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7 steps to recover from a bad day at school

It happens to everybody, but a rotten day at school can really knock you for six. So how can you pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and start all over again?

Here are 7 effective steps to recover from a bad day.

  1. Distance yourself

One of the best things to do after a tough day at school is to get a bit of distance. Now that we have returned to in-person learning, using your commute home as a chance to decompress is a great way to multitask while putting some distance between you and your day.

Do you walk or bike to work? Great. Exercise is a proven way to get some endorphins pumping and put you in a better state of mind before you begin to unpack your day. What if you drive or take public transport? Well, turn up your favourite music and sing along (internally or out loud, depending on how brave you are feeling).

  1. Put it in perspective

More often than not, it’s particular aspects of your day that are challenging, rather than the whole thing. Whether it’s a lesson where behaviour got out of hand, a logistical problem or a misinterpreted comment, try to look at the problem in the context of the whole day and find the positives where you can. After all, there’s no reason why five or ten-minutes should ruin your whole day, let alone your evening, too.

  1. Learn a lesson

As teachers, we are constantly learning. Another worthwhile thing you can do to help reframe a negative experience at school as a positive one is to learn from it. Regardless of whether the experience came about through a fault of yours or not, if there’s a lesson to be learnt which can help you in the future, make a note of it and move on. Ruminating on things you can’t change, and you couldn’t have prevented, is pointless.

Often when a relief day is difficult, it is due to a combination of factors, some of which you will be able to influence and some of which you won’t, no matter how hard you try. For example, it is very common to get caught in the crossfire as a relief teacher. Schools are complex social organisations and it is all too easy, especially if you are new to the school, to get on the wrong side of a situation you didn’t even know was happening.

  1. Take action

Depending on what’s gone on during your day, you may need to take further action, like seeking clarification from school admin staff or writing an email outlining your version of events. If you think this is required, it’s a good idea to put pen to paper and make notes as soon as possible, while the events are still fresh in your mind. From here, it’s worthwhile letting it sit overnight or at least as long as it takes to have a cuppa. Not only will this give you time to properly calm down, but it will also give you a chance to re-read your email and ensure that you’re not letting your emotions get the better of you.

  1. Rant if you must, but be careful

Look, we get it. Sometimes the best thing to calm you down and validate your feelings is a good rant. If you decide to do this online or in any sort of public forum, make sure you are taking steps to protect yourself. It should go without saying, but once something is on the internet, even in a closed Facebook group or private message, it can be screenshotted and circulated. Don’t put anything in your post that can identify the school, staff or children you are talking about – you don’t want your true thoughts turning up in the wrong newsfeed.

  1. You come first

As the saying goes, you can’t pour from an empty cup. Try as we might, none of us are perfect, and often teachers have a tendency to beat themselves up over tiny things. Even the most experienced teachers have a nightmare day from time to time. Go easy on yourself and remember that in order to be the best teacher you can be, sometimes you need to be a little selfish.

  1. Learn to say ‘no’

Remember, if you are a casual relief teacher, you have the power to say no when an assignment is offered to you. At the end of the day, your wellbeing and mental health comes first, so, if you think accepting a job will put that at risk, the cost is too great.

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