Thursday, 11 September 2014

Healthy Teacher? Join Us.

OSHC 6th XI - I'm in the middle of the back row

The return to school in September always prompts new resolutions and new promises to yourself. This year, my personal one is based on health, fitness and losing weight. Nothing unusual there as resolutions go, although I was reminded of being told at the gym that actually they loose more members than they gain in January as people look at their finances and other commitments and then cancel. School life is busy - how can I possibly sustain this?

Why is this such a challenge?

I'm married to a teacher, in the same school. We arrive at 7am each day and leave at 5.40pm when the bell goes to kick us out. I often work my lunch break, and as a result can often pull a 11 hour day. Sometimes this happens 5 times a week, something I would imagine many teachers can associate themselves with. 

This is in part my choice. I really hate doing work in the evenings and at weekends. Obviously occasionally I have to, but largely I manage to avoid bringing too much home by using this routine.

However, like many other teachers, I am always tired! Too often the thought of going to the gym, or for a run, is too much to bare. Likewise, the last thing either of us wants to do is spend time creating a home-cooked healthy dinner or preparing packed lunches. Again, I'm sure we're not alone.

What I do do [Fitness]

I love sport; there is nothing like the feeling of physical exertion to make you feel better and more positive about the world; a healthy body is so often a healthy mind.
  • From the end of September to late March I play [field] hockey. This takes up 6 months-worth of Saturdays and it is something I have played since the age of about 10. I have only played for one team, Old Southendians, in my home town [Southend] and for the last 3 years, I have captained our 6th XI. I could play higher if I wanted, but I play for fun, enjoy the company of the players in the 6th XI and we are our unofficial youth development team. We introduce teenagers to the world of men's hockey; coaching and encouraging, while toughening them up!
  • On a Friday, the staff get together in the school sports hall for a bit of 5-a-side footy. We have a few guest stars from our local CoE church to make up the numbers. It's normally good fun, if a little competitive. However we do often undo our good work by heading to the pub for a shandy or two afterwards!
  • I have a Personal Trainer at the gym. This has really helped over the last year to increase the variety of exercise I do and introduced weights into my programme. My wife also has one and we do try to time our sessions on different days, which means that we go at least twice a week. However that is often it, two 30 min sessions a week.
  • Running... I've done the local ParkRun twice in the last 6 weeks and occasionally go out for a jog in an evening.

As I write this, I feel quite good about myself. However the reality is that since my wedding in February, I have put on 3/4 of a stone and certainly don't feel my best.


The life of a teacher is not conducent to eating well, without discipline. In the 8 days of term so far, there has been cakes in the staff room on 4 occasions. I still have three boxes of chocolates on my desk from students last year. I have a bag of sweets under my desk, used for students. I often eat my lunch 'on the run', and I've already mentioned the downside of working long hours in school with my wife being a fellow teacher.

There are ALWAYS the healthy eaters at school. Their little box of salad, a homemade soup... (although too often they also the first at the cake table!). In the lead up to the wedding, we cut carbs out, survived on high protein meals, ate salad, soup. The trouble was, I was too hungry! School is a physically and mentally demanding place. I simply wasn't getting enough to sustain my life in school on a long term basis.

That binging on sweets and chocolates is often because we are stressed, tired, sleep deprived and have a P6 with that Y9 next.


There is a LOT of them in school. I heard of three girls vomiting in school on Friday, one on the floor of a classroom. I got sneezed near, coughed over... we haven't even hit October.

I can understand why parents, especially working ones, send their kids in. Indeed my mother was a teacher and I still remember the day my sister was in the toilet vomiting and my mum was telling her to hurry up, brush her teeth and get in the car. It's probably why my sick record at work is still pretty impressive. 0 days last year, 1 day the year before (only as I was at A&E with a serious eye infection that was putting pressure on my brain), 0 days the year before that...

They are impossible to avoid; thankfully your NQT year seems to help build up an √úbermensch-like immunity for many... Although, that first day of the school holidays? Yeah I'm always ill too.

So what to do?

There are some things I can change, some I can't. This is what I am planning on doing so far:

  • Join a local running club - this will force me out at least once a week.
  • No cakes with my lunch - our allowance does include enough to have a cake, every day so far I've had fruit instead.
  • Taking a multi-vitamin tablet every day.
  • Drinking more water. I used to teach in 17 different class rooms. I used to always loose my bottle by break. Now I have an office and 1 classroom, there are no excuses.

However I imagine there must be lots of other teachers in the same position as me... are you one of the them?

I plan on doing a follow up blog and would like some other teachers to give their tips and ideas. If you feel able please...

Submit a #HealthyTeacher tip <here>

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