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Take a break. Go Graze!

KellerTeacher Well-being Leave a Comment

For many of our Partners, this is the time for the mid-year break. Just like recess for students at school, so school holidays are essential for teacher survival.   This is a vital time to get yourself well, physically, but more importantly, mentally. This is a vital time to take a break and go graze! But what does that mean?

The latest research on teacher wellbeing is not looking good. The 2021 key findings from the RAND Review indicated that job-related stress threatens the teacher supply.

Source: Keller Education EduMag – July 2022 – Adapted from RAND Review 2021

The results are concerning.  

The impact of the pandemic and the post pandemic stress disorder continues to linger as teachers deal with their personal losses and the anxiety generated by being at the chalkface during COVID.  

We have spent time with many teachers around the country ever since access was permitted.  Our teachers are not okay.  They present with a brave face. They arrive diligently every day, they give their very best in the classroom and on the sports field, but they are not okay.

The future does not look good for education.  Although South African statistics are scant, the USA National Education Association indicated a dramatic rise in the number of teachers who now plan to leave teaching sooner than they had planned based on the trauma associated with teaching through a pandemic.

Although salaries are reasonable within the framework of deep poverty in our country, the average salary of educators is currently running at 22% less than all other professional jobs (salaryexplorer.com)

The remuneration structure for teachers is not attractive to highly qualified and competent educators.  The flatness of the wage profile makes a long term investment in teaching unlikely. The profession is unlikely to attract high ability individuals.

Despite the DBE trying to squirm their way out of the answer provided by the Minister about teacher vacancies, it looks as though there are currently about 24 000 posts available in the country.  

With this in mind we need to look after ourselves.  We are a national key resource.  

Burn out is something we need to be aware of.  I recently heard the definition of chronic stress.  “As a result of a relatively unpleasant life – you die!”

If it wasn’t so real, it would be funny.  Burn-out is chronic stress. The only solution is self-care.  Although we constantly encourage Principals to address the burn-out levels on their staff, few school leaders are addressing their own stress levels.  We all need mental, cognitive and immunity resilience.

We need to be out GRAZING.  Consider the notion of horses grazing in a field.  This is the state we need to be in as often as possible. I can hear teachers chuckling as they read this.  

Action Plan

Relax – do nothing

When we relax, our immune system hunts down all the invading inflammation and cancer cells and repairs them.

The world is changing so fast, that unless we accept how vital it is to be resilient we will constantly be in a state of extreme alertness to manage the attack – resulting in burn-out. 

Build Support Groups

Make sure you are part of a small huddle of 5 – 8 people who are committed to supporting you.  Trust is established in small groups, not large teaching staffrooms.  

Acknowledge the Power of your Brain

The small stuff that underpins performance capacity is unconscious and is referred to by neuroscientists as plastic.  Brain plasticity means that we can grow new brain cells by making some simple changes to our lifestyle.  


Meditation and breath work can be so simple.  Just sit and become aware of your breath. Allow your brain to “open” the front door and the back door and if thoughts enter your mind allow them to pass straight through.  Focus on your breathing,  the spaces between your fingers and become aware of any tense muscles – then consciously relax them until your breathing is rhythmic.  


Optimism is a belief state.  Believe that “this too shall pass!”  This mindset shift seeks to focus on the good things in life and allows the frenetic to come and go.  


Find something that you like doing – and do it.  But the very best exercise for chronic stress relief is to do short bursts of high intensity exercise.  This means taking the number 220 for men and subtracting your age.  When your heart rate is at that number, then you are engaging in high intensity exercise.  For women the number is 210 minus your age.  

Go out and graze this holiday.  Stop rushing.  Take time for yourself.  Exercise. Breathe. Heal!  We need you in this profession like we have never needed you before. 



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