Words by Jennifer Murray | 12 Jan 2024

The celebrations are over, the daylight hours still seem short, and the New Year’s resolutions are feeling harder to keep. These are some of the reasons we’re told by the media that the third week in January will begin with ‘Blue Monday’. While this neat little label might help to sell ‘mood-boosting’ gym memberships or even encourage us to count down to our next break, in this blog post, Jennifer Murray explores how wellbeing can (and should!) be a priority every day in schools.

As educators, we know that if we really want our children to learn about something, it takes time. It’s very likely that we’ll have to teach a topic in lots of different ways, revisit it multiple times and check in regularly to see how each individual’s understanding has developed. Being flexible, reflective and persistent is in the fabric of what we do when we teach fractions in maths, share poetry in English or explore coding in computing. Promoting and protecting wellbeing in schools should be no different. While labels like ‘Blue Monday’ can start conversations and shine a light on how external factors like weather, financial pressure or seasons can impact wellbeing, a single day of focus is not enough to make real change. Here are some reminders to help teachers keep their wellbeing high on the agenda beyond Blue Monday.

Self-care isn’t selfish

In fact, it’s a necessity. Teachers give time, energy and care to others all day, every day. Establishing some deliberate self-care habits at the start of the term can be powerful. Self-care can involve the little changes and have big impact. Starting small can help establish consistent habits. Try putting your favourite playlist on as you set up your classroom and notice the impact on your mood. Perhaps commit to moving outdoors every day before or after school and encourage a friend or colleague to join you. Keep an eye on your energy dips throughout the day, and bring some healthy lunches/snacks to keep you going. As the term gets busier, think about using your teacher planner for self-care as well as the to-do list! Could you block out some after-school time on your calendar and prioritise some relaxation, exercise or time with friends/family? Booking it in can help hold us accountable and maintain self-care as a priority.

Connection is key

A key part of any teacher’s role is building and maintaining strong relationships with children and young people. 

We rely on communication and are experts in modelling how to connect and collaborate. Despite thoroughly enjoying the company of pupils in our classrooms, teachers can often experience being isolated from adult company in a working week. Many of the tasks which can add to the pressure of the role lend themselves to independent working; we often mark alone and even reflect on our practice without other voices. To build key connections with colleagues, think about committing to at least a short stint in the staffroom to exchange news each week. Or perhaps suggest a marking meeting (caffeine and snacks optional!) in one classroom to avoid long hours reviewing work in isolation.

Building connections around your professional passions can also have positive impacts on wellbeing. Could you join a webinar or listen into a podcast about something which drives your practice? While this can take up precious time, it can be done ‘on the go’ and often also leads to feelings of excitement and being revitalised about why we do what we do! It’s also hugely important to maintain connections with people who aren’t interested in teaching. Can you use your commute wisely for a wellbeing check in with a family member or commit to a physical activity challenge which allows interactions with friends?

Reflecting on why we put so much into being a teacher and noticing how our efforts impact others can be a big boost to our wellbeing.

Thriving is possible

In the busy moments of a stressful term, it can be easy to feel like we’re just getting through each day, but it’s possible to thrive rather than just survive in teaching. Observing (and noting down) ‘sunshine moments’ in each day both in and beyond the classroom can boost wellbeing. This could be as small as finding a parking space or as big as seeing your class achieve a shared goal. Taking a moment to recognise our impact can also support wellbeing. Keep a folder on your email of positive news from parents or reconnections with former pupils. Reflecting on why we put so much into being a teacher and noticing how our efforts impact others can be a big boost to our wellbeing.  

Promoting and protecting our own wellbeing as teachers helps us to thrive, connect and care in our profession. If you’re looking for ways to prioritise wellbeing and develop your approaches in schools for teachers, support staff and learners you’ll find lots of suggestions in 100 Ideas for Primary Teachers – Wellbeing. 


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