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.

the abandoned teacher

It became pretty clear to me how negatively teachers are viewed when our country’s teachers fought for better pay and working conditions last year. You didn’t have to look far to find someone’s point of view or negative comment about our children’s teachers online, and for a while there I would just read these comments and cry, my heart broken to know how we are really seen to those outside of education. I get it from people I know too – people who see me break and struggle under the pressure – people who know how hard I work – there are people in my social circle who don’t even see the value in what I do and they like to wind me up to entice some kind of passionate and emotional reaction. I understand though – I do, everyone draws on their own school experience – and because all those trolls on Facebook, and anyone else with an opinion, have learned to read and write and express their opinions so articulately, they have obviously gone through some kind of education system; everyone has their own memories of teachers and this seems to give them the idea they know what it is we do all day – and then they give themselves permission to criticise the teachers of today. It’s widely believed we work nine to three and lap it up with our twelve weeks holiday each year – this is just so far from the truth.

At the end of this year, I will have completed my first decade as a classroom teacher. Even after ten years of teaching, I still struggle to find the balance I need to thrive as both a teacher and a human being. The culture in which we work is toxic – it is fundamentally broken world wide and I believe this is down to the fact that what we do is not valued by the wider society. This in turn has led to an expectation that we do more than is mentally and physically possible within a day just to somehow demonstrate our worth and contribution to society. It causes teachers to compete with each other, rather than support and collaborate; Because society seems to view teaching as a calling, this has somehow led to a culture where it is expected we work for free and give absolutely everything we have to our job – to go above and beyond, with no second thought about the consequence to our own mental health. This is why we are losing teachers – all these expectations, they are just not manageable – they are just not sustainable. It is breaking us. This is why we need our holidays, our job is so mentally and emotionally demanding – it’s just not sustainable over long periods of time.

I honestly didn’t think teaching would be this hard. 

Most days, we have to work through our breaks, eating lunch at our desk or scoffing it down quickly in the staff-room while we catch up on emails just so we are prepared to teach our kids and do all of that other admin stuff that is required of us. To enable me to go home without work so I can be a mother and a wife, I have to cram as much as I can into my day – so that means, going without actual breaks and zooming around the campus while trying to prevent myself from drowning under this immense weight I feel, only to take it all out on my family when I get home. We have to know where our students are at – what they can and can’t do – what they need to learn next and how we can best support them to get there. All our students are at different levels and we need to cater for each and every single one of them – it is expected we do. We need to be an expert in dealing with a vast number of learning needs, social needs and emotional needs – it is expected we do. We need to be a support system, a mentor, a teacher, and a councilor for well over 25 kids right now. And if I can get real with you, right now, I am really struggling to cope. I am a fierce advocate for teachers and our wellbeing, and even though I am well equipped with the knowledge and the skills to be a ‘well teacher’ and have the most incredible support within my team, the current climate is making it feel as though it is almost impossible for me to thrive as a teacher right now. Today I had to take a mental health day, because my head and my heart need protecting to enable me to show up for my kids as my best self. If I know all this, am self-aware of my feelings, can articulate them and know how to look after myself, imagine what it must be like right now for those teachers around the world who do not – my heart is actually breaking for them right now.

When we leave the school grounds, it is impossible for us to not take work home – even if we leave our laptop at school. The physical act of teaching makes up a small fraction of what we actually do. We care so deeply about our students and we genuinely want what is best for them so we take them home with us – in our heads. The emotional weight of our job is immense and this is really where teachers struggle the most. We don’t have enough time to process it all, and we give everything to our kids that at the end of the day, there isn’t anything left for ourselves – even if we make the time for it, our energy levels are just so depleted it winds up being a token gesture of mindfulness meditation where instead of an empty and calm mind, a tornado of worry and overwhelm swirls and we ultimately feel like shit that we can’t even meditate, let alone cope with this job that society views as a piece of cake with a twelve week holiday.

