Our teacher friends are a life line in an often stressful job. They are the people we go to for a moan, they understand what we are feeling, they may have experienced similar feelings or situations and can give us invaluable support and advice.
Ask any teacher and they will tell you that if they are in a school without a teacher bestie it makes life so much harder.
In my first year of teaching I was in a two classroom portacabin, isolated from the rest of the school. I was teaching Y5 and they were the first Y5 class the school had ever had, so it was all new. Fortunately for me, the teacher in the adjacent classroom was also new to the school, but she had moved down from middle school (it was the year they went from first and middle schools to the primary system in Bradford – you can age me now if you are interested!).
Hazel was amazing!
Without her support I would not have got through that first year. She was my rock and I was hers. She helped me with all the new things I had to learn and I helped her with the rapidly emerging IT demands.
How have things changed this year
This year, with schools trying to manage all the new demands of the pandemic everything has changed in schools and every school seems to have a slightly different approach to the guidelines. In some schools every year group has a separate timetable, different break times, lunch times, even start and finish times. Some schools have different areas of the playground for the children to stay in and the children are having lunches in the classroom. In some schools the teachers are only allowed to spend time with other teachers in their bubble. Other schools are allowing up to 6 members of staff in the staffroom at a time in line with the ‘rule of 6″. Some teachers are teaching in person and online simultaneously, some are self isolating…
This is just based on the few conversations I have had with teachers here in the UK. I am sure there are a million permutations globally.
The impact of not being with your teacher friends
Some teachers have told me that they don’t get to see their teacher friends at all this year. They don’t need to tell me the impact this is having, it is written all over their faces. They miss each other. They are exhausted from remember everything they usually do and all the extra layers that these new measures have added. Many are on the brink of collapse from mental and physical exhaustion.
What can you do to care for yourself and your teacher friends this year?
Check in regularly
You may not be able to have a quick chat in the staffroom over a coffee but you can send messages and see how things are going. If you ask if they are ok and get the standard “Yeah I’m fine, you?” response, ask again. When we ask someone if they are ok for a second time it breaks the pattern our brain is used to and we don’t give an automated response, we give an honest one. Always ask twice.
Find time to meet away from school
You may be subject to the rules during school hours but you can still meet up within local guidelines outside school. Go for a coffee or a drink as often as you can. I know that you may feel that you don’t have time, but the pay off will far outweigh the time spent, honestly. I appreciate that in some areas this may not be possible, but if you can, then do, while you are able!
You may not be able to meet up away from school, or you may be too tired, but you can always make a cuppa or grab a glass of something cold and have a quick chat on Zoom, WhatsApp video etc. Why not have a staff quiz? The possibilities are endless.
Make sure you have other people to talk to
One of the most important services our teacher besties provide is a safe space to get things off our chest. Make sure you have someone else who you trust not to go blabbing, who you can talk to honestly about situations and how you are feeling to make sure you aren’t letting stress and upset build up. Obviously if it is someone outside the school setting you will have to be careful about confidentiality but you can talk about most situations without using names and that should suffice.
Most importantly you must make sure you are taking good care of yourself. Whether you can see your teacher friends at the moment or not, you have to make sure that you are focused on your wellbeing, not just all the new rules and regulations.
Here are some blogs which will help you to care for your mental health:
This is also a great article about staff wellbeing: Supporting Staff Wellbeing