drop the ball – go on, I dare you!

As much as I loved Term 1, I cannot tell you how happy I am it is the holidays – the emotional labour that comes along with teaching is incredibly taxing. Although I know many jobs (including motherhood) take its toll, I really feel ‘Teacher Tired’ it is a feeling only a teacher will truly know.

Teaching is like juggling a million balls – eventually you’re gonna drop a few balls (it’s inevitable!!) The trick lies in how you react when you see those balls roll around the floor at your feet. Do you stop what you are doing to pick them up (while berating yourself for not being good enough and hitting yourself with the shame stick?), or do you let them roll around on the floor, with the understanding you are not in fact perfect and there will be times where it is simply impossible for all the balls to stay in the air? (does anyone remember the ball pit at Georgie Pie? We never seemed to mind the balls on the floor then….)

Can I be a little bit honest?? (this might be an unpopular opinion) I have seen a million and one Instagram posts over the last week or so where teachers are urged to rest and recover over the holidays – ummmm…??? the rest bit I get, but recover??? **hear me out**

I hate that the narrative around teaching where we are told “it’s a marathon, not a sprint” were we have to ‘race’ through the term, yet ‘pace’ ourselves while we are expected to give everything we possibly have to our job, until we are curled up in the recovery position at the ‘finish line’.

It’s not sustainable (trust me, I tried for 10 years..), and the balls I tried to juggle just kept getting bigger, heavier and harder to control. We really need to push against this narrative… We need to give a lot to our job, yes this is true – but we do not (and should not) give so much to our job that we need to lock ourselves away in a dark room for two weeks while we recover from our job – last time I checked, teaching is not a medical condition (but it can lead to one: *burnout*) so maybe we are going about it a bit wrong.

Here’s my advice (are you ready???)

Try do a bit less next term …

and yes, I can hear you saying, “Buuuttttt Aimee… I cannot … everything I do is **SO** important!”

So I want to challenge you to leave some of those balls on the floor… let them roll around while you juggle a little less and see what happens (I can almost promise you that your classroom won’t burn down… annnnnd, your students will still learn!)

Here is a journaling question for you: 


WHAT CAN I DROP??? 


Let your mind go wild, brainstorm it out, then choose one thing that is not *essential* (like a Pinterest worthy classroom or even that irritation you’re holding onto about your principal or *that* kid’s parents).

So while I will be resting these holidays, I will not be in my metaphorical hospital bed recovering from teaching. I’ll be rolling those dropped balls out the door (good freakin’ riddens!) and enjoying the slow mornings the holidays bring.

I wasn’t always like this – if you have been following me for a while, you will know how burnouts, perfectionism and a pretty shitty headspace impacted me and how I showed up in my classroom. Instead of continuing to blame my circumstances and the wildly toxic culture of education, I learned to look after myself and treat my job as job, and not my entire life…

If you’re struggling right now and feel like you’re curled up in that metaphorical hospital bed in the recovery position, I trust that my transformation will give you hope. This time last year I was sobbing in the shower, desperate for a way out of teaching; now, I’m happily watching all those dropped balls roll along on the floor and I am thriving in all aspects of my life – including the classroom!

Send me an email if you need help (I’ve got some time up my sleeve!) hello@aimeenicole.co.nz, or better yet, book in for my reflection class. 10am each Wednesday of the holidays, over zoom. 60 minutes to decompress, reflect and engage with other teachers around NZ. Just email me your interest.

Have a wonderful holiday!

All my love,

Aimee xxx


I wrote a book… have you read it?

Follow me on my journey as I unpack why I was burning out all the time in the classroom.

Cracked Open: a teacher’s battle with perfection is a must read for teachers & women who battle with perfectionism, negative self talk and burnout – use the code schoolholiday for $10 off

we can’t force wellbeing – but we can choose it

Gabby Stroud’s essay titled: Compulsory Wellbeing. The Choice between burnout and demoralization has got my mind churning. If you asked me four years ago, I would have applauded any school leader who replaced their Monday staff meeting with a compulsory wellbeing workshop, but now I am not so sure. As an advocate for the wellbeing of kaiako (teachers) in New Zealand, I have been hanging out to see solid wellbeing programs rolled out in schools to support the needs of our teachers, but over the years, the reality that we aren’t all cut from the same cloth has dawned on me. Who wants to be told how one must look after themselves and then have this added to that to-do-list that never actually gets any smaller? We can’t force wellbeing on teachers and expect magic to rain down from the sky. We can’t force wellbeing on teachers and expect all the cultural and systemic problems to disappear. No amount of meditation is ever going to make me feel better about having to work more hours than I am actually paid for. It is demoralizing. Just like the time I had to sit through a workshop on differentiation even though, as a primary trained teacher, this was not on my list of professional development needs. 

Meditate – Journal – BreathWork – Self-expression through arts – all valuable tools to help manage the stressors of the job, but where you might like to run to clear your head, and the teacher next door might like to paint purple giraffes for joy, there is not one single wellbeing workshop that will provide a solution to the growing crisis facing our profession – the great exodus of teachers. No amount of forced wellbeing is going to lessen our workload or deal with the abuse teachers receive from parents, students or society. Forced wellbeing workshops won’t stop the teacher down the hall from bullying other staff, or prevent those debilitating panic attacks, they will only add one more box that needs to be ticked. 

We can’t force wellbeing, but we can choose it and we can foster environments that breed it. 

I first wrote about how I was feeling as a teacher several years ago. It was the first time I had actually allowed myself to take a Mental Health Day and call it what it was. Normally I’d hide behind a wall of shame at not being able to cope with my work. I would convince myself I was actually sick and take a day off (yet still continue to work from home), or bury my head deep in the sand and soldier on, even when I felt utterly defeated and like a failure. 