We worry about the girl with anxiety who doesn’t want to come to school, 

We worry about the boy who is having trouble with his friends at lunch,

We worry about the boy without food,

We think of new ways to teach that kid who just can’t figure out fractions,

We scour the internet for resources for that boy with dyslexia,

We rack our brains with ways to make life easier for our kids,

We participate in webinars and podcasts to improve our skills and knowledge,

We feel the constant pressure of the clock.

We feel the constant pressure from the packed curriculum.

We feel the constant pressure from our kids’ parents.

We fall asleep with this swirling around in our heads.

Then we wake up.

A new day.

A fresh start.

But the cycle just begins again. 

We open our email to find messages from parents unhappy with what we have done for their child – or what we haven’t done. Our professional judgement and experience is put into question and parents now hold all the power. When we know we are doing everything we can for all the kids in our class, or at least trying our best to, it’s actually hard not to feel appreciated.

If we believe something is beneficial for a child’s learning and their parents think otherwise – they win and we have to retreat with our tail between our legs making us feel as though all our years and experience mean nothing. 

If a child is failing we look to us as the reason – our teaching failed them; we are so hard on ourselves.

If a student has poor behaviour, it’s because we are not engaging them.

Very rarely do we receive positive emails, genuinely thanking us for all we have done – it happens does happen though, and we appreciate it so much when it does, but the complaints and criticism far outweigh the positive, and that massive toll it takes on us emotionally. It makes us feel so worthless. We take it all personally. Some of us can take it, some of us can’t – most of us can’t. We give our hearts to our children – we give them almost every inch of ourselves, we honestly do, and to feel so undervalued when we have our professional experience and opinions challenged hurts like you wouldn’t believe.

Coming back to school post Corona has been a different experience for many teachers; where there are some teachers who work in schools with a visible wellbeing programme and teachers are nurtured, feel valued and supported to teach and thrive, there are far too many schools where the wellbeing of their teachers is being forgotten. If some schools can’t even have senior leadership teams value teachers, genuinely appreciate all that we do and go on to neglect our personal wellbeing, how on earth can we expect our parent community, or society to value and appreciate what we do? This is something that has been weighing heavily on my heart over the last few weeks as I’ve engaged with teachers online and seen how hard Covid has impacted teachers and schools all over the place, and while I can uplift and inspire teachers to take control of their own well-being with my words, the reality of the situation is, many teachers feel like their wellbeing has been abandoned by those who should be supporting us.

We can’t breathe under this weight.

Our teaching suffers, 

Our kids suffer,

Our families suffer,

We suffer. 

What makes it harder is all the other stuff piled on top of us.

What makes it harder is feeling like we have no power.

What makes it harder is parents who don’t support us.

What makes it harder is having no support from our leaders.

What makes it harder is the emotional support we provide our kids.

What makes it harder is receiving no emotional support for ourselves.

What makes it harder is feeling like we have been abandoned in all of this. 

We want you all to know what teaching is really like, we love our kids so much but this job, it’s really hard and none of us think it fair or ok that we are all literally working ourselves to our physical, mental and emotional breaking points.

We need help. 

The profession needs help. 

We want support. 

We want to feel valued. 

We just want to teach and be respected for it.

We are doing the best we possibly can but sometimes, it’s just too much and all of these added factors are making our job so much harder than it needs to be. I love teaching, I find my joy when I am in the classroom and I love my kids – they are the reason I still do what I do, but the culture of teaching is toxic and I am not surprised teachers are leaving in droves. As teachers, we can only control our thoughts, feelings and personal expectations and that is hard enough to manage on top of everything else that is expected of us. We need help with the things that we can’t control, because it is just too much to sustain. Something’s gotta give. Yes, teaching called us and we answered, but just because teaching and working with kids might be our purpose in life, it doesn’t mean we should be expected to work ourselves into the ground and be hated on by society when we ask for help when we feel like we are drowning. 

I just wish everyone knew how much of ourselves we give our kids and what we personally sacrifice to do so.

