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Sleepless nights, anyone?

Discussion in 'Heads of department' started by Sunny41, Feb 9, 2012.

  1. Yesterday and the day before I woke up around 5am. Today, it was 4.30. I just have so many things I'm concerned about, including how to deal with our (frankly shocking) mock exam results, how to deal with a pupil who's causing us real concern just now and how best to ensure each person in my department actually takes responsibility for a particular task that needs addressed (vague, I know). Today will be a really busy day and I just know that come mid-morning I'll feel exhausted. Anyone else get to this time of year and struggle to get a good night's sleep? Any advice would be most welcome.
  2. the hippo

    the hippo Lead commenter Community helper

    Try getting a job in a less stressful school. Colleagues who have taught in the Far East say that the children there are well-behaved, polite and hard-working.
  3. Yes a frequent problem - BUT for me it helps to write a "to do" list & tick off when I complete something as sometimes it feels like you never get anything done, also have meetings with staff & minute them with action points for specific people to do specific things. Share the workload with your deputy. AND ensure you have some time off for yourself & family
  4. Thanks for the advice, it's much appreciated. I like the idea of having action points for certain people to do certain things. Will take that on board. Really trying to relax now it's the weekend but I'm still even dreaming about school...
  5. noemie

    noemie Occasional commenter

    Has everything you do become about your job? If so, try to put one evening a week where you do something completely different - it could be going out for a meal, or meeting up with friends, etc.
    I find that listening to music in the last 30 minutes before going to bed helps me unwind better than if I'm watching TV or on my computer - it's a less intense activity on the brain and it helps me switch off.
    I agree with the "to do" list, in fact mine is in a word document on my usb stick so that I always have it with me. Re: the poor mock exams, I have written to all parents of kids who have achieved poorly in their controlled assessments, giving exact steps to be followed to address the situation. That way, I've passed on the problem to someone else and if kids don't meet their target, I can argue that the problem was highlighted to them and they did nothing about it.
    It doesn't solve everything and I still lie awake in the middle of the night sometimes, worrying about things (deadlines etc) that once I'm properly awake in the morning are really insignificant and easy to solve, but I know that if it happens too many nights in a row then it is my body telling me that I'm pushing it too hard and that I need to back off. You can't solve every problem and it's difficult to admit that other people (pupils, colleagues) need to take responsibility for their own failings. At the end of the day, you can only do your best, and if you are heading for burn-out then you are not at your optimum capacity...
  6. Very sensible advice, I allowed my role as HOD to totally take over my life to the detriment of my health and did burn out. I was incredibly organised with 'to do' lists and tried to work as 'smartly' (hate that word!) as possible. However the pressures continued to increase and I eventually keeled over. I remember sleepless nights well.
    Looking back now I wish that I had said no to some of the myriad of requests involving my time and energy, delegated more and not worried so much about trying to solve every problem. It is only now with the benefit of hindsight that I understand how important it is to able to 'switch off ' from work and enjoy other aspects of life.
    It has been a long, hard journey but I am now fully recovered and although I have not returned to teaching I am enjoying life again.
  7. September

    September New commenter

    School takes over my life and despite the advice from so many teachers for me to slow down I don't listen. It is hard as sometimes we always try to solve all the problems and others take no responsibility. I agree with the advice given but I rarely take the advice myself. Switch off over half term. It is difficult knowing you will have to go back to it. Get loads of sleep during half term. This weekend I have done nothing but sleep, eat and watch tv.
    I am going to take some of the advice given. We work in such a stressful situation and never realise it until it is too late.
    Take all the advice and don't let th job rule you. Remember we are all replaceable.
  8. noemie, I completely agree with you about sending letters to the parents of these kids. I've drafted letters and am having each teacher issue them later this week. You're right, there's only so much you can do. Ultimately, if the parents want kids to sit exams at a level that's too challenging for them (and if the kids aren't working), the results are out of my control. It's just so hard to accept that sometimes, especially when you feel a pressure to 'get good results'.
    Swiegi, I'm glad to hear that you've made a full recovery. You sound as though you've had a terrible time of it. Reading about your ordeal definitely is a wake-up call about the damage we risk doing to ourselves when we work too hard so thank you for that.
    September, glad you've managed to get some much-needed sleep this weekend! I went to bed at 10.30 last night and was still awake at 1.30. Had mental dreams about school and eventually got up at 6.30 - and I'm not even AT school today. I worry myself sometimes, honestly.
    The dilemma today is: do I do some work for school in the hope I'll worry less about everything I have to do or do I enjoy my last day off and do something different (but run the risk of spending all day thinking about work)? First things first, I think a cup of coffee is in order :)
  9. Thank you for your reply galaxy32. I hope you are able to relax this week. Below I have listed some stress busting tips which I have found helpful (wish I had used them when HOD!).
    • Exercise - It doesn't matter what but something that appeals. The endorphins that are released are wonderful, giving a feeling of calm that lasts for several hours. Quality of sleep should improve too.
    • Read a novel -it doesn't have to be highbrow, anything that absorbs your mind and enables you to stop worrying about school.
    • Participate in an activity just for enjoyment, preferably one where it doesn't matter how well you perform.
    • Talk to selected family and friends about how you are feeling. I found trusted people were a huge source of support
    • Don't worry about doing everything perfectly (my biggest downfall in the past). It's impossible and adds to stress levels.
    I hope you have a relaxing week and are able to sleep better when you return to work.
  10. Nanny Ogg