I remember the first day I wrote as if it was yesterday. I remember because it changed the trajectory of my life – I found my purpose; I found my voice – I found my strength. After a trip to the beach where I allowed my shame to melt away, the words just flowed to me. I sat and I wrote, and I cried. Teaching is so f*cking hard. The tornado that was tearing around in my head now sat poetically on my iPhone. Share it, my heart whispered to me. So I did. I shared my writing to a Facebook Group of teachers and then my heart shattered into a thousand pieces. 

Up until this point of my career I believed I was the only teacher in the universe who found the job hard. Egotistical right? Or maybe naive? For years I had hid my pain because I believed it was only showing my failures as a teacher. My occupation –  something I had always believed was my calling – was suffocating me. My purpose, my passion and my drive were slowly drowning, along with my self-respect, my self-worth and my self-esteem. 

Learning I was not alone in these feelings was enough to slap me awake and the ‘poor me’ victim mentality lost its power. This sense of belonging seemed to help me move past the shame of my feelings about who I was as a teacher and my preconceived failings, but it also woke something up in me. Something fierce. Something powerful. I read hundreds of replies on my post. Many commented that I was in their head and articulating their feelings. Yes, this is me. You are literally in my head right now. OMG this is exactly how I feel. 

I was, for the first time, really seeing how broken the culture of education really is, and somehow, overnight, I had turned into an advocate. Fuuuuck. Let me just hide with my shame in the shadows please… This is too much for me. How can I delete this? What will my work think? I am not brave enough for this. But it was too late. My inner child was dancing in ecstasy at the fact I had finally found my voice (I agree, Gabby, teachers are often silenced and it felt bloody good to feel heard!). For thirty-something years I played the role of the Yes Queen and all of a sudden I felt like a rebel and waited to feel the wrath of my actions. 

I looked to school leaders to fix the culture of education but felt deep pain when I was not seeing anything change around the country. I remember talking to school and wellbeing leaders all over NZ and Australia about it while in our first Covid Lockdown, and we all acknowledged just how hard it is to cater for the wellbeing of teachers within a school, because it cannot be a one-size-fits-all approach. What I need to feel well, will most definitely differ from what you need, so how on earth do we do it? How do we provide an environment where our teachers thrive when we are all so different, including our tolerance to stress?  If we are expected to differentiate within our classrooms there must be an element of differentiation here too. Do school leaders do nothing because it is too hard, or is that forced wellbeing workshop a show of faith from your leaders that they see there is a problem – that they are trying –  but maybe they’re not getting it right yet? I mean, it’s a big puzzle to piece together, but at least it is a start? Do we want school leaders to give the teachers the time to find their ‘wellbeing vice’? Where will we fit this in? Can we take away a meeting or two so we actually have time? Maybe drop that national box ticking assessment or divy out the playground duty roster a little more fairly?  Is this the school’s responsibility, or is it our personal responsibility to look after our wellbeing? If I am finding the job hard, does this mean I am broken? Or, is the education system failing us and making us believe we are unworthy?

I began to call out the Toxic Culture of Education through my blog. OMG you are so brave, they would say, but with every blog post I wrote I felt the fear of the repercussions of using my voice. I was urging the teacher to take care of themselves because no one else was going to. Your wellbeing is not a chore, I would rage – but maybe Ellen at Self-care for Teachers is right – it is a bloody chore. It must be a chore if people are finding it so hard to do; it is hard to meet your true self, sometimes we are scared to see the person who stares back, but this is a necessity if you are ever to truly meet your own needs. You have to know yourself, value yourself and honour yourself, and sometimes this takes learning, or un-learning in my case. How you treat yourself matters, and as Ellen does say, ‘you are a person first and a teacher second,’ and we do have to take some personal responsibility here. We can’t control the policy makers, the number of boxes we have to tick or the irate parents that come screaming into our inbox (or classrooms), but we can control ourselves – our headspace and our heart space, our actions and our reactions, we even have control over our thoughts and our feelings. We can learn how to manage ourselves, and to me, this is how you take care of yourself. We can learn to do what is needed and let go of the rest, including the angst we often feel towards the system. I’m not saying we use Teacher Wellbeing as a Band-Aid for the whole broken system, but at least we are finally seeing that we have teachers struggling under the weight of it all and acknowledging something needs to be done about it. Maybe I am doing exactly what Gabby is talking about and putting all the work back onto the individual teachers, instead of really blaming the system and pushing for change there, but when I put my energy into systemic problems, I unravel and feel extremely powerless. When I fixate on everything that is wrong with the culture of education – including but not limited to: the high workload, over assessed kids, lack of parental engagement, over zealous parents, no time to actually teach, and having to be an expert in LITERALLY EVERYTHING – it triggers me to spiral, and had once even seen me fall victim to compassion fatigue; I had all the signs of burnout but this smashed into me almost overnight. I took all the powerless feelings of the teachers who were connecting with me on Social Media, and wore it all.  I let all the toxicity infect me like a plague. It caused me great angst because I wanted to fix it for them – and for myself, but cultural and systemic change takes time, it takes commitment and it takes a tribe – a well cared for tribe. So, I chose to focus on myself and what I had immediate control over. 

I spent years analysing and unpacking my behaviours as a teacher (and as a woman). Burnout was common for me. I’d often find myself in a heap on the floor of the shower, sobbing quietly to hide my pain, my shame and my embarrassment from my family. If I can be completely honest, over time, I became sick of my own bullshit. I had a negative headspace. I was a complainer. I was a victim. Everything in my heart felt toxic. So I started to take some control over my head and heartspace. Why am I feeling this way? What can I do? Who can help me? How can I change? How do I take better care of myself when I am constantly feeling beaten and broken doing my job? What can I do less of? Where do I even start?

