#DailyWritingChallenge – Self Care

It’s been a month where ‘self-care’ has begun to mean something different. I know there is so much going on in the world right now, it almost feels selfish to be worried about ourselves. But, I don’t know about you, I’m beginning to feel really claustrophobic and my anxiety is creeping back in after being (mostly) absent for over a year. It just feels like everything is going backwards, when I’ve worked so hard to go forwards.

We’re still working, of course, but it looks very different. I went into teaching because I didn’t enjoy sitting in an office on a computer all day (as interesting as I found HR!) and loved the face-to-face contact each day, the challenges, the dynamic thinking that was needed on the job. I know a lot of us are feeling our identity has been stripped back – it’s much harder to feel like a teacher without a classroom.

It very much feels like period of time (which, coincidentally, started almost the same day as this lockdown!) two years ago, where I was off work with anxiety and felt like I lacked purpose. It’s easy to feel like that again now.

So today, I am going to try and put some new ways to care for myself into my schedule.

  1. Have a set timetable that I stick to – stop spending each day lazing around with nothing to do but overthink.
  2. Learn some new skills (fondant icing, pastries, eyeshadows, origami…)
  3. Sit and do my work at a table (not on my lap!) so I have a separate work zone.
  4. Getting up and dressed every morning – even if it’s late morning – so that I feel more ready for the day. (Thanks Cass for this one!)
  5. Exercise! Go for that daily walk or run, do some yoga and home workouts. Stop putting them off.
  6. When I feel negative, remind myself of the good things that are also happening for me right now. I am healthy. I have a good group of people to support me. I still have gin in the cupboard.

We are all going to deal with this differently. This is so much bigger than any of us, but we still need to make time for self-care and ensure our mental health is still one of our top priorities. We can’t help anyone else if we don’t even feel ready to help ourselves.

Keep safe!

#DailyWritingChallenge – Guilt.

Guilt is something I’m sure we are all very familiar with as teachers. Guilt that maybe we didn’t help a child enough that day. Guilt of calling in sick. Guilt of a child not getting the result we so desperately wanted for them.

But we also sometimes feel guilt for looking out for our our own wellbeing.

Right now we are in the middle of a pandemic which is changing, and taking, lives around the world. People are losing jobs, not being able to see loved ones or are missing out on long awaited milestones and events of their lives. We are under no illusion of how hard the next few months will be.

But yesterday, I felt guilty for feeling bad for myself in the midst of all this. Two years ago – almost to the day – I started my leave from school with stress. Months stretched out before me without purpose and I found it really hard. For someone who loves to keep busy (it’s very rare I’m not multi-tasking!) having no set schedule to follow is really difficult. Now, albeit under different circumstances, those feelings have crept back.

After two years of building back up and having loads of exciting work opportunities planned, it feels like it has been lost. We had some brilliant weeks planned at school, conferences that I’d finally built up the confidence to speak at and different projects – like the Book Festival – that will now be on hold. It feels a bit like the rug has been pulled from under me – an uncertain future is ahead, just as it was before. Now, I need to keep myself focused on the fact it is just for now and not forever. We will just have to find our new normals.

Now, I’m not saying any of this is even a drop in the ocean compared to what is going on in the world right now, but it’s also okay for us to take a moment to feel disappointed for our own setback. Be that a postponed wedding, a big birthday without that party you took a long time to plan or exams you won’t be sitting when you intended. Don’t feel guilty for feeling disappointed. Just make sure that after that time to reflect, you pick yourself back up and go back to facing the current reality.

We’re all pulling together in this time of need. We’re all going to do what’s expected of us, often going above and beyond. But that means being kind to ourselves too.

Keep Calm & Carry On.

“Keep Calm & Carry On” is one of those quintessential British phrases that we all used across the years from its inception. For most, it’s not one that applies to the situation we have found ourselves in.

This is a time of huge unrest for all of us. The global pandemic we are facing is unprecedented; it’s something that we haven’t experienced before to this degree. I completely understand that it is a scary time right now. Our families are at risk; people we love are in danger; society as we know it will morph and change to adapt the variable situations we’re facing.

But despite this, I feel I’m currently swimming against the tide. I’m not feeling particularly worried and am still going about my life the same as I did before (whilst sticking to the guidance we are being given!). I’m staying away from media reports, and just waiting for official guidance from my school before I make any changes to my practice. The idea of a long time off with not a lot to just makes me feel uncomfortable.

It’s no secret to anyone that I was off work for an extended period of time before – though obviously in different circumstances. But I found it really exhausting having a long period stretching before me with not a lot to do: I like keeping busy. If this is what we have to do, then obviously I’ll be doing it. But I know for me, and I’m sure for lots of others, it will be a strain on mental health.

