Surviving November | Education Support
Surviving November - teachers and education staff

Surviving November

“Never make any big decisions – work or life-related – in November!” I confidently advised a new teacher yesterday. A tad melodramatic, perhaps (and let’s face it, some people don’t have much of a choice) but I stand by my point. Much of the animal kingdom retreats into hibernation around this time, and with good reasons. It’s cold, all of a sudden. Daylight is at a premium. Half term is long-forgotten, the next holiday seems to be aeons away and all of the disgusting viruses seem to be having a party now the school central heating has gurgled into full-time action.

Given that, tragically, an extended hibernation period is not a viable option for most members of the teaching profession, here are a few tried-and-tested tips for getting through November.

The usual advice! 

Many of my usual pieces of advice – the ones that never get tired, despite being worn out with use – still stand. Have at least a day a week when you leave soon after the end of day bell, and don’t do any work when you get home; at least a whole day every weekend when you’re not allowed to so much as think about lesson planning or marking or anything work-related at all; a regular reminder to yourself that teaching is a job and not a lifestyle and that being a martyr to excessive workload doesn’t benefit anybody, least of all your loved ones. And grab every opportunity to guffaw with a colleague or friend.

SAD lamps

SAD or the winter blues is a recognised condition which is likely to affect many of us to a greater or lesser extent. As with any dip in mood, pretending it’s not happening in and refusing to listen to what your body is trying to tell you. A lot of teachers swear by SAD lamps  – the lamps with simulate daylight do see to make some different to people’s body clocks and mitigate some of the pure torture that is the alarm going off in what feels very much like the middle of the night.

Vitamin D

I had a colleague who found herself suffering from the debilitating effects of vitamin D deficiency by the end of November last year, resulting, as her GP told her, directly from not actually encountering any daylight at all for days and weeks on end. Even if it just means walking the long way into the fresh air to get from one lesson to the next, actively seek out daylight and fresh air – it helps to remind us, if nothing else, that we’re part of something a lot bigger.

Colourful clothes

I have no idea what’s happened in the clothes shops this year, but everything seems to be brown, beige or, at best, a kind of muted orange. I prefer to raid my wardrobe for my most colourful items – vibrant greens, feisty pinks, and electric blues. It cheers me up, and I like to think it has a similar effect on those around them (though it quite possibly gives them a headache and makes them question my sanity).

Hygge

Snuggle into a duvet with a good book (like A Year of Living Danishly, which introduced me to the delightful idea of hygge); soak shamelessly in a hot bath for an hour or more; dive into a new TV drama and spend most of your time at home in lounge wear. Give in to it. Ditch the protestant work ethic. It’s valuable recuperation time and will help you pace yourself in the run-up to Christmas.

Treasure the sparks

Whether it’s making a note of ‘three good things’ each day, putting a note in a jar for every moment that makes you feel validated and happy, completing a spreadsheet on a Friday with your ‘wins’ of the week, or simply stopping now and again to count blessings, a conscious focus on the positive can help the most when you least feel like doing it. As a teacher, I like to spend Friday afternoons calling home for three or four students who’ve done themselves proud that week to tell their parents how proud they should be of their offspring. It’s a win-win!

Exercise

I would never have imagined typing this word just three months ago. I’m not one for telling others how to live their lives and treat their bodies, but I’m a new advocate of gentle lumbering in the fresh air a couple of times a week these days. It’s the world’s most pathetic brag, but I’ve embarked upon ‘couch to 5k’ and the small wins (I can run for 2 solid minutes without dying!) are actually providing genuine satisfaction.

Say ‘no’, ‘not now’ or question whether requests are reasonable

Of course, the world of school slows for nobody, and whether it’s gearing up for mocks at secondary school or planning Christmas plays at primary, November is actually one of the most intense months of all. If deadlines and requests and ‘mocksteds’ are piling up, the word ‘reasonable’ can be very powerful when questioning a certain last-minute request or a task that doesn’t directly benefit the students. In addition, the invitations to be sociable and the education conference circuit are heating up. Sometimes we feel better for sprucing ourselves up and dragging ourselves out to be sociable and sometimes it’s perfectly acceptable to say, actually, I choose my lounge pants over the cocktails tonight.

Fasten your seatbelts, know that if you’re finding this month tough, you are most certainly not alone and that this too WILL pass.

If you need support, remember, you can always call our free and confidential 24/7 emotional support helpline on 08000 562 561. 

Dr Emma Kell is a teacher, researcher, speaker and author of How to Survive in Teaching