TM4T NQT - A Teachers Guide to Getting Up in the Morning

Getting up. Doncha just love it? Especially in the dark mornings of late autumn, as the sleet and rain sluice down the gutters outside your bedroom. And it's 9B first period. Heck, another ten minutes snooze won't hurt, will it?

No, another ten minutes won't hurt and most teachers are totally entitled to a lie in now and then. Before we dive into detail, we should emphasize one piece of less-than-profound advice: if it ain't broke, don't fix it. It is perfectly normal NOT to leap out of bed every morning.

There are though, three reasons why teachers might consider investing effort into changing how they get up in the mornings:

a. There is a lot of anecdotal evidence to suggest that creativity blossoms in the early hours, and that the benefits of early rising are not restricted to those who are by nature larks rather than owls. If you have a creative workload, it is worth a try.

b. The pattern of our sleeping and waking is frequently established in childhood (without our permission) and may not, in fact, represent what we need or prefer. As working teachers, we need more control and it is logical to choose the option which is actually best for us.

c. For some of us, the pattern of our sleep affects our moods in a bad way, in depressive episodes similar to Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).

So... here are six tips for getting up in the morning...

1. Go to bed at the right time.

I apologise for stating the obvious, but sometimes obvious answers are missed: You should have a reasonable idea how many hours sleep you need each night, and if you know what time you want to get up, then the maths is not difficult.

2. Understand your own chronotype

The mythical average person sleeps eight hours, prefering to fall asleep shortly after midnight, but people differ greatly. The TM4T time management method involves doing the right work at the right time; and this means that you should know your own chronotype and when you do different kinds of work best. You can find out your chronotype easily - complete an online questionnaire and receive a personalised e-mail assessment. Details are online here.

3. Address any real issues.

If your sleeping pattern generates moods which are counter-productive in the classroom (irritability, anxiety etc) then don't be afraid to seek medical advice. You may be asked to complete an MEQ questionnaire to evaluate the extent of your eveningness (yes, that is a real word - the spell-checker is wrong). An example of the standard (MEQ) questionnaire is here. Remember that in Western society - and therefore UK schools - work patterns are aligned to the needs of slightly early risers, and for most of us it is NORMAL to be slightly dopey at the start of the day.

4. Experiment

Heck, there's no pleasing those guys at TM4T is there? We rattle on about the importance of routine, and then we want you to change it. The point here is that some of us are extreme creatures of habit, and that our 'preferences' are really just a reflection of what-we've-always-done. If you have no adult experience of getting up at 06:00 instead of 08:00, give it a try. Who knows what creative demons may be unleashed...

5. Match the solution to the problem

If you don't have a serious sleep issue, but you'd just like to make getting up a bit easier, then there are plenty of tips and whimsy to try. Put the alarm clock (set extra loud) just outside the bedroom door. Prepare your clothes and breakfast the night before (to break the mental association of getting up = chores). Morning stretches are a favourite: deep breaths and smile, smile, smile. Cold water is also recommended by some.

6. Design your morning.

We are conditioned, in western society, to associate evenings with social and pleasurable activities, whereas mornings... well, mornings just happen. This is even more true if, like most teachers, you do not face mornings alone. Grumpy partners and fractious children can make us dread breakfast; never mind the rain-soaked journey and then 9B. To counter-act this, put some effort and thought into making mornings more pleasurable. Prepare (the night before) a pile of your favourite music to listen to. Get some exotic food, just for you, just for breakfast. Get up 30 minutes early and grab some you-time.