In this vein, for me, the most worrying aspect of what’s going on at the moment is all the speculation. It’s not an if, but a when, schools are going to close. But there are a myriad of different theories currently online which will create an uneasy feeling of not knowing. Whether schools shut for 2 weeks, a month or 16 weeks: we’re going to do what we always do as education professionals – do what we can to minimise the effect whilst looking after ourselves.

We need to keep calm for the children in our classes and ensure that they are in a safe space at school. We need to carry on with whatever guidance we’re offered. But we also need to think about our own online presence and the support we can offer to others. We will all deal with this experience differently and need to extend a hand to those we can help. This includes being mindful, where possible, or the effects it might have on others mental health.

For anyone who is struggling, @brassoteach has set up #KeepInTouch where you’ll find a number of people happy to receive DMs (including myself) and be a point of contact for venting, support or just an ear to listen during this time.

Hope you all keep safe 🖤


This message has been displayed across social media extensively this week, for obvious reasons. The effect of being kind and choosing words carefully has been more prominent now than it ever seems to have been before.

It’s been well documented that I’ve been through a really negative experience before where unkind words and bullying really affected me. I was at the point of nearly leaving my career and, even now, I still struggle with having confidence in myself. One comment can still sometimes be enough to make me think that I am not good enough.

This being said, however, it’s easy to forget that people have different versions of what they think is being kind. It’s very easy for context to be lost on social media – nuances of conversation can be lost in written word and cause offence where it wasn’t intended.

I try really hard – especially given my past experiences – to be really kind and positive to everyone I interact with. As a few people who I confide in know, I’ll often worry about what I reply sometimes in case I come across mean or rude. They’ll get redrafted tweets and messages with me needing some confirmation that what I’m saying is okay! One of the things I dread most in life is upsetting people with what I say as I know the impact it can have.

But Twitter can be a total minefield. I’ve seen – during my 4 years on the platform – a range of different conversations that probably would have been totally avoided if they’d been had in person. A lot of us are very in touch with how we feel ourselves and although we like to think we’ve thought about the impact on others, we haven’t. Not really. Because our own view of what kind is has blurred what the experience of others might be.

For example, I tweeted an opinion about a certain author. Not once did I say I didn’t let children read him, or that they shouldn’t (for the record, I have two of his books in my classroom!) but people made this assumption and then jumped on my tweet criticising me for this very thing. It blew up bigger than I ever thought when I posted the tweet!

Luckily, other than the usual ‘do I sound too mean in my reply?’ I navigated it okay and actually learned I can defend myself without being seen as ‘mean’ (my eternal worry). But there will be other people that, when this happens to them, withdraw into themselves and become affected by what they’re being told.

We never know what anyone else is going through and small acts of kindness, forgiveness and tolerance can be the difference between a positive and negative experience for someone else.

Our views are different: some we will agree with, some we won’t. But we do need to embrace that our differences are what make us each unique – do I agree with everything I read? No. And some people absolutely open up some much needed discussion. But sometimes it’s okay for others to disagree!

‘Sticks and stones may break my bones but words can never hurt me’ is an outdated proverb. One we should ignore.

So this is just a reminder to take a minute to think about what you say to others before you type or speak.

Words do hurt. Words can kill.

New Year, New You?

It happens every year. We see numerous people stating their New Year’s Resolutions with cries of: New Year, New Me!’

(And yes, for the record, I am one of them!). We look at the year ahead excited about things we already know will happen, as well as the prospect of the unknown. What will be waiting for us in 2020? What does the future hold?

But let’s focus for a moment on the past. I hope I’m not alone, but I for one know I’m awful at looking back at the year and seeing what good things have happened because I made them happen.

Teachers are often first to be self-critical. We suffer imposter syndrome and question our own ability; it seems to be the way a lot of us are wired. Yes, we are reflective but, and again I hope this isn’t just me, it’s much easier to reflect on the negative than step back and say, ‘You know what? That was great.’

So I took time out by myself to sit down and look back on 2019. What had I achieved? What three things was I really proud of?

1) I’ve been very open with the struggles I had leaving a toxic school. It made me anxious and paranoid, constantly worrying if I was any good at the job. This year (although I’m by no means at my full confidence again!), I’ve made huge leaps in developing my own self-belief. Ive started to see that some things I do can make an impact on the children, staff and people I interact with.

This may sound simple, but having a better understanding of my own self-worth has been the biggest impact on my year. I’ve felt 10% braver and asked for things I wanted to do, something I never would have had the confidence to do this time last year.

I get to review books, which I love. I write articles for amazing publications and companies. I have the confidence to put my own views out in a blog. None of this would have seemed possible to me a year ago.

