When society feels hopeless, educators must be hopeful. Education is not about curriculum, subjects, assessment or even school sport. Education is about liberation – about future freedom to make the changes our world needs so badly. It’s time for Trucker Teachers and education leaders to step up and show the way with these 7 ideas for well-being.
Setting the scene
This Covid season in our history has left many of us feeling a sense of despair. Poor global leadership, a slow response to the pandemic, political juggling and scientific mixed messaging leaves all of us feeling insecure.
Insecurity is destabilising and fear inducing. Our minds conjure up scenarios that keep the bright awake at night. The dim shine their social media light on their negative thoughts leaving all feeling purposeless.
In the midst of this chaos, teachers and education leaders need to step up. Sadly, many can no longer stand. Their well-being has been disregarded for so long that this seems to be the final straw that breaks the camels back.
The Trucker Teacher vs the Camper Van Teacher
There are two kinds of teachers – Trucker Teachers and Camper Van teachers. Trucker Teachers, for the sake of this metaphor, are driven by passion. They are constantly on the road. They work long hours and often are away from home. If the truck stands idle, they see it as wasting time and missing opportunities.
They drive 18-wheel vehicles with powerful engines designed to carry heavy loads and they negotiate traffic and terrain to ensure that their cargo arrives at the pre-determined destination. These Trucker Teachers are passionate and love to be on the road, driving long distances. With their windows open and a hand on the horn, they announce their arrival. They are tough, fearless and focused. They are goal driven and most importantly, they ensure that their vehicles are always in tip top condition to ensure that the freight arrives safely. Maintenance of the Trucker Teacher’s vehicle is a top priority. Tyres, brakes, lights and engine are all regularly maintained. Failure to look after the truck will guarantee disaster.
Failure to look after the physical and emotional life of an educator, is instructive. Burnout is crippling our profession. If teachers and school leaders do not actively engage in strategic plans to care for themselves and their staff, the cargo – our precious children of this land – will not arrive at their destination.
Camper Van teachers are a different species. The van stands in the driveway waiting for an opportunity, when the time is right and the weather is good, to venture out. Camper Van teachers have no focus, happy to meander through the valleys and overheat up the hills. There is no sense of urgency with plenty of time on their hands to carry out repairs en route. There is no drive and little passion.
Trucker Teachers can only be useful if their vehicles are regularly serviced. The body and mind of the teacher must receive our attention.
7 Ideas to Improve Teacher Wellbeing
1. Give yourself permission to do FEWER things better.
2. Get your MVP in place. Determine what your Minimum Viable Product is. Get the core features in place and then add as you go.
3. Do not plan lessons for the ideal day, plan for a realistic day.
4. Expect unexpected interruptions. Always build in buffer time.
5. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that the more you work the better your students will perform. Teachers are experts at self-guilt. The job is so demanding that you need to plan for time-out, repair-time and family-time. Look after yourself and your colleagues. Build each other up.
6. Minimise the activities that are making you work harder than your students.
7. Leaders, spoil your staff. Human Capital is the greatest investment in any school. No astroturf or waterpolo pool will bring about the change that a motivated, emotionally strong teaching team can deliver.
Become a “Trucker Teacher” today
If ever there was a time in history when we needed a cohort of Trucker Teachers – now is the time. Whether we are offering digital learning from home, split classes at school or platooning of venues, the vehicle must be in a good shape. Exercise regularly, eat well, laugh often, learn the power of breathing, take a meditation course online, try a yoga session in the privacy of your lounge, have your hair done, talk to friends on the phone, buy yourself something nice on pay day and watch a missed series on Netflix. Drop a note to a colleague in their pigeon hole highlighting their gift to the organisation. Build each other up. Avoid the stress-contagious people in your life – they have no value and must never determine your worth.
Now, pick up your load and carry that precious cargo to its destination with a smile on your face.