My heart is broken for teachers right now. 

your wellbeing is not a chore

I wanted to know what support you needed now, in the wake of corona and I heard you loud and clear. You have enough to do, and you don’t want anything else added to your plate.

I hear you.

Heading back to school in the wake of a nation wide lock-down without any time or space to breathe has you shattered. I get it, I do. The slower pace has instantly been sped up, there is no way to ease yourself back into the classroom, it’s zero to one hundred in seconds. Where you went from slowly eating your breakfast and drinking hot coffee, almost overnight, you’re eating breakfast at 2.30pm and forgetting where you put your coffee. You’re fighting with the photo-copier and can no longer make use of that all powerful mute button. Your to-do-list is growing by the minute and the emails keep rolling in. Parents are on your case – you’re either doing too much, or not enough, but whatever you do, you can’t win. You thought it was going to be different, like we had woken up to this new, slow way of life and it was going to filter into the school too. But it didn’t. 

You are stressed – already. 

You are overwhelmed – already. 

You are exhausted – already. 

You don’t want anything else to do – I get it, I really do.

You don’t want to reflect on your Covid teaching right now.

You don’t want that staff meeting right now.

You don’t want that appraisal right now.

You don’t even want that well-being expert to help you right now. 

You just want to teach – I hear you.

You just want to get on with it – I hear you.

You just want to connect with your kids again – I hear you.

But please, I have just one favour to ask you. 

Don’t make looking after yourself a chore. 

Please don’t let it be that thing you put on your list to do each day, but never get to cross it off.

You wellbeing must be your priority. 

Just like you wouldn’t go to school without pants on, 

don’t go to school without checking in with yourself first.

You matter.

You matter to me.

You matter to your students.

You matter to your family.

You matter. 

You matter just as much at that math plan.

You matter just as much as that writing feedback.

You matter just as much as that child with the IEP. 

So please, do one thing and prioritise yourself. 

Because you matter.

In the wake of Corona, we all need different things to feel supported right now and many schools won’t know how to start. Not all schools will be getting it right, not right now – not yet. It’s ok to feel whatever it is you are feeling. It’s ok to need extra support. It’s ok. 

Whatever it is you need right now – give yourself permission.

If you can’t control what is happening at school, take control of what is happening in your head.

If you can’t take control of what is happening at school, take control of what is happening in your heart.  

My heart has been heavy all day, worrying about the teachers who are not being supported right now. With everything else on my plate right now, I felt overwhelmed and held back the tears at morning tea today, the only thing stopping them was the boys eating inside due to the wet weather. We have just gone through a moment in history we will never forget and my heart is aching for all those teachers who feel like they have been abandoned – like their wellbeing is at the bottom of everyone’s list. Maybe, my heart aches a bit for myself too. 

Your wellbeing is at the top of my list, right up there next to mine. 

I know you don’t want to add anything to your list right now.

I know you are busy.

But when you are ready for help, 

I am here to support you. 

Focus on the parts of your day that bring you the most light.

This storm will die down and you will breathe again. 

But you have to allow the rain to fall and the wind to howl.

I know it’s extra hard right now.

I am here.

I am with you.

We can be teachers who thrive – it doesn’t always have to be about survival.

But it has to start with us – it has to start with me – it has to start with you.

teachers give your heart, but save some for yourself

Wonderful Teachers,
I am sure you are all relieved that this online teaching is coming to an end – for me, I get to head back to school tomorrow and I am beyond excited to see my kids for real. I had to hold back the tears this morning during our final zoom lesson when I expressed just how proud I was of all of them. They have handled all the changes like absolute champs but now the real hard work will start as we surround our kids with all the love and support they need to bounce back from all of this. However, in saying this, while you are working hard to support your kids and their wellbeing, please do not forget your own. It is vital you do not forget your own. It is incredibly vital.
 
If you belong to a school where a teacher’s wellbeing is seen as just as important as your students, I am sure you are feeling incredibly supported with your transition back to school and my heart hopes this to be the truth for all of you. Sadly, however, it is not like this at all schools and many teachers are left to fend for themselves.
 
