#Teacher5aday: the missing ingredient by @chrysalisleader

I’m a real fan of Martyn Reah and his #teacher5aday initiative.  I do think it’s making a difference.  Wellbeing is an important building block in sustaining resilience,  and that’s something we all need.

It works like this

  • when you pay attention to your own wellbeing,  you have more energy,
  • when you have more energy, you’re more able to take control,
  • when you take control, you’re more able to make decisions which balance your short AND long term needs; that includes taking care of your wellbeing .. which has a positive impact on your levels of energy etc …

I prefer the original New Economics Foundation’s  (nef)  ‘give’ to the idea of ‘volunteer’.  We can all give to others.  I struggle with the word ‘volunteer’ because it sounds very structured and many of us haven’t the space for giving to others in this more structured way.

This is a re-blog post originally posted by Julia Steward and published with kind permission.

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In case you missed it, here it is again.  Full details are on the nef website

Connect There is strong evidence that feeling close to and valued by other people is a basic need for functioning well in the world’

Be Active Regular exercise is related to lower rates of depression and anxiety and can help to counter age-related cognitive decline

Take Notice Savouring the moment can help to affirm your priorities and value the present rather than living in the past or the future

Keep Learning Remaining curious and interested in new things enhances your sense of purpose

Give Individuals who are interested in helping others are statistically more likely to describe themselves as happy

However, there’s something missing.  What NEF doesn’t talk about is the importance of sleep.  During the past 3 months or so, I’ve come to realise that without the right amount of sleep we’re unlikely to be able to sustain our practice.

On a whim, I bought a ticket to the ResearchEd conference in London last year.  I’d never been to one and didn’t know what to expect.  I heard some great speakers among whom was Penny Lewis talking about sleep.  I bought her book as a result.  It’s a great insight into what happens to the brain while we sleep – and by implication, what happens when we don’t.

Sleep is restorative. Well, who didn’t know that?  But do we pay enough attention to its importance?  In the words of Brene Brown, do we get up in the morning feeling we haven’t had enough sleep and go to bed at night thinking we haven’t got enough done?  As I became more tired last term, my resolve to continue my 5-a-day pledges weakened.  Developing new habits like 5-a-day means overwriting old ones, but a bit like when you re-save something on your computer, the old version doesn’t go away, it’s just hidden.

When I’m tired it was easy to slip back into unhelpful habits:

Connect: less connection with others (as an introvert, I get my energy from being alone);

Be active: more reasons not to go to the gym (dark mornings telling me it’s night time; warm bed telling me I hadn’t had enough sleep);

Take notice: what I  notice when I’m tired is that I lose things more easily. (Okay, that’s also an age thing, I know).  Memory suffers through lack of sleep, and through lack of the right type of
sleep.   I waste time looking for things I put down without paying attention,  and I forget things so I have to check and double-check. Thanks to the course on mindfulness, I do still practise mindful walking, or notice the early blossom on the magnolia tree in the churchyard, but structured reflection time has fallen victim to a sense of being ‘too busy’;

Keep learning: sleep reinforces memory, a crucial function in learning new skills;

Give: I have to confess that some of the tiredness was brought on by additional pressures of my voluntary role.   Giving to others is important, and teachers do it all the time; but when it is at the expense of acting in our own best interests, we need to stop and review things.



is my first priority.  We achieve nothing if we don’t take control of our own agenda, and we need to do that in order to get enough sleep …

In my mind 5-a-day should be followed by no. 6:  ensuring the right amount of sleep

So here’s my +1 which will help me to achieve my 5-a-day

  • Turn off my computer (yes really, turn it off) by a specific time each evening.  Blue light from screens tells my brain it’s time to be awake
  • Turn off my mobile likewise, so I’m not tempted to check emails even though my computer is off
  • Have a specific regular time by which I want to be in bed and congratulate myself when I achieve it
  • Know that sometimes it’s okay to go to the gym in the evening (yes, that was a surprising revelation to me: that I could actually change my habit of visiting first thing or not at all)
  • Don’t drink alcohol or caffeine in the evenings – especially important if I’m going to work the next day
  • Every day, congratulate myself when I achieve these things.  Sleep reinforces emotional memories.  If I don’t ‘take notice’ when I’m achieving success (albeit on a limited scale) how will I know I’m making progress?  We all need positive feedback.  In leadership sometimes we have to give it to ourselves.


Image source: Via Mark Probst on Flickr under (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Author: Julia is building resilience for leaders in schools, 3rd sector & business. National Leader of Governance

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