If you could press [CTRL] [ALT] [DEL] on life, I reckon a few us might have rebooted 2020 several times already.
The research shows that even at the best of times, teaching is one of the most stressful jobs there is – in fact Safework NSW reports teachers experience similar levels of stress to those working as prison guards or members of the emergency services.
So in 2020, with our communities facing drought, bushfires, COVID-19 and now the scrutiny on the teaching profession as to how it educates the nation’s youth, it’s understandable that our teachers might feel a little under the pump.
Just a few weeks ago society – albeit fleetingly – acknowledged what an amazing job our educators do, as parents suddenly gained a new insight into what it was like to try to teach. Some parents may have had the uncomfortable realisation that perhaps their child wasn’t quite the angel they thought they were between the hours of 8am – 4pm.
But as parental patience and internet connections wore thin and the economy thinner still, attention turned to just when will schools be back to business as usual?
As teachers head into what will undoubtedly be a turbulent Term 2, I wanted to offer three mindsets that might prove useful, not only for the next few weeks, but for life in general.
Look for the Good
You won’t need to work hard looking for the bad. It will come in the way of news reports, cranky emails, heated discussions and that general sense of uncertainty which is essentially the human’s Kryponite. Looking for the Good is not some form of blind optimism. I’m not suggesting for a moment we be Pollyanna about the situation, but what I am suggesting is if we don’t look for the good, we won’t see it. We won’t recognise the moment of serenity over our morning coffee before the day kicks off and we won’t see the beautiful sunset as we make our way home. On a deeper level, we won’t see the opportunity to spend more quality time with those who actually are the most important people in the world. Of course, recognising the small wins we have in times like this doesn’t strike out the losses, but it can help us handle them slightly better.
Think of it as Physical Distancing – Not Social Distancing
In times like this the last thing we need is Social Distancing as sense of ‘belonging’ is critical for our wellbeing. Whether that’s in your family, school community or society more broadly, using the media available to us to stay connected, and in some cases strengthen our connection will be critical if we are to come through this. I wonder how many of us have suddenly realised that the argument we had a few months ago and which we’re still holding against that particular person really isn’t worth the worry or anger we’re holding on to? We need to ensure that our social bonds are as tight as ever – if not tighter – as even when things “get back to normal,” things won’t be normal. Family friends will be wary about staying too long, parents will worry about the sniffly kid in the park, and unfortunately xenophobia will raise its head.
Be a Learner
Unless you work in Distance Education, there is a fair chance that planning, delivering and evaluating lessons online has proved something of a challenge. This can play havoc with our sense of wellbeing especially if we expect to be good at teaching. Especially if being a teacher is core to our identity. Six weeks ago, you knew what you’d be doing this week. But as late as last week you may have had no idea! Expecting to be “good” in this new forum adds undue pressure so instead view this time as a period of learning, and rather than your goal this week being to teach “good lessons” make your goal to reflect on what you learn through teaching online. Obviously this is easier in a culture where learning is truly valued, but we work in schools so that should be a start.
As I eluded to earlier, these three mindsets are not a panacea, nor are they intended to be. Tough times are part of being human, and you can be sure once we’re through this, something else will rise up to challenge us. But if you can adopt any or all of these mindsets, it will help you take whatever life throws at you next in your stride.