I know there will be many of you who have struggled during this time in isolation, your troubles may have nothing to do with teaching: we have had partners lose their jobs, businesses go bust, we have had to mourn loved ones in private and felt the impact of home schooling. There have been families going without, relationship break downs and an immeasurable amount of heartache and overwhelming feelings felt by many. It’s been a truly weird time.
 
If your personal feelings are left unchecked, the issues that have been plaguing you will slowly creep their way into the classroom. Just like that slow moving vine that wraps itself around our native trees and strangles them, overwhelms them and eventually suffocates them. If your personal emotions are pushed under the carpet now, I guarantee you will suffer more later – and so will your students (and probably your family at home too).
 
Your fuse will become shorter.
Your voice will become higher.
Your breath will become shorter.
Your hair will become grayer.
Your sleep will be interrupted.
Your health will suffer.
Your light will dim.
Your ability to offer your students the support they are so desperately needing right now will become near impossible.
Your ability to deal with the challenges we are about to be faced with will be become a futile mission.
 
Take care of yourself – your thoughts, your feelings, your body, your heart, your soul.
 
Talk.
Process.
Heal.
 
Hold yourself in a space of self-compassion.
Be kind to yourself.
Ask yourself how you are feeling.
Slowly work your way to a better feeling.
 
Talk.
Process.
Heal.
 
For us to give our students what they need, we MUST give ourselves what we need.
Love yourself as much as you love your students.
Give them as much as you can give.
But DO NOT give them everything you have to give.
Save some for your family.
Save some for yourself.
 
If you are struggling with your headspace and your ability to cope at school, please talk to someone. My inbox is always open ❤
 
Teacher Wellbeing – it starts with us. It starts with me. Its starts with you. We have to be the ones to drive the change.
 
Ehara taku toa i te toa takitahi engari he toa takimano
My strength is not that of an individual but that of the collective

to the women who grieve on mother’s day

Mother’s Day, a time for everyone, men, women and children to reflect on motherhood and what it means to be a mother – a woman. A day to give our thanks to the women who gave us life, to the women who played their role in raising us, and to look in awe at who the women in our lives have grown to be: our sisters, our cousins, our wives, our mothers, our friends – our strength. Mother’s Day, a day of celebration for most; but for many women, Mother’s Day holds a heavy space in their heart.

She stands there, looking in the mirror. Heart broken tears stream down her face as the wave of emotion hits her; the grief feels unbearable. The woman who grieves for her mother lights a candle in remembrance. The woman who buried her son feels the like the crack in her heart will never heal. The woman who mourns her daughter contemplates who she could have been. The woman who holds her hand on her empty belly questions her womanhood. The woman who grew apart from her children relives her guilt. The woman who goes through costly hormonal treatment sobs through heartache each and every time it doesn’t work.

To the women who struggle on Mother’s Day. You are not alone.

It’s time to allow yourself to heal.

To the women with broken hearts, allow yourself to heal.

To the women who let the pain engulf them, allow yourself to heal.

To the women unsure how to grieve the life you were never able to meet, don’t hide away in the shadows or hold onto your heartache alone. You are still a mother. You are not broken. Allow yourself to heal.

To the women struggling to conceive, you have not failed. Allow yourself to heal.

To all the women who struggle on Mother’s Day, feel the strength of the women who came before you and the women who are yet to come. Feel their love, surrender and give them permission to hold you today. Acknowledge your feelings and honour them. Let go of the grief weighing heavy on your heart. Allow yourself to heal.

To the woman who lights a candle for her mother, we stand with you.

To the woman who morns her son, we stand with you.

To the woman whose heart aches at the loss of her daughter, we stand with you.

To the woman who never held her child, we stand with you.

To the woman yearning to be a mother, we stand with you.

To all the women who struggle on Mother’s Day, today we give you our strength.

We honour you. We love you. We support you.