Happy New Year! Top Blogs of 2019.

Happy New Year! 2019 was a quieter year for our blog as we went into print and also produced a couple of pieces for the Education Support Partnership here and here as well as looking after our own wellbeing and workload.

Nevertheless, the Healthy Toolkit blog has been regularly read and accessed through 2019, and below are the most read blogs of the year.

Tips for wellbeing reading feature twice from the summer and again at Christmas featuring some excellent and practical wellbeing publications, including our own ‘The Wellbeing Toolkit’

“Start as you mean to go on” dates from 2018, but has aged well as readership figures tell.

Cool to be Kind week replaced ‘Anti-bullying Week’ in our parlance; an important message from our friend Adrian Bethune.

And our fifth most read Tea and Talk an initiative already taken up by a number of schools. The value of talk for mental health and wellbeing is crucial.

What is your wellbeing pledge for 2020? Take our blog as a starting point, but make wellbeing real, authentic, ethical, empathetic and fair!

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Wellbeing isn’t just for Christmas: strategies and a little reading list

As we sniffle, cough and wheeze our way into the final week of term ensuring we hit deadlines, finish projects and deliver the final Nativity and Carol service, we might also reflect upon our health and wellbeing as the term and the calendar year draws to a close.

So how are you? You may say you are ok just to move on the conversation to something else, or avoid it altogether. What if you are not ok? Is anyone listening? Are you listening? To yourself and others?

Do we ask each other how we are often enough? Are we afraid of the answer?

Christmas can be a tricky time of year for some of our families but also for some of our teachers and support staff too. Who might be departing at the end of the week to a fortnight alone, to family problems, to a relationship under strain, to difficult neighbours or to financial stress?

One easy step schools can take is to make your teachers aware of the work of the Education Support Partnership, particularly in relation to financial hardship and also to staff engagement and wellbeing as well as to their Christmas awareness campaign and helpline 08000 562 561.

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Do we thank our staff enough? Regularly and properly?

What are your welbeing strategies? A wellbeing gift bag is a nice thing to do and many will be grateful to receive it, but if your wellbeing strategy is literally the gift bag, but no strategy then the message might be “Sorry for working you so hard; here’s a bathbomb and some Ferrero Rocher.”

Below are a few books that the team at Healthy Toolkit HQ suggest for a wellbeing reading list, maybe  books that might form a wellbeing library on your CPD shelf. This is no ‘bestselllers list’ and they aren’t in any order of preference. Each are different and each promote wellbeing in its very broadest sense.

First up, recently written by our co-founder Andrew Cowley is The Wellbeing Toolkit which builds on the notion that wellbeing needs to be strategic, principled and ingrained in the school culture. Andrew also suggests that wellbeing is universal and that the principles we apply in schools could be used in any workplace.

Image result for the wellbeing toolkit

Tammie Prince, a good friend of Healthy Toolkit, has written Mindfulness in the Classroom in the 100 Ideas range, a practical and highly usable text to enable mindfulness techniques to be employed as part of the class routine. Look out for Tammie’s new book, 50 Fantastic Ideas for Mindfulness. published last summer.

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Victoria Hewett writes with passion and refreshing honesty. Making it as a Teacher tells Victoria’s story and how to make it through the first five years- the crucial time for our profession where we are losing so many young teachers to burn out. Tips, anecdotes and practical advice abound in this very readable book.

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Adrian Bethune’s Wellbeing in the Primary Classroom is the perfect primary accompaniment the above. With Sir Anthony Seldon  having written the foreword, Adrian draws from his experience and detailed knowledge of child psychology with practical and usable guidance for embedding a wellbeing culture. Your children will love making the class flags!

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Mental Health and Wellbeing on a budget, addressed in a practical handbook written by the inspirational and passionate Clare Erasmus. The Mental Health and Wellbeing Handbook sets out aa practical approach to mental health and wellbeing that any school can adopt to transform their mental health support for students, with a focus on providing staff with practical tools on a limited budget. It sets out a roadmap for staff to create robust mental health support for students without requiring qualifications in psychology or counselling. It covers key areas including staff training, creating safe spaces for wellbeing and how to harness the support of parents and the local community. It also includes practical advice for addressing concerns such as stress, self-harm and body image.

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In How to Survive in Teaching Emma Kell relates some tales of the most toxic of school environments, with one particularly harrowing example. There are a number of examples of poor practice that Emma highlights, but the overall mood of the book encourages and demonstrates how to keep positive, flourishing and to keep teaching.

