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Cut time, not corners: five life hacks to help you survive teacher training
Teachers aren't known for having a brilliant work-life balance. They are, however, famous for getting stuff done – and a few simple life hacks can make all the difference. Here are our insider tips on keeping yourself healthy, sane and happy while handling the demands of training and teaching.
When you're swamped with work, the idea of making it to the gym may seem ambitious (or utterly ridiculous). But that doesn't mean you have to give up on keeping fit. Speak to your colleagues to see if people are interested in exercising together – you could start your own running club, put teams together for five-a-side football or even just follow yoga and pilates videos from YouTube in school (make sure the curtains are shut). If you're lucky, your school might have a gym that you can use – so make sure you keep on good terms with the PE department.
Naturally you will want to look smart at school, but you will also have mornings where a few more precious minutes in bed are way, way more important. On those days, dry shampoo is your best friend. Make sure you've always got a bottle nearby to give yourself the appearance of freshness when you really rolled out of bed 10 minutes before leaving the house.
When it comes to clothing, avoiding ironing is the primary concern. Wherever possible, buy items that don't need it at all. Where an iron is required, shake out your clothes and hang them up as soon as possible to try and eliminate creases without too much effort. In a pinch, hair straighteners can always be used to smooth the bits that can be seen (while the rest can be left creased and out of sight). It's also worth laying out your work outfit before you go to sleep at night, so you don't have the stress of putting together an ensemble while feeling zombified first thing in the morning.
Keep your energy up
You're going to need lots of energy, but you're not going to have much time to shop and prepare elaborate meals. That doesn't mean you need to go down the junk food path. For a quick, nutritious breakfast – that you can consume on the way to work (if needs be) – get a load of fruit and oats and create your own smoothies (extra points for adding spinach, kale and other health-boosting greenery).
You can look after lunch for the week by taking time on Sunday night to create a dish that can be portioned out for the week – search online for 'batch meals' for ideas like healthy salads, pitta pockets and curries. Avoid unhealthy snacking during the day by keeping a stash of fruit and nuts in your desk.
For your evening meals, make sure you plan ahead for the week when you go to the supermarket, so you don't find yourself arriving home hungry to an empty fridge. If you live with other people, try creating a cooking schedule to ensure there's a meal available each night, or get a slow cooker which will allow you to get home to a cooked dinner with minimal effort. Alternatively, recipe boxes are becoming increasingly popular; enabling you to create proper interesting meals with the pre-portioned ingredients coming in from around £4 per meal.
Switching on (and off)
Technology can be a blessing and a curse when it comes to work-life balance. An omnipresent email inbox is a definite nono, so set a time each day to turn off. Your reply will almost definitely be better in the morning anyway.
Apps can be helpful, however. Try a time tracker to analyse how you are spending your working hours – if one element of the job is disproportionately taking up your time, you can address it. If you're prone to procrastination, there are lots of programmes available that can block you from certain sites, or even the internet, for a pre-determined period. And while you're getting used to your new schedule, try a sleep cycle app to ensure you're getting enough rest.
Your social life is going to take a hit as you become a teacher, so make sure your friends understand it's not them, it's you. Let them know you are likely to be tired, hitting bed around 10pm and maybe even feeling ill towards the end of term, so you might not be about as much as you'd like (but will make it up to them in the holidays).
When you do see friends, do your very, very, very best not to talk about work too much – the little world you're now a part of will be fascinating to you, but far less so to others. And when you see other teachers, try as hard as you can not to fall into comparing, contrasting and competing about your schools. Rest assured, you will almost definitely fail at this.
This article is taken from the EdCentral Alternative Student Teacher Manual, which is available to download for free.