I started following the wellbeing ‘gurus’ on Social Media. I started working with coaches. I dabbled in meditation, breath work and attended Wellbeing workshops and webinars. I let myself learn about Positive Psychology. I became a coach. I became an author. I learned that I am a Perfectionist and I learned how this was impacting me in the classroom. I learned about compassion fatigue and I learned how to become aware of the signs and triggers.  I learned that I was being too hard on myself. I learned how to heal myself with deep, honest reflection on how I was showing up in my world – not just as a teacher, but as a mother, a wife, and a woman (I even published my teaching journey in my book Cracked Open: a teacher’s battle with perfection). I learned to do less (and nobody even noticed!). I learned how to practice self-compassion. I learned how to take care of MYself because I was ready. I was driven to change. I had ownership over my own growth. It wasn’t shoved down my throat and this gave me the autonomy I needed. I still find my job hard, because teaching is one of the most challenging professions on earth, but I can now be more gentle with myself. I know my behaviours and I am self-aware enough to know when to pull back on my investment in my work, and invest more into myself. I learned how to cultivate boundaries. I learned how to give myself what I needed so I could be a happy teacher, a happy mother, a happy wife – a happy woman. 

So Gabby, I wholeheartedly agree, “what teachers need is time to attend to their own wellbeing in ways that are satisfying to them – and the agency to make such choices for themselves.”

I am living proof of this.

I am a teacher who is *currently* thriving in my work (but feel free to check in at the pointy end of the term). But, how do we make that happen for teachers on a larger scale? Is it a school’s responsibility to find the time for teachers to participate in this kind of work, or is it a personal responsibility? I guess the least that could happen is lower the expectations and workload weighing us down, so we actually have the time and energy to invest into ourselves – but where do we even start? 

Once I learned how to treat myself better as a human being, I learned how to be more compassionate with myself as a teacher. The bureaucratic policy makers still irk me and grind my gears, but I can’t fight every single battle within education, so I choose to focus my attention and energy on supporting teachers and their own personal wellbeing – this is what makes my heart sing.  I wanted to be part of the change, and this led me down the path towards ‘Teacher Wellbeing’. I am, I guess, one of those people Gabby talks about. I am part of the ‘industry coming to life around teacher wellbeing’ and it is an industry I want to be a part of. The wellbeing of our teachers matters. There is a need for wellbeing coaches, podcasts, workshops and retreats because they are enriching and uplifting, and there are teachers who want to participate, but they should be given every right to choose their wellbeing vice. Teachers tell me they want a voice, they want to feel heard, they want to hear, ‘Yes, this is hard and it’s ok to be sad right now.’ They want to feel valued in their work, and they want autonomy – autonomy over how to run their classroom as well as manage their own wellbeing and happiness, inside and outside of the classroom, but they need the time. 

Gabby argues that the term ‘teacher wellbeing’ ‘implies the problem lies with the teacher,’ when in actual fact, the problem belongs within the culture of education. The onus is being put on their teacher how they manage their feelings about their job, rather than blaming the broken system (or trying to fix it). In some ways, I guess I agree. Maybe it’s a language issue? Maybe we drop the ‘teacher’ and stick to Wellbeing? Not all of us know how to look after ourselves – this is not a teacher issue, this is a human issue – I had to learn how to care for myself because I’d spent my whole life suppressing my needs, and this took time. There is an argument to blame the culture for how we are feeling as teachers, but no matter how broken the system is, and no matter what work we do, do we not owe it to ourselves as humans to take good care of ourselves? To love ourselves and meet our needs and desires – as both teachers and people. We can’t just say, yes, this job is hard because the system is broken, and then do nothing about it; we fight. We fight for ourselves and we fight for our learners. For too long the culture of education has pushed the needs of teachers to the bottom of the ocean; imagine the change that could ripple through our classrooms and playgrounds when happy, valued and energetic teachers show up; teachers who have learned or developed resilience, who have mindful practices and a wellbeing toolbox to rely on when things get sticky. No, it won’t change those irate emails hitting our inboxes or the copious amount of box ticking, assessments to grade or Risk Management forms to fill out, but maybe these happy, valued and energetic teachers will finally find the collective strength to go to work, do their jobs as best as they possibly can and walk away at the end of the day knowing that their best was enough, without those irate emails or the politicians tricking them into feeling like a failure. To me, that feels like a win, and a step in the right direction, even if we still have a million more steps to take. Or do I have my rose coloured glasses on? Probably. But hope and optimism are important to me, and I promise there is not an ounce of toxic positivity in there.

No amount of forced wellbeing is going to have an impact on the broken culture. But, focusing on allowing teachers autonomy over their classrooms, and their wellbeing will – and I wholeheartedly believe this. I do not know what the solution is. The problem is bigger than me and anything I can solve on my own. I still do not know what role a school should be playing in this either, but providing teachers with the conditions in which they can actually work a 40 hour week – and actually spend this time teaching rather than ticking seventy thousand boxes, might be a really good start, but is that now just a dream? – do individual schools really have control over that, or is it bigger than that too? It probably is – far bigger. 

In the meantime, I will continue to nourish my own heart and headspace, and encourage other teachers to do the same, because I know when I am feeling well, I am better equipped to handle what’s thrown at me, even the bureaucratic bullshit.

So, to all my teaching colleagues doing the hard mahi, ‘[you’re doing] important and challenging work. How are you going with it?’ 

*** These are my thoughts as of 3rd March 2022. I am open to learning and hearing the perspectives of others

happy holidays

Hey beautiful human,

With the festive season upon us, I wanted to take a moment to thank you for riding along with me on this journey (even though I am still not entirely sure where I am going…) Come with me as I reflect on my year… 

2021 has seen a year like no other! 
– 3 lockdowns in Auckland, one being mammoth (honestly! I did not see that big one coming…) Online teaching was not ideal & I felt robbed of time with my students (again) BUT I allowed myself to see the silver lining in it all & relished the extra time with my family.

