Finding the balance: winding down from this academic year and preparing for the next

The end of the academic year is often met with a huge sigh of relief as it has been such a busy term for many of us, it can also be met with a sudden surge of emotional and physical exhaustion.
Finding the balance: winding down from this academic year and preparing for the next
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Another academic year finished; sports days, end of term trips, summer fetes, parent meetings, reports written, and classrooms all packed away. Although it may have felt like the end of the year was never going to come, we have reached it! Although this is often met with a huge sigh of relief, it can also be met with a sudden surge of emotional and physical exhaustion.

We have been so busy that we have completely forgotten about looking after ourselves and taking the time to rest and recharge. The pressure of finishing everything in time, which has been occupying your every thought and keeping your momentum going for the past few weeks, has lifted and suddenly you stop and have space to realise you are tired and, quite possibly, run down. Therefore, it is important to use the summer as an opportunity to recharge and restart ready for the next academic year.

Recharging

When your laptop or phone battery flashes that it needs charging, you plug it in and recharge the battery because if you did not, it would simply stop working. If you let your laptop or phone battery completely run down and switch off, it can take a while of charging before it switches back on and becomes sufficiently charged enough to work effectively. This analogy can be applied to your health and wellbeing as you also require regular opportunities to recharge. Likewise, if you allow yourself to get so rundown that your health and wellbeing battery shuts down, it will take much longer to recharge and recover.

It is important to find your own version of ‘plugging in’ and recharge your own battery as often as you can. The summer break can be a chance to do this as you may have more time and opportunities. ‘Plugging in’ and recharging can take many different forms and can be as simple as having an afternoon nap, enjoying a coffee at a cafe, reading a book in the garden, all the way to going on holiday or days out with your family. 

Although some practitioners will be working throughout the summer, it is still as important to take some time, where you can, to recharge. Make the most of any time off that you have and use it to rest, relax and do some of the things you enjoy. For practitioners who are not working throughout the summer, be mindful of your colleagues who have upon your return. They may not have had as much time or opportunities to recharge and may need some support at the beginning of the academic year.

Restarting

For me the start of the academic year is my favourite time of the year. Welcoming new children into the setting and watching the season change from the summer to the autumn. However, it is also the season of cold and flu, or as I refer to it, the “start of term germs”. Therefore, if you are still a bit rundown, you may be more susceptible to common illnesses. This is also something to bear in mind and is another reason to look after yourself over the summer and into the new academic year. As much as you can, eat healthy, engage in regular exercise, and try to get enough sleep.

Taking time for yourself is an integral part of supporting your overall health and wellbeing. However, it is about finding a balance and another strategy that can support you is being organised and planning ahead. Although you do need time where you are not thinking about work or your practice, towards the end of the summer it can be helpful to start thinking about the academic year. Things to consider may include;

  • What do you want the first week to look like for you and the children in terms of activities?
  • Is your planning up to date and ready to implement?
  • What will be your daily routine/timetable look like? 
  • Is your room set up, for example putting children’s names on their pegs and drawers? Are all your resources restocked?

It is also beneficial to take some time to reflect over the previous year and consider;

  • What worked well and what did not work so well?
  • Are there any changes you want to make for the next academic year?

By being prepared and organised can enable you to have more time to spend getting to know the children in the first few weeks, with everything that you need on hand. This can reduce stress and anxiety and contribute to an enabling environment for both you and the children.

Conclusion

Working with children is extremely rewarding, but it can additionally be challenging at times and take its toll on your health and wellbeing. Try and find a work-life balance and ensure you take time to recharge and do some of the things you enjoy outside of work.

You will often work as part of a team, and it creates a healthy working environment to support each other. Little things such as making a colleague a cup of tea on their break, asking how they are or helping them with some of their duties can make a big impact. When practitioners work together to support each other, it will promote good practice, which will increase the quality of the provision you are delivering and overall, it will have a positive impact upon the children’s learning and development within your class.

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