Eat, wash and sleep: 13 tips for getting through the most miserable time of the teaching year

TS Eliot was wrong. It is February, not April, that is the cruellest month. Christmas is a long time past, Easter is a long time away, and winter shows no sign of coming to an end. To make matters even worse, February is also the point in the school year when summer holidays – past and future – are furthest away. Rarely is there a time when hibernation seems a more attractive option.

So TES – with the help of Julian Stanley, chief executive of the Education Support Partnership, and Dr Sara Bubb, of the UCL Institute of Education – has compiled a list of tips to help you get out of bed on the darkest days of the teaching year.

  1. Count your blessings
    Every day, before you do anything else, lie in bed and mentally list all the good things that happened the previous day, however small: “Yesterday, I didn’t cry” or “Yesterday, a parent thanked me for something”.
  2. Cut corners
    No one can shine all the time: some days will be better than others. It is all right to take the easy way out sometimes. Aiming for constant perfection is a surefire route to constant disappointment.
  3. Have your vitamin levels checked by your GP
    It would be a shame if the only thing standing between you and happiness was an extra glass of orange juice.
  4. A change is as good as a rest…
    Go for a walk at lunchtime. A breath of fresh air, a change of scenery and some alone-time can help put things in perspective.
  5. …even if it’s a restroom rest
    If all else fails, lock yourself in the loo for some cubicle quiet time.
  6. Channel your inner yogi
    When it all gets a bit much, take deep, diaphragmatic breaths. Even better: do it while you’re speaking to pupils. If you speak on an out breath, it makes you sound calmer and more authoritative.
  7. Eat
    You are busy; you skip lunch; you are hungry; you are cranky; you snap at the children; they bridle; everyone is miserable.
  8. Know your body clock
    Work out when your most productive time of day is, and save the most demanding tasks for then.
  9. Avoid presenteeism
    Don’t feel that you have to stay at school until everyone else has left. There is no point in still being there at 6pm if you are not actually achieving anything.
  10. Wash away the stress
    Putting your body in warm water has been scientifically shown to have a calming effect on the nervous system. Putting your hands in warm water several times a day has been scientifically shown to remove germs. Win-win.
  11. Plan ahead
    Find a task that you can do when you are exhausted and functioning on autopilot – preparing your classroom for the following day, perhaps – and do it at the end of the school day. That’s one less task to think about in the morning.
  12. Plan a holiday
    Nothing makes pictures of sun-kissed beaches and pristine mountain peaks look quite as attractive as a torrential downpour outside your window.
  13. Hibernate
    Not all winter, perhaps. But having a good nine hours’ sleep at least once a week can make all the difference.

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