2) My favourite part of the year was ‘Secondary Week’ which we put on for our Year 6 cohort in June. Before any of them went to their secondary move-up days, we had nearly 2 weeks where their timetable was as close as we could manage to secondary.

They moved classrooms; had different teachers; a range of all subjects; homework assigned on different days with different deadlines.

I was really lucky my school let me do this idea (because I had enough belief in myself to ask to do it!) and it worked amazingly! Children felt more confident going to secondary as well as having time to adjust to what will be expected of them. Because it went so well, it’s something we will repeat this year!

3) Reading more children’s books. As I have mentioned in a previous blog, despite being a huge reader, in the past I mostly stuck to adult books. This all changed & in 2019 I discovered even more amazing children’s literature! I believe reading these books has had a real impact on my teaching.

I can recommend books to children, have a range of incredible options in the book corner (I put all the books I buy in there!) and, most importantly, I’ve discovered some new favourites for myself!

So, if you look back on 2019, what would your Top 3 moments be?

What did you do that had the most impact on others?

And, importantly, what had the most impact on yourself?

For me, 2020 is going to be more of the same. A year of worrying less, putting myself forward for more things I want to do or believe I would be good for and to continue being 10% braver.

Small changes can have big results!


I love social media but…

Anyone who follows any of my profiles can see that I love social media.

  • I love the discussion, ideas and resources you can get through Twitter.
  • I LOVE a selfie (and have no shame about it!).
  • I enjoy keeping in contact with lots of different people.

But the bit I don’t love is the anxiety that can sometimes come with it. Most of the time, it isn’t there or may vaguely niggle in the background. Other times, it can become something bigger.

I’d love to say I don’t compare myself to others but I do. I’ll see things happening for people and think, ‘If I were good enough, it’d happen to me too!’ or wonder if I’ll ever be confident enough to put myself forward for things I’d really love to do.

I know for me, this is still partly a hangover from my previous workplace: if you’re told you’re not good enough often enough, you’ll start to believe it. But it’s something I know also happens for other people too – it isn’t just a product of the workplace.

Twitter is full of amazing ideas by amazing people, as well as the chance to network with colleagues you’d otherwise not meet. It’s full of chances for CPD and Conferences which you’d otherwise not hear of. But it can look all to positive when your own day, or week, has gone wrong.

It is in no way big enough to stop me using Twitter – or any other social media – the positives hugely outweigh this one negative. It has, however, deterred me from writing more blog posts. Or asking for opportunities I want or feel I would be good for.

It’s something I think lots of people feel, but it isn’t discussed widely enough for them to know others feel it too. This will all have been said before – I won’t be the first to blog about this and I’m sure I won’t be the last.

But when the anxiety creeps in, it’s nice to know you’re not alone.

No New Books November

I’ve got a bit of a book buying problem.

I find myself looking the numerous books on my shelf, many languishing at the back of my TBR pile as I constantly put new titles in front of them, and find I never actually pick them up to read.

Books I was desperate to read a few months ago, or even last week, have been replaced by the next book I just had to have. Any bookshop I pass I seem to enter and come out with at least (and it’s usually more!) one book.

And it’s getting ridiculous.

My ‘To Be Read’ pile is in literal piles near my bedside table, as I run out of any other room to put them.

So, following on from Mr B Reads (@MrBReading) ‘Operation Bookshelf’ I’ve been inspired. I am not going to buy a single new book for the whole of November and read some that have been waiting in my TBR pile (some of them for nearly a year) instead.

The first thing I’ve done is got myself down to my local library and updated my membership! I plan on not only getting books out for myself but also some which are useful for my topic at school.

I’ve also decided to join in with the ‘Believe in the Impossible Readathon’ (@Believeathon) which has also been a great help for my problem; it gives you 10 categories to read from during November (e.g a book with magic, a book with a real world issue). I managed to find a book for each of these that I already had.

My only potential problem with this is I always join in on the Primary School Book Club (@PrimarySchoolBC) each month…so I’m just hoping that the book that wins is one that is already on my shelf or available at my library!

Wish me luck…

To read, or not to read…

If you asked me at the start of 2018 if I read children’s books, my answer would have been a resolute ‘no’. Of course, I would read the occasional book for school to check it was suitable for my class, but to be honest, most of the time I used the blurb, other teacher recommendations and the theme of the story to help me select what to use in my classroom.

Finding the time or not wanting to pick up books wasn’t the problem. I am an avid reader and always have been. In 2018 I read 80 books; so far in 2019 I have read 89 books.

Reading is something I love to do to relax. But, prior to this year, I was reluctant to read children’s books for my own enjoyment.My favourite genre of book is crime: if there’s a few grisly murders and an ‘I didn’t see it coming twist’ I’m happy. I did read other genres alongside this (there isn’t much I won’t read!) but my TBR pile was so big, I found myself shying away from children’s books which I was unsure would have the complexity of plot I was after.