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Abigail Mann writes practically and purposefully about self-care in Live Well, Teach Well   Putting your own oxygen mask on first’ is an essential of self-care and Abigail expounds the benefits of a good work-life balance whilst also discussing the wellbeing needs of the whole school community. Abigail’s book sits perfectly alongside the others on our list.

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Our final selection is from James Hilton: Ten Traits of Resilience looks at building positivity and purpose through school leadership. In an increasingly complex and ever-changing education landscape, school leadership is a rewarding but multifaceted profession. In order to survive in the job long term, school leaders need to understand how they can lead with positivity and purpose, all the while avoiding stress, coping with adversity, and taking better care of themselves physically and mentally. With teacher wellbeing and retention a growing concern, it is essential school leaders pass on this confidence and optimism to their staff members too.

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Maybe Santa might pop one or two of these in your wellbeing bag!

“It’s Cool To Be Kind!”

We are sure that many of us would like an easy ride in life or in work. One of the easiest things to to in life is to be negative and critical. It takes no effort and little emotional intelligence. Pointing a finger; that’s a doddle. Finding a problem in someone’s solution; zero effort required. Cocking a snook at an idea, initiative or project takes seconds and leaves plenty of time for idle cynicism, skepticism and fault finding.

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Life isn’t simple, and the easy and lazy option of condemning concepts and thoughts that we don’t like can actually be damaging, especially in the education sector. Tomorrow the Education Support Partnership publishes the Teacher Wellbeing Index and the headlines  are already suggesting increases in ‘burn out’ and psychological problems and teachers not feeling valued.

This week is also ‘Anti-Bullying Week’ and we sincerely hope that school cultures are also addressing issues around the adults in school as much as the children. The term ‘Anti-Bullying Week’ is negative in some ways. ‘Anti’ is obviously negative, ‘bullying’ clearly is and ‘week’- well why just do it for a week and ignore it the rest of the year. Our good friend Adrian Bethune labels it ‘It’s Cool To Be Kind Week’ and Adrian has kindly shared this resource to support teachers in planning such a week.

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The Teacher Wellbeing Index will focus more attention on the mental health of our teachers and of our school leaders. Our school cultures, as The Wellbeing Toolkit points out, need to be values and principled driven and leading a school where positivity, kindness and celebration of success is at the heart of the wellbeing strategy, for children and teachers alike.

Kindness needs to be a deliberate act. It needs to be thought through and it needs time to be delivered, because when it does become a purposeful action, the random and instantaneous acts of kindness that we celebrate become a matter of habit. As Adrian points out, kindness pays forward; if another driver lets you through at a busy junction, you will be more inclined to do so.

Our teachers need kindness; not the tokens of chocolate on your laptop or other such acts that masquerade as ‘wellbeing’, but a strategic and conscious decision to make kindness part of our daily conversation and interaction.

A number of us have been discussing ‘fierce kindness’ and anyone familiar with Susan Scott’s ‘Fierce Conversations’ will know that “the conversation is the relationship” so in the same way, kindness needs to become the basis of relationships  in the school workplace. Not the passing comment to make someone feel better (though there is still a place for this) but a long-term, strategic goal to support the mental health of our colleagues and of our children.

‘Cool To Be Kind’ as a simple, yet genius, idea. What are you going to do for it?

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It is ok not to be ok

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Last weekend, as many a member of the Edutwitter community will attest to, there was an unfortunately and insensitively worded tweet about Twitter at its best and worst. It need not be repeated here, but it was derogatory in its content and tone about teachers using the particular platform to discuss issues relating to their mental health.

In a rare moment of unity, the education community roundly condemned the post which was eventually deleted, sadly with no public apology. What may have passed by the attention of some tweeters were the messages from those people who found this not only offensive but in reading it also found that it triggered some of their own anxieties. This was eloquently expressed in a number of tweets and blogs.

Of course what we do not know are how many people, not just teachers but the wider community, read it and didn’t, couldn’t or wouldn’t respond because of the impact it had upon them. Though we try to encourage our colleagues to talk about what impacts and upsets them, we know that for every one who does, there will be at least one who doesn’t because they still feel a stigma around the topic of mental health.

Have a read of the Education Support Partnership Teacher Wellbeing Index 2018 and consider some of the statistics in the report:

  • 31% of teachers experienced a mental health issue in the past year.
  • 76% of education professionals have experienced behavioural, psychological or physical symptoms due to their work, compared with 60% of UK employees.
  • 57% have experienced a mental health issue in the past academic year
  • More than half of all education professionals have considered leaving the sector over the past two years as a result of health pressures.