 I lost a very, very dear friend to suicide in January, with the grief still sitting very heavily on my heart. On December 10th (Kate’s first heavenly birthday) my BFF and I got tattoos with Kate’s handwriting . It was so crazy as we were trying to make bookings but the tattoo artist had to keep postponing, I think Kate really wanted the tattoos to happen on her birthday so she was meddling from the heavens… (it’s a very Kate thing to do!)

– I was a guest on a post cast in the first week of lockdown (if you haven’t listened yet you can listen here). On this podcast with Jax & Kim, I talk about my journey of teaching, how I found myself as a woman, how I learned to put myself first and how I pushed through the fear of publishing my book

– I completed my second coaching accreditation! Coaching is my absolute Jam and I was SO excited to be offered more training (this time though school and a slightly different style to what I first learned) But just as impactful & I am excited to be training the next generation of coaches at the school where I work in 2022.

– Oh, and I published a book (like WTF!) I remember sitting on my living room floor almost 4 years ago and opening my my laptop. I just started writing and had no idea what I was producing but holy-hecka!! I am SO proud of myself – I could have quit a million times, but I did not – we are amazing, human beings, I mean, we really can do hard things when we put our mind to it. That book changed my life and it has been SO, SO humbling to receive all the feedback that has been coming my way – really, I am truly humbled to know my words are having such a profound impact!

2021 has not been an easy year in so many respects. I have battled with imposter syndrome, almost crippling fear, deeply painful grief and the prospect of Covid Lockdowns closing our gym (my husband’s business) *almost* had me in a tail spin (we survived, thank goodness down to the resurgence payments and our VERY loyal gym family). But, if I have learned anything over the years it is that it is never the actual situation itself that causes us to spiral out of control, but the way we respond. 

This year, I allowed myself to sit with my feelings. Most of the time they were powerful and heavy emotions. I have been challenged in many ways and the old me would have crumbled, quit or reverted into the ol’ victim mindset – but I am different now.

I handle challenges differently.
I handle my feelings differently. 
I handle myself differently. 
I see myself differently.
I see the world differently. 
I chose to lean into my internal navigation system and turn down the volume of my pesky ego (that little voice trying to hold me back) and I just pushed through.

It has been a hard f*cking year.
A year that has challenged me.
A year that has changed me. 
A year that helped me grow.

But *and she almost wants to scream this* I am SO ready for a break! I need to let my little mind have a rest from it all – so I guess, this is me signing off for the remainder of the year (hopefully, I can’t seem to stop myself) and I want to thank you, from the very depths of my heart, for walking with me on this journey. I am so very excited for 2022 and the work I have planned & the next level of growth I will go through.

Before I leave, a special gift for you is FREE SHIPPING (NZ WIDE) on my book CRACKED OPEN: a teacher’s battle with perfection – AND I will personally sign it for you (if you live close to me you might just get a special hand delivered copy!) – purchase here If you want to buy one for a friend, just put their name in the shipping info (or fire me an email) and I can make that happen! It was awesome to see people purchasing for their kid’s teacher, as well as mentor teachers buying for their BTs! (offer ends midnight on Boxing Day – use the code FREE SHIPPING)

Or if you are more the Kindle Type, you can download now and have instant access – just use this link here

I do hope you can take a moment to reflect on your year, try the Stick, Leaf & Rock method:
What do you want to ‘stick’ around next year (what went well?)
What do you want to ‘leaf’ alone next year (what didn’t go so well)
What is something you ‘rock’ed at this year?

If you need some help with finding depth to your reflection, I have an exciting ‘thinking class’ in the pipe lines for next year (like, I am almost frothing for this – my excitement is high!)

Anyway, this email has become MUCH longer than I intended.
I appreciate you – thank you for showing up each day and shining your light on the world. I hope you find the space to fully relax and enjoy this time with the people who choose you to be in their lives, and if this time of year is not for you (personally Xmas is not my fave) I hope you cam look for the good in every moment – you are here right now on this earth, you have a purpose & you are divinely loved and cherished.

All my love,

Aimee xxxx

preparing for the return to school post lockdown

If the idea of returning to school is bringing up a raft of emotions, I promise you, what ever it is you are feeling right now is completely normal. Maybe you are anxious, maybe you are excited, maybe you are scared, or feeling overwhelmed by it all; what ever you feel right now, know that is is completely ok to feel the way that you do.

The first time we pivoted from online learning and back to in person I struggled – BIG TIME!!! It wasn’t so much the act of being back on campus and teaching again, it was more the worry I felt about how all the other teachers were coping. I could see a myriad of approaches towards the wellbeing of teachers, and in many cases, teachers, I felt, were being left out to dry; like washing left on the line in the midst of a wild tornado, I could see nothing was going to dry. Instead, I watched as teachers around me, both in person and online began to crumble. Unfortunately, this appeared to trigger Compassion Fatigue within me as I felt the weight of the world on my shoulders – I desperately wanted to help every single teacher, but it was too much for my shoulders to carry and this, in turn, led me down the path to my own ‘little’ breakdown. You can read about how I felt last time in my blog titled “the abandoned teacher” . Thankfully, its been well over 18 months since we returned after the first big NZ lockdown, we have had time to prepare and we now have a better idea of how we can transition back into the classrooms where the wellbeing of our learners AND the wellbeing of our teachers can be considered.

While I for one am INCREDIBLY excited to see my students again, we are looking at returning to the classrooms where the old way of doing things may be gone (hopefully not forever…) but things will be different for quite some time: masks, bubbles, social distancing, dry hand sanitizer hands, and potential disruptions when Covid cases make their way into our schools and classrooms… and because things will look quite different, your self-care plan might need some adjustment.

But Aimee, I hear you say, I do not have a self-care plan!

Establishing a self-care plan is pretty important, it will help you get through the messy periods of school life (those times when it’s extra busy, like report writing or assessment season), and if you do not have one yet, making a plan right now might just support you through the transition back to the classroom. As I write, we have 4 weeks left of the term, so personally, my plan will focus on these four weeks I can see ahead of me.

