“Tips for tired teachers”
Diary submitted by Oliver H, Valencia.
How can you overcome fatigue in order to keep performing in the classroom?
At the end of a long week, when the marking load has become intense and every student seems to have an exam in a couple of days, teaching can become a draining vocation. When a teacher’s lack of motivation and energy is apparent, this can have hugely detrimental effects on the progress of a student. However, with a few easy steps, one’s energy levels can rise, and enthusiasm sky-rocket, leaving the darkness of tiredness behind. For me, the key to remaining fresh relies on a dual-approach. One side of the approach is unrelated to teaching – it is about keeping your body content and your mind focused; the other concerns the classroom, and the ways in which changes or improvements to teaching practices can aid your own recovery.
I shan’t dwell on it as it is perhaps as obvious a point as it gets, however, sleep is the key ingredient to energy. This sounds so obvious that its stupid, but without decent sleep one can’t function and the ability to teach sufficiently vanishes. This does not necessarily mean the 7/8 hours of sleep a day that we are all told about, but simply some level of adequate rest. When you find yourself in a new city, surrounded by a new culture and a thriving nightlife, it is all too easy to lose track of the reality of the human body. Getting adequate sleep on weekdays enables you to enjoy your free time to the maximum, whilst creating sufficient energy reserves to set you up for the week.
The second tip concerning looking after your body is perhaps more left-field. Cold shower therapy (CST) doesn’t just set you up for a week of teaching, but can help set your up for life. The theory goes that if you are prepared to take a cold shower every morning then you will be able to overcome difficulties that life throws at you; in this case, human fatigue. By engaging in the rather unpleasant process of showering cold, you ingrain in yourself an ability to face challenges, and the prospect of back-to-back lessons when all you want is bed actually becomes considerably less daunting.
Teacher talking time should always be kept to a minimum, but when you are tired there is even more reason to abide by this rule. In fact, rightly or wrongly, being tired and unmotivated is a perfect opportunity to preach this methodology. This does not mean neglecting your student of feedback and input, but instead, simply allow them to do the talking. Not only is it beneficial to them, but can help take you through the darker times of teaching.
Finally, keep the material fresh. Going over a lesson for the umpteenth time when energy levels are low can be exasperating. Instead, think of something new. A game, a new activity, a spontaneous role-play – all of these can add the spice needed to ensure that fatigue does not couple with boredom to create the perfect storm of uselessness.
In conclusion, keep your body and mind in the condition required to allow you to help others. This is truly where it all begins. But the beauty of teaching is that it never has to be the same. Experiment, explore and evolve your methods to allow you to gain the excitement in an otherwise difficult moment.