The shortest day, with no sense of irony, ends the longest term, and is an appropriate point for us to round of our loose trilogy of wellbeing blogs under our #DetoxDecemberHT hashtag. The first two parts can be found here https://healthyteachertoolkit.wordpress.com/2017/12/10/in-the-bleak-midwinter-surviving-the-last-days-to-christmas-at-school/ and here https://healthyteachertoolkit.wordpress.com/2017/12/17/the-best-week-of-the-year/
Some of you are well into your first week off and others still have tomorrow to negotiate too. We have raised the issue of where school holidays fall in the past and one of our team discussions in recent days raised the question of whether a three week shutdown over the festive period might be appropriate. The traditional shutdown period undertaken by many in commerce actually overlaps the break for many teachers. Whilst we don’t want to be thinking about the return to work, the children in many of our schools will be resuming their studies whilst the decorations are still up.
Wellbeing during the holiday is as key as wellbeing during the term, and whilst many of us may have limped over the line having started in August in some cases, teachers and school leaders need to recognise that this holiday is only a staging post in the academic year. Here we will consider a few simple but practical strategies to keep wellbeing focussed and to cut stress to a minimum.
Look after your staff and they will look after you! We do hear of schools where there is a stack of emails for staff to address and from the days where inspections had a longer notice period, an expectation to come to school between Christmas and New Year to prepare the classrooms and planning. A few simple guidelines will help to cement goodwill.
- Communication; keep it to a minimum. Diaries and dates, data analyses, reminders; yes they are important but keep it all in one email.
- Avoid the most pervasive feature of email: the read receipt! It is intrusive and adds unnecessary pressure.
- That amazing new initiative or the essential change you want to see from January; it can wait until January or should have been rolled out before term ended.
- Respect the fact that your staff have families and loved ones, or may have lost loved ones.
- Respect the fact that some don’t or may face as challenging a time as some of our families.
- Any communication with staff you do have needs to feature the simplest and most uplifting words in the wellbeing lexicon….
- You are going to have things to do. Don’t fret through the holiday over your work. Choose a day and time to get it done. If returning in the first week of January get it done now and free up the festive days. This is a staging post in the year and no headteacher want to see a teacher exhausted by the end of the first week.
- See email advice for leaders above: why not do the same?
- If your school email comes to your phone, delete or disable the app until January.
- Though you may be tempted by the wine and chocolate gifts from parents and children, don’t lose yourself in an alcohol haze. Christmas can be a time of excess but do look after yourself. A pre-Christmas detox or a break between Christmas and New Year are too simple diet and exercise strategies to consider.
- Catch up! Old friends; neighbours; that book you started in October; those withered plants in the garden; the Scandinavian crime drama on BBC4. Why not give these your attention.
- Have a digital switch off or at least save Twitter for pictures of your Christmas dinner or new socks. A Christmas row on Twitter is almost as traditional now as a repeat of Morecambe and Wise. Is it really necessary?
How about this one, found by a dear friend.
Jólabókaflóð: the Christmas Book Flood
The Icelandic Tradition of gifting books on Christmas Eve includes the whole family reading their new books together, tucked in bed with a warming hot chocolate or a suitable tipple. How beautiful is that!
You have made it to the end of another year. You are in the most rewarding and uplifting profession that there is and every single one of us makes an impact on the lives of young people and their families.
It may be dark, it may be cold, Australia might have regained the Ashes (temporarily on loan) but from today, the nights lengthen, the light improves and summer is coming!