Of course as a child I read the big classics: Harry Potter, Roald Dahl or Worst Witch. I was obsessed with Hunger Games, Divergent and Maze Runner when they hit the shelve. But when thinking of recent children’s books, I often immediately thought of David Walliams – and I wasn’t interested in reading them.

And then, over the last academic year, I started picking up books my class were reading and finding exciting plots and story lines (even a few murders!). I started reading them not just because I felt I had to, but because I genuinely felt I would enjoy the book.

I found a few that kept my attention gripped; I read some of them in one sitting. I started to realise that we are lucky enough to have a rich, exciting variety of children’s books being written for us: Storm Keeper’s Island, Brightstorm, House with the Chicken Legs and Beetle Boy just time name a few.

Now, this year, I can’t get enough of children’s literature. Being able to recommend books personally to members of my class; knowing what texts would work amazingly with topics and discovering new stories that will enhance their enjoyment of reading. My reading corner is solely full of my own copies of children’s literature.

Alongside this, I am lucky enough to be reviewing children’s books and discovering new, quality reads every month.

There are still times I use recommendations from Twitter or from other colleagues about what book would be suitable for my class instead of reading it myself. Sometimes I don’t read a book before using it with them as our class book (outside of Whole Class Reading) because I like to discover the story with them.

But now, unlike last year, I’m hooked on reading children’s books.

Emily x

NQT: One Small Step…

You’ve done it! You’re finally stepping into your own classroom, which is probably one of the best feelings you’ve had in life. It feels like all your hard work has finally culminated in having your own class!

It can be easy to let work overwhelm you in the first year – and it’s absolutely okay to spend as much time as you want preparing! You’re excited; there’s loads of ideas firing round your heard; your bookmarks on Pintrest, Twitter and Instagram have grown out of control and you want to create it all.

But it’s super important to make sure your wellbeing comes first; a tired, burnt out teacher cannot give their best to their class; no matter how many fabulous resources you create. The best resource in the classroom is YOU.


It may take a while, but finding balance for yourself between work and home life is always so important. A burnt out candle can’t glow, which you will need to in both aspects of your life!

Make sure (minimum!) an evening a week you go home early and spend a day at the weekend (minimum!) relaxing. Of course, some find work relaxing – but you need time to switch off or it will become hard to draw the line between the two.


It’s absolutely okay to ask someone for help. Yes, we mean about lessons, planning or subjects – don’t struggle when there are experts all around you – but also when you’re feeling a bit overwhelmed. Don’t suffer in silence; find a colleague who can be what you need. It might be just a listening ear, a helping hand or someone who can help you make a change.

Believe us, we know how hard it can be to ask someone for help if you’re finding things difficult. It can take lots of courage! But in the long run, it will have a much better effect on your mental health. If there is no one in school who can be there, then remember you can always reach out on Twitter. It’s a great support network.


Too many times NQTs (or even PGCE students!) walk into a classroom and think they don’t know best because it’s ‘just’ their first year of teaching. Know your own worth!

You will have fresh eyes, enthusiasm and new teaching strategies that other members of staff might not have seen before, or be able to see in the same way as you. Many a student or NQT has come up with a totally amazing way of teaching something! Don’t fill yourself with doubts – you wouldn’t have been chosen for the job if you hadn’t shown a real flair and love of teaching.

And in the future…

As you develop your own teaching style further, you’ll find tips and tricks to make things quicker. Less resources to make; more ideas to fall back on; trial and error of different strategies.

Just remember: do what works FOR YOU where possible.

B & W x

We’re all going on…ANOTHER holiday.

The same debate rears its head most holidays.

Why are we working in the holidays? Why aren’t we looking after our wellbeing more?

But every year it’s frustrating that people forget that the key here is choice.

If you are in a school that expects you to go in during the holidays, or gives you so much work that you feel you have to do work during the summer then absolutely, break the mould and make it different for yourself. Being told we have to do work in the holidays is not acceptable.


And it’s a big but. If we are, ourselves, choosing to do the work because we want to, then why can’t we? Personally, I find it more relaxing to go back to school knowing a lot of my work is already done; 6 weeks is a long time to be off with not a lot to do!

If you have families your priorities may be different- but I don’t. Don’t get me wrong, I pack things into Summer Holidays: 2 weddings (one in Ireland!) my birthday, 2 Welsh rugby games, a trip to Cornwall. But alongside this, there’s elements of my work I enjoy doing during the break because I have more time to do them.

What does not help wellbeing is people filling you with guilt.

You shouldn’t be doing work.

You should be doing work.

We are all professional adults who are capable of making decisions about when we choose to do our work. Let’s keep it that way!

B & W x