It’s the last day of half term and I’m sure some of you have considered the week ahead. Many of you are probably planning or preparing for it. But apart from the physical side of planning and preparation, involving getting resources ready and marking done, I want to delve into the psychological side of planning and preparation.
In essence, this just means considering what your thoughts are about the week ahead, but with a twist. I hope it is already all positive, focused and full of anticipation! But if it’s not....which I suspect it might not be for some, then read on for some great strategies to turn things around.
If you are looking forward to term starting, this post may still be useful for you. You can apply this strategy when you are preparing yourself for any event - an interview, a match, a performance etc…
Visualisation and Imagination
Sports men and women are familiar with the power of visualisation and there is a lot of mental preparation that goes on before sporting events or matches by high level performers. But visualisation is not reserved for the elite. In fact some would argue that one of the traits that makes them elite in their field, is their decision to use psychological skills like visualisation to enhance their performance.
No footballer wants to go on to the pitch feeling tired, down or nervous. They need to feel confident, alert and ready to win. But some days, other things might be going on and they are not naturally feeling great - so they need a strategy to turn this around.
Using your imagination to help you, not hinder you
Have you ever imagined something negative that could happen in the future? I have! In fact it’s so damn easy to do, it almost seems like a stupid question. “If a ‘certain’ student is in tomorrow’s lesson, I don’t think I can cope with it”, “If my head of department says x, I’m going to go mad”. This is using imagination. I’ve imagined a situation that could occur tomorrow and I’ve also imagined my response. This conjuring of an event may be visual - for me it is - I’m quite a visual person - but it doesn’t have to be, for others it is an intellectual processing of the possible event. Either way, the negative thought will probably lead to an emotion right here and now. I don’t have to wait until tomorrow for the issue to arise, I can worry about and feel anxious right now, here today on my last day of half term! Why wait - let’s drag it out huh?!
Use your imagination to help you. This is not about rose tinted glasses - this is not about brushing over difficulties, this is about preparation. You can use imagination to prepare your emotional or psychological state, so that you are in the best place to deal with the situation ahead of you.
The question is what emotions or state would be most useful to be experiencing before going back to work. Do you want to feel relaxed, confident, excited, calm, focused, determined etc. What would be most useful to you?
It probably isn’t dread, anxiety, anger, frustration or resentment and yet lots of us manage to conjure up these emotions with very little effort. So let’s see if we can turn this around.
What emotion or psychological state would be useful for you to experience?
Remember a time when you have experienced this emotion before. It does not have to be in a teaching context. We are just trying to elicit the emotion, so it could be a time from childhood, or when you are taking part in a hobby etc.
Recall this memory and really explore it. Get inside the memory, as though it is happening now.
What do you see? - colours, people, objects, is it like a movie or a picture
What do you hear? - people talking, your own voice, background noise, music
What do you feel? - explore it in a physical sense, hot/cold, tense/relaxed etc or in relation to emotions
This is how you want to feel when you think about going back to work. So, now you know you can create that state by just simply thinking about a past event, it is possible to create and change state whenever you want. Even about going back to work. Hold onto these positive feelings you have created and visually create an image of work tomorrow. Look at this picture with the positive emotions from your last memory.
If you have very strong negative emotions about going back to work, this may require a couple of goes. And it might be that you need to simply change state every time you think about work for the whole day and then again in the morning. This at the very least will allow you to enjoy your last day off.
Good luck and as ever, comment below with how it goes or come on over to Facebook and let me know.
There’s so much more to do in this area of changing state. Much of it comes from Neuro Linguistic Programming and I will be doing more on this in the future.
Have a great first week back!
Clare Martin is a the founder of the Positive Teacher Network who specialises in helping teachers to find the ultimate Work Life Balance and supports them with many of the difficulties teachers face today.
The Positive Teacher Network provides practical tips and strategies to busy, tired teachers to help them improve their lives allowing them to focus on being great teachers.