Your self-care plan does not need to be scratched into stone; let it be fluid while you work out the tools that will really help you when you feel like the walls are beginning to cave in.


After three months at home, the world outside is going to feel a little different and there are a few things you can do to prepare in a way that brings down your anxieties or worries.

Your self care plan may include things like:

  • ensuring you get a good sleep
  • gradually exposing yourself to school (make the drive, or imagine the day & your routines)
  • accepting that many things are out of our control
  • meditation / journaling to ground yourself
  • daily exercise & good nutrition
  • pre-planning dinner & meals
  • keep your boundaries water-tight and have time away from work
  • actually taking breaks while at school

It is important for us teachers to understand that if our anxiety is high, it will be hard for us support our students who also have high anxiety. Your stress response to heading back to school will activate anxiety, if you carry it with you as long term stress can become anxiety. Stress is our perception to a threat or danger, and when we are stressed or anxious, adrenaline and cortisol flood our bodies, but there is lots you can do about it…

Let sleep be your best friend!

Sleep will be the most important thing if you find yourself feeling anxious and overwhelmed with the re-introduction to the classroom & alcohol WILL NOT make you sleep any better, so avoid this as much as possible.

Let your body produce the melatonin you need by switching off devices an hour or so before bed. Why not give your eyes a break from all the artificial light and create a romantic & relaxing vibe at home by lighting candles.

When you wake up, open up the blinds and let the natural light support your serotonin build up.

Grounding yourself will help distract your anxiety from the Fight, Flight, Freeze response

To ground yourself means to connect with yourself at the core and there are many ways you can do this:

  • find a safe space to pause
  • ground yourself by taking 5 belly breaths, slowly
  • focus on your 5 senses; what can you see, hear, feel, touch, smell and taste?
  • use an app like Calm or Smiling Minds; apps like this have programs for beginners.. now is the perfect time for a meditation challenge!
  • before the day begins, or on your breaks, take your shoes off and spend some time with bare feet on the grass
  • acknowledge how you are feeling, without judgement

Be at peace with not always being in control

We are a profession that loves to plan ahead; we now need to be adaptable and be ready to flip-flop where necessary.

Take things day by day and focus on the areas of yourself and your work that you do have control over (like your thoughts and feelings…)

Understand that your Leadership Team are human too, and they will be doing the best with the knowledge that they have.

Move your body every day

We all know the benefit exercise has on your overall wellbeing, and time like this, where we are being tested, is the time we really need to draw on this knowledge.

Move your body in a way that gets your heart pumping; whether that is with 50 brisk star jumps in between classes, a 10km run before work or a relaxing yoga session – what ever your vice for exercise, move your body every day.

Eat well & plan your meals in advance

We all know the vital role nutritious food plays in our overall mood and wellbeing; taking the time to plan out your meals will also help you avoid having one more thing to think about (decision fatigue is a real thing)

We just ordered a Hello Fresh Box to help up through the first week back; I now have lunched and dinners ready to roll… email me at hello@aimeenicole.co.nz if you want a code for a cheap box this week!

Ask for help!

At the end of the day, if you are struggling, stop thinking you are alone or you just need to suffer in silence. Ask for help from those around you.

  • tell your leadership team you need some support
  • ask a friend to have your kids for the afternoon so you can have some alone time
  • involve your kids or partner in dinner making
  • ask a colleague to cover your duty
  • hit me up for a coaching session – sometimes we just need to have a big chat and get it out in the open

If you are anxious about the road ahead, I stand with you in solidarity, as a pole to lean on when you get weary. Being anxious or feeling worried about heading back to school does not make you a bad teacher, remember, deep down inside you are actually a human being who has needs that need to be met. I know there will still be many teachers out there who feel as though their wellbeing has been abandoned, but I want you to know that you matter to me, you matter to your students and you matter to your community, even when you may not feel like you do.

It is ok to prioritise your wellbeing, in fact, it is essential that you do.

If you need help, have any question, or need some to talk to email me at hello@aimeenicole.co.nz

All my love,

Aimee xxx

mental health day

It wasn’t that long ago that I considered the mental health day taboo. I’d hide my stress, overwhelm and declining enjoyment for life behind a fake illness, phoning through to work with a pretend croak in my throat, hiding my true pain because I thought it meant that I was weak – that I was failing as a teacher and that didn’t bode well for my perfectionism nature; I was constantly bashing myself for not being good enough, I told myself that there was something wrong with me because I couldn’t always handle life as a teacher. The number of days that I held back tears in the classroom because I was constantly being spoken over, complained to by a parent, or just trying to deal with my life on the outside are too many to count. I struggled to separate the human from the teacher, but because that was what was expected of me when I was in the classroom, I taught myself to push my needs deep, deep down below the surface. I taught myself that my students were the most important things in my life, that I owed them every inch of myself, even if that meant avoiding the things going on in my head and heart that needed urgent attention. 

It wasn’t until 2018, after 7 years of classroom teaching and hiding behind a façade, that I acknowledged what was really going on in my head. I wrote about my feelings and described the tornado rolling around in my head, the struggles I face as a teacher and as a mother – a woman caring for everyone else but myself. I let the words flow freely from my heart, not thinking about the consequences or how my words would change the direction of my life. 

Hundreds of teachers told me they felt the same. 

Hundreds of teachers told me I was in their head. 

Hundreds of teachers told me they struggled too.

Hundreds of teachers sharing my story made me feel normal.

But it also made me feel heart broken. 

I began to change the way I look at my job.

I began to change the way I look at myself.

I began to unpack my stress cycles.

I began to unpack my why.

I began to put myself first.

I began to write.

My life as a teacher, my life as a mother and my life as a woman fills pages and pages, ready to be shared. I’ll admit it’s a scary thought to share something so raw. 

I began writing because I felt this overwhelming responsibility for the teaching profession, although I now know it’s not a battle I can win alone. 

I began writing because I wanted to find a way to keep myself in the classroom. 

