Friday, October 8, 2010

Time to press the pause button

I was at university in Leeds in the time of the Yorkshire Ripper, serial killer Peter Sutcliffe, in the late 1970s and lived in the same place as Jacqueline Hill, the university student who was his final victim in 1980.  While the advice to most female students was basically to stay home at night, I was part of a group that organised Reclaim the Night marches.  At the time I did voluntary work on a rape crisis helpline, which is how I originally got involved in the Leeds Women's Action Group.  The marches started in November 1977, one month after I arrived at Leeds University and aimed at raising the issue of women feeling unsafe walking home at night.  We felt that the more people that were out on the streets, the safer the streets would be, and that telling women to stay in or stay home was really counter-productive.  We wanted to promote the message that women should be able to walk anywhere, and not be restricted because of the fear of violence.  You can read about why we decided to reclaim the night here.

A very dear colleague of mine sent me an article to read today about Managing October Exhaustion from Teacher Magazine.  This sounds like a very different topic from what I've just written about, but the reason I thought about the Reclaim the Night marches today was because the final section of the article deals with reclaiming fair working conditions for teachers.  The teacher who wrote this article is asking for a fair 8-hour day and to be treated with respect and dignity.  She talks about burn-out and how this is causing teachers to leave the profession.  When I reflected on how many of my teacher friends from the 1980s are still teaching, it occurred to me that more have left the profession than have remained in it.

Most of the teachers I have known and worked with over nearly 30 years of teaching have been dedicated and committed professionals who want to make a difference in the lives of their students and to encourage each student to reach his or her potential.  Unfortunately many things come in the way of them achieving this goal.  The article in Teacher Magazine calls for a "Pause Period" to regroup and regenerate.  This period can be made up of the following:

  • taking some time off
  • refreshing your surroundings
  • reflecting on why you became a teacher
  • celebrating your successes
  • optimising your time - cutting out what is unnecessary
  • getting more help - from students or parents
  • saying no - prioritizing so that you only do what is really important
  • keeping healthy  - getting enough sleep, exercising, eating well and spending time with people who are important to you.
With one more week to go before our October break I am definitely in need of pressing the pause button and reclaiming my life!


  1. Pressing the pause button is hard for teachers. It seems to me that most teachers are pleasers. We go out of our way to help others and want to do the very best for each one of our students. 8 hours really isn't enough time to do everything, we stretch ourselves and sacrifice our own health and well being as a result. It is important that we all take time to press the pause button...and that needs to be okay!

  2. Nice post - seeing your reference the "Managing October Exhaustion" article made me feel a little better about my past week. It's around this time every year that I start feeling a little overwhelmed. Tabling a few things and have relaxing weekend usually helps recharge the batteries for the 2nd quarter.