food; it’s texture and taste. I take a few moments then to practice taking 5 deep breaths noticing the effect it has on my body.

Finally take a moment before judging a situation first take 3 minutes to recall the high points (there’s always something). If it’s a lesson recall the times the children were actively listening or the child who completed the task in full, the moment when you explained something really clearly. Then allow yourself to assess; it would’ve been better if…I should’ve done…I wish we’d… You might find that you don’t actually need to do this.

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