I began writing because I wanted to understand myself better as a teacher but I ultimately ended up learning so much more about myself than I ever could have imagined.

I wanted to process the things I struggle with so I could catch myself before I needed to take another mental health day; but, what I have really learned is the mental health day needs to be taken before you reach that point where you feel like you just can’t go on. It needs to be taken before the panic attacks begin. It needs to be taken before you have that meltdown. It needs to be taken. It is NOT your last resort – it should be your first. 

Pay attention to your stress cycles.

Pay attention to when your energy is feeling low.

Pay attention to when you feel the negativity begin to consume you.

Pay attention to when you just feel like screaming.

Pay attention to when you feel like you are living under that cloud. 

Pay attention, and take action.

The thing is, at the end of the day, you are the one responsible for yourself and your own wellbeing. While our workplaces can put things in place that support us, we tend to end up being our own worst enemies. We choose to push through the pain because we think we have to, or we don’t want people to look at us through judgmental eyes and see us as weak, incompetent or just not good enough. We choose to push through because we think we have to. We choose to push through because we want to wear our stress as a big badge of honour and show the world the parts of us we want them to see, and we hide the sides we are ashamed of. We choose to push through because we put other people first, and we believe that is how we show people that we care. 

Today I took a mental health day because teaching is hard.

Today I took a mental health day because parenting is hard.

Today I took a mental health day because being responsible for so many people and their differing social, emotional and academic needs is hard.

Today I took a mental health day because I needed to put my own needs first.

I needed to sleep.

I needed the beach.

I needed to write. 

I needed a break. 

Life can be hard. 

I could feel those feelings that don’t help me creep up on me and I knew I had to practise what I preach.

It is ok to put yourself first.

It is essential that you do. 

Maybe it’s the energy of the super blood moon, in fact I am certain it is, but those feelings of losing my light began to increase as my enjoyment for life and my enthusiasm for what I do began to fade. 

I had a sleep. 

I went to the beach. 

I wrote. 

I had a break. 

I feel better.

I still don’t have a title for my book, it turned into something bigger than I thought. I thought I was writing a book to keep myself and other teachers in the classroom but something else happened. My why changed. I thought I had found my calling, but I learned that a calling is not one final destination but more your heart calling you onto the path you need to follow, a path that can twist and turn with many rest stops along the way; I think classroom teaching is just a rest stop for me, and not my final destination. 

The day I wrote about my first mental health day and shared my writing with the world changed my life. If you want to read about my journey, you can jump on my mailing list so you can be the first to know when it’s ready to be published. I healed myself while writing it as I reflected on so many aspects of myself – my behaviours, thoughts, feelings and beliefs as a teacher but also as a woman, and I know it will help so many who read it. 

Be the first to know when my book is ready:

https://mailchi.mp/795673d8626c/book-signup

Read about my first ever mental health day here: https://aimeenicole.co.nz/2018/11/09/when-your-best-just-isnt-enough/ 

I have nothing but love to share, but only when I love myself first.

invisible impact

I woke up this morning to a text message from a past student. He shared with me his success of becoming Head Boy of his high school and wanted to express his gratitude for the impact I had on his life while teaching him in primary school. He reflected on a key moment that, at the time, felt insignificant to me, so insignificant that I’ve not thought about it or praised myself for; so insignificant that I had to go back into the troves of my memory to relive the experience, so insignificant because I do it all the time – it was a moment that was just me being a teacher – just me being me.

I never would have thought that the several weeks I patiently supported him with a math concept, a concept that he just could not grasp, would go on to be a catalyst to his awareness of himself as a learner. When he finally got it, I praised his attitude towards his learning and told him it was this attitude that will make him successful in life, something I actually have no recollection of saying – words that came from my heart to his in what, at the time, would have have been a mere fleeting moment of my busy and stressful day. These words, he says, have stayed with him throughout his high school years and he has held them close as he navigated the twists and turns of young adult-hood. He expressed his gratitude for me, thanked me for my dedication towards his learning and for always believing in him, and told me he has no doubt I have done the same for many of my past students, something my heart now knows to be true, even if it’s never expressed. 

I had tears rolling down my face as I read his words; so proud of him and all that he has achieved and so incredibly grateful for the acknowledgement and the heartfelt gratitude he showed me for the role I have played in his life. As I sit on the fence of my career as a classroom teacher, unsure whether to stay or go, I have been reminded of the impact we can make in this world. The impact we can have when we simply show up with a pure heart and work in a service based profession. The impact we can have with a simple gesture, a simple word, a simple act. 

It’s so easy to lose sight of the impact we have on others, especially when we get so caught up with the stress that comes with teaching, but not just teaching – life in general: parenting, friendships, relationships and even casual interactions with people at the supermarket or the bus stop. We forget that our words and actions towards others can have such a profound impact on their lives. After a decade of teaching this is the only such message I have received from a past student and I may never receive another one. But my heart is full with the knowledge that at least one kid’s life was positively impacted because I showed up with my light and my heart and I taught him as best as I could with the knowledge I had at the time. 

It gives my work meaning. It gives my work purpose. It reminds me why I am here. 

The thing about impact is it’s hard for us to see in the moment; a lesson may not truly land for a student until long after they have left your classroom and it tends to be the lessons unrelated to a curriculum based concept but in the way you used your words – they way you use your heart – the way you use your light – that make the biggest impact. 

I hope this can serve as a reminder for you of the profound impact you are having on the lives of the people around you, whether you are a teacher or not. You simply showing up and shining your light is changing lives, one interaction at a time, even if you can’t see it.

