At BESIG, we’re inviting members who want to share their experience with our community in our Blog. Today, Phil Nash shares with us his ideas on teachers’ wellbeing.
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English Language Training can be the best job in the world when everything goes well. You turn up on time, in the right place, feeling rested after a good night's sleep with a well-prepared lesson (and a good back up just in case), which you proceed to deliver to the best of your ability to an appreciative and engaged class.
Unfortunately, things do not always quite go to plan.
The biggest factor, in my experience, that affects our wellbeing inside, or outside, of work is control. Specifically, the feeling of being in control as far as is possible of our own schedule and workload. Feeling in control can be really challenging, particularly for itinerant English Language Trainers working across a large geographical area and dependent on public transport to get from A to B.
My year working for Linguarama as an English Language Trainer in and around Dusseldorf (from early June 2013 to the end of June 2014) was a good experience, but one which was full of challenges. Looking back I was lucky to have a lot of excellent support. Naturally, I am quite an extrovert. I was never shy about asking anyone in the staff room or at Linguarama for help.
Living abroad in a non-native English speaking country posed other obvious challenges. My principal reason for moving to Germany was to try to improve my German. I threw myself into the challenge, watching German television programmes, reading German books, signing up for Sprach Tandems and taking private one-to-one lessons.
Networks are always incredibly important. Moving to a foreign land takes courage. I was fortunate to meet many great people inside and outside of work. That said, I found that I felt lonely more regularly than I had done previously back in the UK. Sundays could be especially problematic, especially when I was not in a relationship. In Germany shops are closed on a Sunday. Sunday is a family day.
See above. This can and sometimes must extend to saying no, particularly to last minute cover if you are feeling overwrought. This can be a real dilemma especially for freelancers. Open honest communication is important. Making management aware of underlying conditions you may have can help maintain wellbeing of both managers and trainers while ensuring continuity of cover.
Looking at the issue of control from a management perspective involves getting the appropriate individuals to the right place at the right time. Do trainers have enough time to get from A to B and then on again to C? Reducing stress out ‘in the field’ can reduce the likelihood of burnout. Schedule builders do not expect your trainers to be superheroes, especially when they are reliant on public transport. Try and have lessons close to one and another if at all possible.
2 Develop a structured routine outside of work
Make the most of living abroad. Building fun and stimulating activities into our weekly schedules makes us happier, more balanced individuals. Increasingly responsibility for HR falls to line managers. Academic management should be vigilant for indicators that their trainers are becoming unwell. Tell-tale signs that someone is feeling the strain may include: neglect of personal appearance, increasing irritability, making inappropriate outbursts or an individual wishing to withdraw from social situations. Spending too much time in work can be a symptom of deeper problems, too. Keep an eye out for trainers who are starting to look unwell. Try to help new staff members to integrate into life outside of work.
3 Have a cut off
You are far more likely to deliver top quality lessons/training sessions, of which you can rightly be proud, if you are well rested. Prepare to the best of your ability, but do not let it take over your life. Wherever possible make the most of your students as a resource. Encourage them to bring in their own materials.
Sleep is incredibly important. Avoid looking at work emails, Facebook or other forms of Social Media just before you try to go to sleep. Everybody has their own routines at the beginning and end of the day; try and work out what is best for you. Interestingly, some large companies, such as Volkswagen, switch off their servers at weekends so that employees do not feel obliged to read their emails over the weekend.
4 Make the most of ‘in company’ facilities.
Make use of the staff canteen. In a business where several trainers from a language provider are present, a DoS could make a deal with HR to ensure that language trainers enjoy any on-site subsidies that ‘regular’ staff usually enjoy. In instances where this is not possible there may well be a sympathetic cashier in the cafeteria who is prepared to give you a discount. Dana Poklepovic managed to secure free access to chartered buses for her trainers, who have to visit a company a long way from the city, in Buenos Aires. Trainers chat to colleagues and students to find out about any benefits that you can enjoy and how you might access them.
Drink plenty of water: being well-hydrated makes us function better. Fill up your water bottle on-site. Do not be afraid to ask for liquid refreshment. In my experience, most students were happy to offer me a glass of water or a cup of coffee. Everyone has a right to be well-hydrated.
5 Keep things in perspective
The first verse of Reinhold Niebuhr’s Serenity Prayer always helps remind me of what really matters:
God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.
Remember try and keep way two communication going. If you are concerned about a colleague’s wellbeing flag it up with your DoS or ADoS.
I am currently studying for a Masters in Human Resource Management at Manchester Metropolitan University in England. Please take a look at my HR, training and wellbeing themed blog, The Eastern Wing and follow me on Twitter @philnashuk. https://theeasternwing.wordpress.com