career

'The 5 things I've learned from 34 weeks of teaching in lockdown.'

Teachers Health
Thanks to our brand partner, Teachers Health

As far as Sydney Kindergarten teacher Jordan is concerned, if you're only 98 per cent sure you want to be a teacher, then the profession isn't for you.       

You have to be 100 per cent in, and COVID only cemented that fact tenfold.   

For many of us, working from home has just meant we do the same thing, but from our home office, lounge room, or bedroom. 

For teachers, it's meant they've had to rewrite their job description, and as Jordan explains to Mamamia, "It's boring... because it's not the job I signed up for."

"I missed the social aspect of my job. You're with 20 kids all day long. And if you're not with your class, you're out on playground duty with a whole lot of other kids or you're in the staff room with 40 other adults. 

"When I'm working at home not only is my job very different because it's not with people all day long, it's also very quiet."

Jordan comes from a long line of teachers, and becoming one herself was a "no-brainer". 

Joining Teachers Health was also just a given, as it was the health fund she was raised on. 

But lockdown actually made the Sydneysider stop and appreciate having the support of a healthcare service that's designed purely for her profession, as her day-to-day was completely redesigned in front of her eyes. 

"It's been so good to know we have access to services that promote wellbeing [designed specifically for us]," she told Mamamia.

From mental health support, to post-pregnancy and hospital recovery, Teachers Health is the go-to support system for more than 360,000 teachers across Australia. 

They started over 65 years ago, and exist for its members, not for profit. And because their profits go back to Teachers Health members, it means they focus on the important things those in the education sector (and their families) need: support and recovery before and after hospital treatment, support managing a chronic condition, access to mental health services and so much more.

While 62 per cent of teachers told a recent survey by the insurer they were feeling positive about their current health and wellbeing, almost four in ten admitted it was only "okay" or "poor", particularly in those states like NSW and Victoria which experienced lengthy COVID-19 lockdowns. 

The research showed younger teachers were more likely than their older counterparts to admit to not feeling their best, and for 27-year-old Jordan, she says remote-learning has been the perfect reminder of the importance of work-life balance while she is still building her career. 

"You need to switch off in your home environment," she told Mamamia.

"[In lockdown] you could work until 8pm and get a few extra things done, but that's actually cutting into my time of winding down and relaxing.

"Teaching is a job where you are never finished. There's always a million things you could be doing... I've seen what can happen when you don't have that balance."

Thankfully, Jordan was able to implement self-care strategies early on in Australia's COVID journey, to make sure she kept the stresses of her ever-changing job in check. 

Relationships are probably the biggest thing she's missed. 

With only her housemate to keep her company during 34 weeks of home-teaching, Jordan realised how important bouncing off other teachers was and how much she craved in-person collaboration and communication. 

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Her colleagues said the same, with only two per cent telling Teachers Health they preferred to teach remotely. 

With a class of four and five-year-olds to try and wrangle over Zoom, a lack of face-to-face wasn't just a nuance for Jordan as a Kindy teacher, it was impossible. 

"We very early on decided that Zoom lessons every day weren't going to work. So we did flexible delivery. We had booklets and some online platforms and some Zoom meetings, but not as frequently, purely because for Kindergarten there's no way you can hold kids' attention for 20 minutes sitting on the floor in a classroom, let alone 20 minutes on computer screens."

After six years in the job, Jordan says you never stop learning. But lockdown taught her about the power of consistency when it comes to teaching young people.

During the first lockdowns of 2020, her school was of the mindset amongst the chaos and uncertainty of, "don't worry, we'll catch them up."

But as the lockdowns continued on into 2021, they've had to tweak a few things to make home-learning a more viable option.

"We've just done all of our assessments post lockdown, and the majority of our students have continued to move forward," she said.

"We've been really intentional in the work we've set and I think that really helped kids. The power of routine and the power of consistency has proven to be really important."

Jordan is the first to admit she had an "easy" run in lockdown. With no dependents and just herself to worry about, the past two years has allowed her to reset and re-establish what's important to her.

Teaching is one of those things.

She's realised how much she loves her job and everything it entails. Most importantly, it's shown her how unsuited she is to sitting behind a computer all day every day.

"It's exciting to be back in the classroom doing the job I signed up for... we had a lot of kids and parents ready to be back too."

While the challenge, flexibility and downtime between tasks were the most common benefits of remote learning thrown up by teachers in the Teachers Health research, the desire to be face-to-face with both students and colleagues was paramount. 

As Jordan winds up the school year back in her happy place – surrounded by kids – she's optimistic for the future of her profession. 

"There's a lot of negative press, and politics are always getting involved. But I just think you have to go 'alright it's not about that, it's about kids.' It's about teaching them and empowering them and equipping them to be their best selves."

Just quietly, there's nothing Jordan would prefer to do. 

Teachers Health is Australia's largest industry-based health fund, here to give those in the education sector, and their families, the health and wellbeing support unique to their occupation. See how they compare to your current health fund using their  free comparison tool.

Feature Image: Jordan is known to Mamamia, however the image used is a stock Getty photo for privacy reasons. 

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Teachers Health
Teachers Health is Australia's largest industry-based health fund. At Teachers Health, we get what it means to work in education. You’re super busy. You’re positively shaping lives. And you’re doing it for the love of the job. So, it’s more important than ever that your health insurance works hard to look after you. Teachers Health focuses on our members and our community. We’re not-for-profit which means we can focus on the good stuff. We’re here to support and inspire the health and wellbeing of you and your family, so you can get on with leading the life you love. To put it simply, we put people before profits.