An open letter to my son’s teacher

I can’t thank you enough for all the love, care and support you have given my son this year. It’s been no secret that school is not his favourite place to be but you have never wavered in your patience and compassion for my little man. We sat in the sun today, while you watched your son compete in the shot put and you told me you felt robbed this year – robbed of time with your students – that you felt like your time with my son was just not enough – and it doesn’t seem right or fair that we have to let them go so soon and I know exactly how you feel. I was watching my students, the ones I am about to say goodbye to, and felt the lump bubble in my throat and the ache grow in my heart – I am not ready to let them go just yet either. I watched them, so full of pride for all they have grown into in what was a really challenging year, and you have watched my son grow too and see him, I am sure, with just as much love and affection as I see mine. 

I haven’t been a school mum that long; I have always sat on the other side of the classroom door as just a teacher – a loving, giving and caring teacher – but just a teacher, not a mum. And becoming a mum really does change the way you see the world – and the classroom. To know how much my son struggles in the classroom has been a hard thing to face recently; from the outside we see an incredibly bright and confident person until actual work needs to be done. He shuts down, he melts down and he breaks down, or he is just stoic making it difficult to know where he stands or to give him the support he needs; but you saw in him the goodness – his intelligence and his light – that he was not being naughty or lazy and desperately wanted to do what you asked of him, but he just couldn’t, not the way he needs to anyway. You pushed to uncover what was below the surface, you knew things weren’t adding up, and you advocating for my son has been appreciated beyond belief. 

He told me he loves it when you let his class play outside before assembly and when you play beat the teacher, it sounds like you have had as much coffee and cake as the kids have had free play. He’s grateful that you help him write and let him put the cream on his mozzie bites all by himself. He’s thankful you help him when he feels like he’s being bullied and he loves your funny jokes. He’s adamant you fart in class, because he knows what adults’ farts smell like – they all smell the same apparently; I am sure you have read a million stories about cats, poo and farts too. He loved the ‘kit kat dance’ you did when he told you there was no more palm oil in them and how you look after him when he’s feeling sad; but ultimately, he said he is just grateful that you have been his teacher this year.  

2020 has been the weirdest year, and we have been robbed of our time with our students, but having you in my son’s corner, cheering him on, propping him up and finding ways to make learning easier for him has made it not feel so bad. You have an absolute heart of gold and you have done everything you can to unpack the way my son learns so he can be supported moving forward. I know the road for him will not alway be a smoothe one but knowing there are people like you who love my son the way you do gives me so much reassurance and allows me to drop my son off with you each day knowing he is in good hands. Thank you for making this difficult year less painful; your openness, honesty and pure love for my son has made all the difference and I hope these words are enough for me to express my gratitude for you.

You are an incredible teacher, but more importantly, you are just a magical human being; he has been so lucky to be a part of 2F, 2020. From the bottom of my heart, thank you for all you have done for Oscar this year. I hope, in some way shape or form, I am able to repay you when your son moves into year 8. 

Aroha nui xx

are you choosing happiness?

I can’t remember where I was when I first heard this, maybe in a movie, a book or even an Instagram post, but it was something like this: Imagine if we could teach our kids to strive for a life filled with happiness, so when someone asks them what they want to be when they grow up, they reply with, “When I grow up, I want to be happy!”

Imagine a world where we are taught to live a life to embody feelings rather than a career or material possessions, so that when we see ourselves in our mind’s eye living our best life, we feel this sense of happiness and contentment envelop our whole being; rather than focusing on the tangible things we want in our lives, like that boat, or the car or the six pack and the thigh gap, we are manifesting the feelings and choosing the energy we wish to vibrate at on a heart and soul level.

Happiness comes when we surrender and choose to live life in the moment; when we forget fear, or worry or anger; when we turn down the volume of our ego and allow ourselves to fully awaken to the pure potential and possibility that lies inside us all. Happy people are not luckier that you or I. They still feel sad, they still feel anger, they still feel grief and heartache – they just don’t live there; they feel – they process – they are grateful for their lessons and their journey – they grow and they heal and they forgive. Happiness comes when we allow ourselves to move through emotions, to feel them fully – to understand them and let them pass. ‘Happy people’ don’t wallow in the shadows of their feelings, they honour them and know they will pass; they understand their feelings ebb and flow like the tides that move in harmony with the moon, and like Mother Nature, they know the sun will shine when the storm has passed and rain has long dried on the pavement.

People who embody happiness choose to live their live on a higher frequency, allowing them to live in a state of flow; they don’t resist the whispers of their soul and they live their lives falling more and more in love with themselves as they learn to embody all that they are. Happy people aren’t focused on or living in the past, nor are they focused on or living in the future; they live in the here and now, they practise gratitude, they practise self love, they can find their peace within.

Happiness comes when we choose ourselves, when we lift the veil and we live our lives basking in the light that lives within us all.

Happiness comes when we let our soul guide us and we choose the path of least resistance; the path that makes our light shine bright – the path that only we can walk – the path that’s meant for us – for you.

Happiness comes when you choose happy – when you choose yourself – when you choose to surrender and let your heart and soul lead the way.

Happiness comes when you have trust.

Happiness comes when you can forgive and let go – both yourself and others.

Happiness comes when you can love yourself unconditionally.

Happiness comes when you are brave and compassionate.

Happiness comes when you can love others without conditions.

Happiness is a choice – it’s your choice and yours alone; all you need to do is choose it – close your eyes now and feel it, breathe it in and feel it. It is yours, so claim it.

What do you want to be when you grow up?

I want to be happy!

Transforming the teacher with coaching

As a teacher I have been appraised and ‘coached’ by senior colleagues, always focusing on improving performance and neglecting the human inside the teacher. Conversations would be framed by the feedback/compliment sandwich; a positive comment, followed by some next steps, and concluded with another positive comment leaving little room for the teacher to reflect on how the human inside the teacher is showing up within the classroom for their colleagues and students. Senior leadership would, at times, take on the role of a consultant, offering a solutions based approach to create forward action for my teaching practice. This would be done by observing me in action and providing feedback to plug any gaps as a means to ensure I was able to hit the markers according to the New Zealand Teachers Council, and inturn achieve my registered teacher status. Alternatively, I would be trained by my senior leadership team – Team Leaders and Menor Teachers – where I would be instructed or taught what skills I should adopt, including behaviour management, questioning skills and other best practice pedagogy that would set out to improve quality teaching and learning for myself and my students. While this type of coaching worked well during my early years of teaching, as I became a competent and experienced teacher with effective systems in place, appraisal conversations did little to help me grow as a teacher and instead became a bi-yearly box ticking exercise. 

