My first year of teaching has been the most challenging, but also the most rewarding year of my life. Every day brought with it new challenges to overcome, whilst still trying to balance the pressure of assignments, and working to qualify as a teacher.
However, I can say with confidence that taking every challenge as an opportunity to learn and grow really helped me get through the year. Changing my approach to tasks from ‘I need to’ or ‘I must’, to ‘I am able to’ and ‘I can’, made the year so much more manageable mentally.
It is often said that nothing is impossible if you have the right mindset, and in teaching, that couldn’t be more true!
Practicing different methods of self-awareness can be an invaluable tool when it comes to managing your emotions on a stressful day, or even just in establishing good habits and routines. In this article, I’ve shared my top tips on how to establish a positive mindset.
1. Establish a growth mindset
Although we are educators, we ourselves are always learning too! Rather than responding to challenges by feeling inadequate or defeated, we need to use them as an opportunity to learn, grow and flourish. Failure is an opportunity to start a cycle of success!
Certainly, the obstacles that the last academic year have thrown at us have been unprecedented; and different schools and teachers will have all faced different challenges. But by fostering a growth mindset and looking for new goals to work towards, or new ways of working through these challenges, we can adopt a more positive and motivated approach to our role.
2. Plan for your pinch points
Sometimes the challenges we face in the classroom can catch us off guard, but other times they can be predicted. When you are planning for your half term, look for your deadlines, and when you anticipate you will be under the most pressure. For example, it might not be the best idea to plan an all-singing, all-dancing lesson, the day before a big marking deadline.
Planning strategically in this way can help reduce the risk of burnout, and give you the stamina to keep working at your best through to the end of term.
3. Keep track of your activity
A to-do list is certainly not a revolutionary idea, but it can provide an excellent benchmark for reflection on your progress throughout the day, the week or even the term.
Optimise your to-do list by prioritising actions by their importance or time sensitivity. Having dated to-do lists gives you a good reference point to return to if actions need to be followed up on, and can help you feel more confident in your work. Make sure you celebrate and reward yourself for productivity, and enjoy the small wins!
4. Don’t be too hard on yourself
It’s often easier said than done, but try and reflect on your work with a kind eye. Self-reflection is vital for progress, and crucially, we need to reflect on our failures.
Think about your own feedback in the same way we think about feedback for our students. Being overly critical or unkind to yourself can be demotivating and counterproductive in the long run. Reflect on any mistakes with the aim of setting manageable goals for self-improvement, rather than beating yourself up over it.
Looking for further ideas to develop your mindset? Our FREE teacher wellbeing packs are designed and created by teachers, to support you to find the time for personal development and reflection during this busy term.
Ella Burandt is a Geography teacher and a second-year participant on the Teach First programme.