The impact upon staff attendance at school and the further impact on schools with budgets stretched to the limit shows that we cannot take the matter of mental health lightly because it affects the whole school community.

Terminology such as ‘snowflake‘, ‘man up‘ or ‘grow a pair‘ is not helpful and is actually discriminatory.

Positive school cultures will allow for concerns, anxieties and stresses to be expressed and discussed without fear of derision, embarrassment or social stigma. Be a talking and a listening workplace, and let your staff know ‘it is ok not to be ok.’

Summer Reading: 10 Wellbeing Titles for the Long Break

A long six weeks ahead; a well-deserved rest which some of you are already enjoying north of the border. What is on your reading list? That thousand page epic that has sat there since Christmas? Something lighter and frothier? Maybe catching up on all the great children’s literature that Simon Smith @smithsmm promotes so passionately.

Maybe you are looking for some reading to promote your own, or your colleagues’, wellbeing for the year ahead. As regular readers will know, Healthy Toolkit promotes wellbeing as a whole school strategy; a holistic approach going beyond token days of massage and the occasional cake on the staffroom table. Self-care is important too, and there are invaluable guides available, based on practical advice, that many a teacher or teaching assistant could benefit from.

Below are ten books that the team at Healthy Toolkit HQ suggest for a wellbeing reading list, maybe ten books that might form a wellbeing library on your CPD shelf. This is no ‘top ten’ and they aren’t in any order of preference. Each are different and each promote wellbeing in its very broadest sense.

First up, recently written by our co-founder Andrew Cowley is The Wellbeing Toolkit which builds on the notion that wellbeing needs to be strategic, principled and ingrained in the school culture. Andrew also suggests that wellbeing is universal and that the principles we apply in schools could be used in any workplace.

Image result for the wellbeing toolkit

Tammie Prince, a good friend of Healthy Toolkit, has written Mindfulness in the Classroom in the 100 Ideas range, a practical and highly usable text to enable mindfulness techniques to be employed as part of the class routine. Look out for Tammie’s new book, 50 Fantastic Ideas for Mindfulness. out in the next few days.

Image result for tammie prince

Can you teach happiness? Ian Morris believes so; Teaching Happiness and Wellbeing in Schools captures Ian’s thoughts about wellbeing as a philosophy of education and is a practical guide to implementing this mainly in the secondary sector. Ian worked under Sir Anthony Seldon at Wellington College in developing his work.

Victoria Hewett writes with passion and refreshing honesty. Making it as a Teacher tells Victoria’s story and how to make it through the first five years- the crucial time for our profession where we are losing so many young teachers to burn out. Tips, anecdotes and practical advice abound in this very readable book.

Image result for victoria hewett book

Adrian Bethune’s Wellbeing in the Primary Classroom is the perfect primary accompaniment to Ian’s book. With Sir Anthony Seldon again appearing having written the foreword, Adrian draws from his experience and detailed knowledge of child psychology with practical and usable guidance for embedding a wellbeing culture. Your children will love making the class flags!

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Though not a wellbeing book specifically, 10% Braver edited by Vivienne Porritt and Keziah Featherstone and with contributions from across the WomenEd community is an essential read. It fits the wider wellbeing agenda in discussing barriers to career progression, the gender pay gap and issues such as gender stereotyping.

“This book matters because it is guaranteed to inspire, to educate and to spark a much-needed clamour for women to assume roles of influence throughout our education system.” 
-Alison Peacock, Chief Executive of the Chartered College of Teaching

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Mental Health and Wellbeing on a budget, addressed in a practical handbook written by the inspirational and passionate Clare Erasmus. The Mental Health and Wellbeing Handbook sets out aa practical approach to mental health and wellbeing that any school can adopt to transform their mental health support for students, with a focus on providing staff with practical tools on a limited budget. It sets out a roadmap for staff to create robust mental health support for students without requiring qualifications in psychology or counselling. It covers key areas including staff training, creating safe spaces for wellbeing and how to harness the support of parents and the local community. It also includes practical advice for addressing concerns such as stress, self-harm and body image.

Image result for clare erasmus book

In How to Survive in Teaching Emma Kell relates some tales of the most toxic of school environments, with one particularly harrowing example. There are a number of examples of poor practice that Emma highlights, but the overall mood of the book encourages and demonstrates how to keep positive, flourishing and to keep teaching.

