What is your morning routine? Do you even have one? I suppose it’s quite an American concept – something that most of my rather sarcastic British friends would feel was quiet ridiculous and even self-indulgent.
What? You don’t just roll out of bed, throw on your clothes, chug down a coffee and race off to work?!
And this is exactly what I used to do, in the years BT (Before Teaching). The idea of course, was to maximise sleep and therefore feel more refreshed and rested for the next day. Only I’m not sure this ever really worked.
When I started slipping into stress in my first teaching position, and every minute of the day seemed to be occupied with thoughts of the to do list, I decided it was time to experiment with my morning routine and take back a little time, just for me, before I went out there to face the world.
What I quickly realised was that I didn’t feel any more crappy if I missed 30 minutes extra sleep; in fact, I felt a lot more emotionally prepared to face school, and my workload, because I’d had that time for me. Just like an actor prepares to go on set or a rock star performs a number of rituals before they go on stage, many teachers might just find that they benefit from cultivating a morning routine.
My own individual morning routine has changed again and again; with my job, my mood, my exercise routine or the latest book I read. At one point, I was staring at a focus board while incense burned, then I would read through positive quotes about life and set an intention for the day. Yes, seriously. It was nice and I found myself surrounded by unfamiliar silence (in my mind too) but I didn’t feel particularly energetic, and my hair smelt like burnt lavender.
So I changed my routine – I stayed later in school on an evening, setting up my lessons, and went swimming at the local baths in the morning. It was a bit of a race time-wise, and my hair wasn’t quite as presentable as usual, but I felt amazing. At the baths, I would mix up fast power-lengths with ‘meditative lengths’ (Yes, seriously!) in which I would focus on my breath, and use all of my senses of feel the soft blanket of water around me. Sometimes, I’d throw in some ‘gratitude lengths’ too and I’d force myself to think about everything I was so grateful for in my life. Even on the worst mornings, when the pool was jam-packed and there seemed to be a convoy of kamikaze granddads directed towards me at every turn, I would come away feeling energised, strong, calm and grateful. I’d arrive at school knowing that I’d already achieved something; something for me as a person, not as a teacher.
Sadly, when I moved jobs to a school further away, I couldn’t accommodate my morning swim. I switched to morning gym sessions and started hitting the treadmill at a gym on the way to school, getting ready in the changing rooms. It’s true that getting up at 5.40AM isn’t for everyone, but I can’t describe how energetic and empowering it is to arrive at school at 7.30AM, knowing that you’ve run 5KM. I felt unstoppable.
At present, I’m recovering from knee surgery so running is off the menu, but I’ve found immense joy in morning yoga. There are so many great clips on ‘YouTube’ that I can always find something to suit both my mood and the amount of time I want to give. Sometimes I review my gratitude diary too and have a sneaky peak at my monthly life goals (Yes, I really do this!) then off I go to school. Even in the car, I alternate between ‘mindfulness driving’ and listening to songs that make me sing badly at the top of my lungs.
Being a teacher is a lot like being a rock star or an actor; sometimes you wake up feeling like shit, but you’ve still got a show to put on; people have bought tickets and they deserve a good performance. I was always told that the children should never see a difference between your worst day and your best. There’s nothing worse than a teacher who takes out their bad mood on their students.
I really encourage you to think about what you could change or add into your morning routine. You might find that not only do you teach better lessons, but that everything just feels a little easier; a little brighter; a little better. Surely, this is worth the loss of twenty minutes sleep?