Putting yourself first this September

Andy Chandler-Grevatt

Back to School. The end of the summer break and the new term. New students, new timetable, new you? What will you do differently this school year? An often neglected part of our ambitions, planning and targets is looking after ourselves. How are you going to look after yourself this year?

Teachers are prone to working flat out for the six week term, then trying to rest during the ‘holidays.’ Often the latter they are too tired to enjoy or have already filled with jobs they were not able to do during term time. A healthier, more sustainable way is to balance your work and life throughout the term.

Here are my tips for making it through the academic year feeling well physically and mentally.


As good as we are planning lessons and timetables, we often miss out an important factor – planning for meeting our own basic needs and down time. On a day to day basis, make sure you plan to sit down and have lunch, use the bathroom and take some exercise.

Set some boundaries

As well as planning when you will plan, mark and teach, plan also when you will rest and play. When things get busy, often the first thing to go is time with our loved ones, our partner or family. Set some boundaries that you can agree with your loved ones. For example, agree that Friday evenings and Saturdays are ‘no work days’.

Time for you

What makes you relax? What gives you joy? Find time to do that each day. Is it walking the dog, reading a section of a novel, playing the piano? Plan to take just half an hour or so a day to do it, if you don’t do it every day, that’s fine, but if it’s planned for you are more likely to do it.

Finally, once you have set your boundaries, share them and defend them. Let your colleagues know, encourage them to do the same. It manages people’s expectations of you. Say no when you are imposed upon, or at least make the person imposing something aware that it has consequences on your life. This way we can all be happy and healthy throughout the whole academic year.

Teaching can be a great job, but if our work life balance is suffering, we can feel dissatisfied. There are a number of thought exercises you can do to empower you to make changes. These are available through the ASE’s Science Teacher SOS project, which provides food for thought for all teachers, not just scientists: www.ase.org.uk/sos.

Dr Andrew Chandler-Grevatt has a PhD in school assessment and a passion for science teaching and learning. Having worked as a science teacher for ten years, five of which as an AST, Andy has a real understanding of the pressures and joys of teaching. Alongside his research in school assessment, Andy is a teaching fellow on the PGCE course at the University of Sussex, and is a successful published assessment author. He is the Assessment Editor for Activate, AQA Activate, AQA GCSE Sciences (9-1) and OCR Gateway GCSE Sciences and is also the author of How to Assess Your Students and How to Teach for Progress.

For more advice on managing your time and dealing with stress, you might like to read Chapter 10, Self-management, from Essential Teaching Skills Fifth Edition by Professor Chris Kyriacou.