13 Nov 2020
I’m delighted that today is the publication of my third book ‘Teacher Resilience: Managing Stress and Anxiety to Thrive in the Classroom’. As much as a I love the process of writing, I didn’t expect to publish another book this year. To be fair: I didn’t expect much of how this year has turned out!
In an attempt to maintain some sanity in between wrestling with online learning and a toddler full-time during lockdown, I spent many long evenings writing.
My books, in all honest, have always stemmed from a selfish aim: they involve grappling with issues that impact my own life. ‘Slow Teaching’ was born of an aim to improve my work-life balance, and ‘A Quiet Education’ was written in part with the intention to understand my own introversion. My aim has always been to be as open as possible in those issues, in the hope that it might prove useful and relatable to others.
Anxiety has always impacted me from a young age, and has naturally followed me into my teaching career. I was promoted very early to a leadership position in what was ultimately a school with many toxic elements, and I ended up completely burnt out. Since then, the exploration of what can help teachers balance the stress of our wonderful profession has been central to my writing and research (my masters dissertation on how we can support teachers to thrive beyond the first five years is available here) It has also been the foundation of many fascinating conversations for my podcast ‘The Well Teacher’.
I have also always loved reading and learning about what helps to make us thrive as human beings, and how we can be the best version of ourselves. That reading, and the many conversations I have been privileged to have as a volunteer for mental health charities, are also core to the book. The book is written with the understanding that we are all unique and complex, and we all have different things we struggle with. There is also no generic ‘fix’, understanding what helps us to be at our best is a long and individual road.
I hope ‘Teacher Resilience’ might help to make a contribution to that road we are all on, and support a dialogue about how we can thrive and be at our very best in the classroom. I have been very lucky in that so many teachers and leaders agreed to contribute their thoughts. The aim was to leave no anxiety inducing stone unturned: from lesson observations to examination results.
The book is split into five parts. Part one looks at the the importance of resilience in general, and some of the challenges we face to building it as teachers. Part two focusses on the development of a more resilient mindset, looking at how we approach challenges and conflict, the nature of our self-talk, self awareness and how we make ourselves available to support others.
Part three looks at teacher actions, examining what practical changes we can make to our behaviours and working practices. There are chapters on each of the following: sleep, setting boundaries, lesson observations, digital minimalism, exam results, exercise, professional development, collaboration, and leaving toxic environments.
Part four explores what are the real tests of resilience in the classroom, the things that keep us awake at night and prevent us from being our best: behaviour, lesson planning, differentiation, feedback and engaging with parents. Finally, in part five I look at the role of leaders in supporting the development of resilience. That section features fantastic case studies from a range of leaders.
I believe very strongly that resilience is a skill that we can develop and hone over time: it is not a fixed ability. I won’t pretend that I am now a serene buddha, gliding seamlessly through my profession and private life, I am anything but (nor would I, in reality, want to be!).
What I do know, however, is that the tools and strategies that I have shared in this book can help us to feel that teaching is sustainable as a career. I’m sure I echo many in highlighting how important that aim is: there have been many times I have felt it is anything but.
To achieve that longevity, however, we need to devote the same compassion, care and attention to building our own capacity to cope as we do to the development of the young people who are lucky enough to grace our classrooms. If ‘Teacher Resilience’ has the impact of helping just one teacher do that, then I know it was worth that investment of long lockdown evenings!