This topic is so vitally important. You can’t fill from an empty cup- as they say.
Working as a teacher in a remote community school in outback Australia can be hard work. You leave your family and travel a long way from your family and friends, you start a new job in a new school, you work/live/teach people from a different culture with different language and customs, you may face challenging behaviours and learning needs in your classroom, sometimes you face deaths in community from road accidents or suicide or other, and you face sometimes challenging social issues. Any one of those challenges could be stressful enough. Having some things in place as you start your remote teaching placement may help you to ‘weather the storm’. We want you to be successful and stay in your role- the less teacher turn over the better for students… and for your success!
Tips to help maintain your mental health:
- Make a list of your current supports- include professionals, trusted friends and family and online/telephone services you use. Stick this on your fridge.
- Make a plan to keep in regular contact with your friends and family back home. This might be by writing who you will contact (phone, letter, Skype etc) in your diary, setting the alarm on your phone, putting a reminder on your calendar.
- Know your stress signals. Pay attention next time you feel stress, overwhelmed or anxious- how is your body giving you warning signals? Is it through tummy troubles? Or increased heart rate and feeling jittery? Is it because you always feel on the edge of tears? Know the signals so you can intervene to reduce stress earlier through some relaxation or activities you enjoy or setting boundaries or saying ‘no’.
- Know your limits. What are you comfortable doing and what are you not comfortable doing? Set your boundaries as early as you can so you stick within your ‘window of tolerance’.
- Know about trauma and brain science. Learning about how your brain reacts to trauma and stress can help you understand what is happening… and how to overcome it.
- Focus on what you can control. In remote communities you might become overwhelmed with all the things you want to help with, fix, control. You have to remember your role is as a teacher first and foremost. You can be an ally to your First Nations colleagues, Elders and community members but you are not there to change the community, people or culture- that change must be driven by local people (with your support if necessary). Focus on your role and what you can control.
- Make time for wellbeing. Do the things you love regularly. Make a routine out it. Early morning walks with friends, listening to your favourite music for breakfast, a long bath after work, a mid day nap (on weekends), yoga? Make time for doing you.
- Take care of your physical health- eat healthy and eat wholesome comfort food. Walk to school some mornings, go for walks with friends after school, join a sports team.
- Schedule in time out of community for some weekends and holidays. Schedule in some time on Country for weekends and holidays.
- Make a ‘Bucket List’ feel accomplished and happy as you see and do new things in the outback with your new friends or as you share your new backyard with visiting family and friends.
- Consider a wellbeing retreat designed just for Australian teachers such as Smile Teachers.
- All states/territories have access to counselling sessions under your employer. These links should connect you with the appropriate free support resources for your state (often known as Employee Assistance Program or Scheme in most states/territories (EAP)): Queensland, Victoria, Western Australia, New South Wales, Australian Capital Territory, Northern Territory, Tasmania.
- Consider accessing counselling in addition to or outside of your Medicare scheme provided mental health sessions. This counselling will not be part of your formal medical records might be less likely affect your ability to be covered under things like health or life insurance as ‘pre-existing medical issues’. We recommend A Counselled Life who offer online counselling sessions around Australia and have worked with some remote teachers and academy members previously.
- Consider joining your Teachers Union for extra piece of mind. It’s great to know you are covered and someone has your back for advice or support if something should go wrong remote.
- Consider taking one of our courses such as ‘Ingredients for Remote Teacher Success‘ which covers a bit about mental health but also how to feel successful in your remote teaching role.
- Join our online supportive communities for support, advice and companionship of other remote teachers- Teachers in Remote Communities (Past, Present, Future) or The Remote Teacher Members Mastermind for teachers who have paid memberships.
What other advice do you have to maintain your mental health and wellbeing as a remote teacher?