Transformative coaching uncovers a deeper layer which can help a teacher understand how and why they are showing up the way they are in the classroom, and the wider school, by heightening their awareness of the situation at hand. Teachers have a stressful job with hundreds of interactions each day; teachers are making more minute to minute decisions than a surgeon in the operating theater and this can greatly impact a teacher’s mental and emotional capacity causing job dissatisfaction, exhaustion and even teacher burnout. According to the Post-Primary Teachers’ Association, over fifty percent of teachers leave the profession within their first five years of teaching citing burnout as the leading cause. Transformative coaching can give teachers the opportunity to develop not just as teachers, but as human beings as they uncover their operating systems, thus improving their performance and heightening their awareness to understand their behaviour, including their stress cycles and gaining clarity of their role when dealing with things like challenging relationships with colleagues and students. The Awareness, Clarity, Choice conversation (ACC) provides a space for teachers to reflect deeply, not just on their pedagogy and delivery of lessons but also on their communication skills, relationships with colleagues and students, examine how strengths and weaknesses are being used within the classroom and as a staff member, as well as set goals for career progression and professional development. Fiona Moir, senior lecturer at Auckland University, outlines awareness as being key to managing stress and preventing burnout; therefore with teachers leaving the profession in droves, to prevent this teachers should be provided with the opportunity and space to uncover what gives their lives and careers meaning, purpose and value, both as a teacher and as a human being; transformative coaching provides a platform for teachers to gain awareness of any given situation impacting them within the school gates in order to gain clarity and design next steps for accountability and progress. This unique spin on coaching can not only help teachers uncover their way of being but support the teacher to make positive and sustainable change to their teaching practices, relationships and wellbeing; the transformative ACC framework uncovers who they are, how they feel about things, including their beliefs and mindset in order to create a sustainable change that is long lasting and overall has a positive impact on students as well as improve school culture.

Finally, Biswas-Diener and Dean support the idea that coaching is not only effective for the high-flying corporate manager, but also “a powerful force for transformation” for a myriad of professions, including “school teachers”. Biswas-Diener and Dean go on to discuss that, “coaching is about harnessing the best in people and inspiring them to live out their potential,” therefore a powerful tool to use within schools to help bring the best out of their teachers. Not only will coaching provide a space to transform teachers and support them to become the best they can be, a school will also have happier teachers who have control over their personal wellbeing and how they show up in the classroom for their students, reducing staff turn around and teacher burnout and improving relationships between all stakeholders. 

Transformative coaching has, for me personally, given me the space to feel heard, without judgment or unwarranted advice given, and in turn, allowed me to take back control of my personal well being as well as uncover how my values and strengths are impacting or supporting my classroom practise. This has not only improved and helped develop my understanding of how I operate in the classroom, it has greatly positively enhanced my relationships with students, staff members and even helped me navigate situations I find uncomfortable, such as challenging conversations with parents and challenging student behaviours. The learning I have done so far has been deep, transformative and sustainable; During these conversations, I am able to see myself and others through a different lense and this has had a positive impact on my colleagues, students and even my family.  

In conclusion, I appreciate how transformative coaching can support teachers by harnessing their potential and provide a space for teachers to take control over their own wellbeing and overall presence in the classroom, including classroom behaviour management, pedagogy and relationships with students. Coaching is a powerful tool that should be used more readily in Educational environments. Teachers need the time and the space to be heard, without judgement and guidance to uncover who they are not only as a teacher, but also a human being in order to become the best possible versions of themself inside and outside the classroom. 

Are you in need of a little teacher transformation? Book in a 30 minute discover call with me to see how coaching can help you become the best teacher you can be, and the teacher you want to be! https://calendly.com/aimeenicole/30min

References

Biswas-Diener, R., & Dean, B. (2007). Positive psychology coaching: Putting the science of happiness to work for your clients. John Wiley & Sons.

Franks, J. (2019, May 29). Teachers’ strike: Burnt out, depressed, disillusioned – the staff quitting the classroom. Stuff.co.nz. https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/education/113074836/teachers-strike-burnt-out-depressed-disillusioned–the-staff-quitting-the-classroom

Green, S., & Palmer, S. (2019). Positive psychology coaching in practice. Routledge.

Moir, F., Dr (Presenter). (2020, July 27). Optimising Wellbeing: Strategies to Manage Stress and Prevent Burnout. Address presented at Improving Wellbeing, Mental Health & Resilience in Education, Ellerslie Race Course; Auckland, New Zealand.

the river

She was once an unmoving river.
Still
Silent
Stagnant.
Laying dormant under an overcast sky.
Lifeless
Listless
Lost.
Drooping trees lined her banks patiently waiting to bloom.
But still she sits,
Unmoving
Unchanging
Unaware.
Heaviness holds her in place;
Blind in the dark.
Unaware of her power.
Unaware of her heart.
Unaware of her soul.
Unaware of her light.
Then the rains came down,
And she weathers the storms.
She is brought back to life.
Slowly she starts to move,
Carefully
Cautiously
Calculating.
She is still unsure.
Still blind to her power.
But still, she moves.
Trees lining her banks begin to bloom,
The clouds begin to lift.
Weight no longer holds her in place.
She flows
Freely
Without fear.
She surges,
Disrupting the status quo.
More power than she ever thought possible.
She reconnects with her source.
She reconnects with her heart.
She reconnects with her light.
The earth holds her,
Honours her.
A force to be reckoned with.