    Nanny Ogg New commenter

    My partner woke me up the other night because I was restless. I actually spent the first five minutes trying to get him to go the class he was meant to be in. "Where should you be now?" I kept saying. (I must have been stuck in a nightmare.)
    Make sure you do something you enjoy this half term.
  11. Swiegi, that's good advice. I used to always view exercise simply as a way to lose weight (or to try to!) but actually I need to remember that it's about more than that. I went back to the gym for the first time in weeks yesterday and felt so virtuous afterwards! I had a really good sleep last night too, which is fantastic given that I'm back to school today (I teach in Scotland). I think you're right about the perfectionist aspect too - fundamentally, there's only so much I can control and I just need to remember that.
    Thanks for all the advice everybody. It really is appreciated.
    Off to school I go...
  12. rosa11

    rosa11 New commenter

    Thank-you for all this good advice - our head suddenley left a week before half term and we have a new interim HT. My head is still spinning as I try to get a grip on what this could mean for my school Oh, and OFSTED is imminent. In a bit of storm as present.
  13. ZanyInsany

    ZanyInsany New commenter

    Before teaching I worked for a number of years in industry, in key management positions. I had a highly stressful job and ended up with time off on sick with stress. During my time off, I re-evaluated myself, my life and my goals. This is what prompted me to change career and pursue teaching. After 7 years teaching, a HOD opportunity came up which I applied for and was appointed to. I started to feel stressed again, in the same manner you have described. I have a very high tolerance for stress, but recognised the symptoms and took action. In my case, I resigned my HOD position and went back to the bit I love - the teaching. I feel LOADS better. The quality of my life, relationships and health have improved ten fold. I am not suggesting that this is what you need to do - far from it, but you have to take stock and prioratise. Prioratise your work/life balance - plan your time and allocate time for everything. Address some of your concerns through school. They appointed you so they want you in that post. Therefore, they must be prepared to offer support to keep you there. Tackle your staff. Not every job is your job. Man management is the hardest bit but if you get that cracked, you have it all sorted. Just my words of wisdom from someone who has been where you have been.
  14. Dear Swiegi, I am pleased that you have fully recovered. I have a similar experience. I was a HOD and Head of Faculty, then very quickly I also "keeled over". I left teaching August last year. Since then I have run my own market stall. This was very useful in terms of recovery, but unfortunately not financially viable (recession etc etc...). I am currently enjoying life as a man of leisure. However, I am becoming bored and looking for employemt other than teaching. Any suggestions? What are you currently doing?
  15. I am sorry to read Monitoredout that you had a similar experience to myself but I am pleased that you are feeling better now. I know of many people who are finding he pressures of education at the moment absolutely intolerable and severely detrimental to their health.
    I am fortunate that we as a family can afford to live on one income, although we have reined in our spending considerably. However this has given me the time to build up my confidence . I have enjoyed completing tasks at a sensible pace and spending time with family and friends. I have recently been appointed to a school admission panel and although this is a voluntary position it is great to be working in a professional capacity again.
    As for the future, I am keeping an open mind but determined to put the skills that I developed as a teacher and HOD to good use but not necessarily in education.
    My advice to you would be to take your time to explore as many options as possible. Although you are looking for employment other than teaching, have you considered private tutoring, either setting up your own business or working for an agency or AQA (See their website)? Would you consider training to be a counsellor to help others experiencing difficult situations? Could you turn a hobby or personal interest into a business?
    I wish you well and hope that you are able to find enjoyable and fulfilling employment. Although I would never again like to feel as wretched as I did a year ago, I do appreciate the opportunity to re-negotiate my path through life.
  16. firstpoet

    firstpoet New commenter

    I know this might seem obvious but delegate! Depends on the size of the team of course. Don't take on the role of lone hero either: that leads to serving the departrment and they'll lap it up while you slowly sink at the helm.
    Honesty: Tom Hanks approach in 'Private Ryan'.. the scene where he talks about the chain of command for complaining. See your line manager and talk about time planning. Only a bad school will expect you to be an Ayn Rand Atlas figure.

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