I think it’s fair to say that those of us who work in education seem to be naturally pre-determined to put the needs of others before our own. Whether it be children, parents or school leaders, they are often put at the front of the queue especially when it comes to well-being and mental health.
Education currently seems to be sandwiched between the forces of pressure and expectation, inexorably taking from us whilst rarely offering anything back. It’s like a one-way flow of energy, always outwards, outwards, outwards.
So it’s sometimes good to take stock and punctuate our busy brains with some self-reflection and me-time and this week, as it’s Early Years Well-Being Week, there’s no better opportunity than right now.
Looking after ourselves is vital, not only for us as ourselves, but also for all the people we do often put in front of us in the queue of importance. If we’re not functioning then we’re not the only ones to suffer. If we’re not feeling able to commit 100% to the young children and the team around us, then it’s they who feel the strain too.
When I wrote my Early Years book ‘Can I Go And Play Now?’ I did so because that particular phrase seemed to be said a lot by children. More recently, I’ve come to realise that perhaps it’s a phrase that EY educators should be asking too. Not just within their own practice but also outside of it. How often do we take work home with us inside our heads, rollercoasting and pin-balling about, leading to feelings of never switching off and self-doubt?
In this week of all weeks, take a breath and seek to put a slice of time aside just for you. Down time isn’t wasted time. It’s investment even if it doesn’t seem that way. And if you really can’t find the time to switch off then at least find a moment or two to talk to someone about challenges you’re facing.
We talk a lot about men in Early Years. Sometimes we’re seen as a holy grail because there’s less of us. I’m not sure about whether we bring anything extra particularly but I do know that our low numbers can feel quite isolating. Men do need the company of men along the way - we need open dialogue, honesty, connection and emotion, all the things that we might traditionally not see as being ‘Male-ness’. In a week, where a close friend got the news that a colleague, seemingly successful and family-happy, had taken his own life, now is certainly the right time for us to look after our mental health: male, female, adult or child - put your own brain first for a bit, chat if you need to but above take care of yourself because you’re the only one who truly, truly can...
Look for the #EYWellbeingWeek online :)
Can I Go Play Now..? is committed to widening the understanding of the magic of children's play as an educational tool. Child-centred, play-based learning is where it's truly at....