Image result for emma kell book

Abigail Mann writes practically and purposefully about self-care in Live Well, Teach Well 

‘Putting your own oxygen mask on first’ is an essential of self-care and Abigail expounds the benefits of a good work-life balance whilst also discussing the wellbeing needs of the whole school community. Abigail’s book sits perfectly alongside the others on our list.

Image result for abigail mann book

Our final selection is from James Hilton: Ten Traits of Resilience looks at building positivity and purpose through school leadership. In an increasingly complex and ever-changing education landscape, school leadership is a rewarding but multifaceted profession. In order to survive in the job long term, school leaders need to understand how they can lead with positivity and purpose, all the while avoiding stress, coping with adversity, and taking better care of themselves physically and mentally. With teacher wellbeing and retention a growing concern, it is essential school leaders pass on this confidence and optimism to their staff members too.

Image result for ten traits of resilience

 

We hope there is plenty of food for thought here. There are of course a whole range of excellent books out there. Matt Pinkett’s Boy’s Don’t Try and Shaun Dellenty’s Celebrating Difference are just two as yet unopened but much anticipated texts on our bookshelves.  Please add to the list in your comments or on our Twitter feed.

Thank you to publishers such as Bloomsbury Education, John Catt, Crown House and Sage who give a voice to teacher through such publications, whether about wellbeing, pedagogy or leadership.

Have a great summer everyone!

 

 

 

 

Effective Leadership for Change

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Effective leadership for change has an empowering effect on school. With a clear vision and sustained communication, underpinned by strong guidance, leaders can bring about positive outcomes.

Change is one of the inevitable aspects of school and life in general. Some people find it difficult to deal with change, and their attitude towards it can limits their growth. Others embrace change and deal with it in positive ways. It’s only natural for people to feel the challenges and concerns that come with times of change.

All change is best when communicated. Communication is so important. It’s as important as ever to make time to talk to your staff about how they are feeling. Helping everyone involved stay focused on the same outcomes can make a big difference.

As a leader it’s important to; empower others, lead by example, make a difference, generate enthusiasm, be compassionate and listen, while taking others on an inspiring journey.

Researching different types of Mental Health and Wellbeing initiatives, legislation and guidance has helped me to understand the individual needs of the children and young people I teach and to support them better and led to me making changes in how I lead my team.

Here are some powerful ways as a leader we deal with change effectively.

Be flexible and positive. Don’t get set in your ways. Know ahead of time that things are going to change, and when they do, embrace and move forward. If you’re rigid and inflexible, changes will still come.

Trust: mutual trust in each other’s underlying beliefs and abilities builds and strengthens any relationship. Without trust, personal and professional relationships have no foundation.

Be accountable: When situations change, take charge. Take responsibility for what is happening and work to help others deal with the changes. Lead out in facing the moment and dealing with it head-on. Others will follow and they will appreciate you for your efforts.

Respect: have mutual respect for the range of each other’s talents and skills. Respect each other’s opinions and share any differences openly, fairly and without being judgemental.

Honesty: like trust, a foundation of any relationship.

Presence: being there and sometimes knowing when not being there can help too.

Compromise: because nobody can be right all of the time.

Teamwork: the longest relationships don’t rely on finishing each others sentences, but they do need us to know what makes each other tick.

Perseverance: a partnership is a marathon, not a sprint, and the good times far outweigh the less good ones.

Celebration: mark the big things (anniversaries and birthdays) but acknowledge the little successes too.

Look to the future: Your attitude towards change will determine how it influences you. If you worry and fret about what is happening, it will have a negative affect. If you look for the positives in the situation, and move forward with confidence, everything that changes in your life will have a positive outcome, and your attitude will help others.

We are in a profession that relies almost in its entirety upon personal relationships to drive our ‘end product’ and it is those personal relationships in our schools, between our staff and between teachers and SLT that ultimately determine our wellbeing.

A few simple guidelines will help to cement goodwill.

  • Communication; keep it to a minimum. Diaries and dates, data analyses, reminders; yes they are important but keep it all in one email.
  • Avoid the most pervasive feature of email: the read receipt! It is intrusive and adds unnecessary pressure.
  • Respect the fact that your staff have families and loved ones, or may have lost loved ones.
  • Respect the fact that some don’t or may face as challenging a time as some of our families.
  • Any communication with staff you do have needs to feature the simplest and most uplifting words in the wellbeing lexicon.

Working in a team has its challenges, with a diversity of skills, ages, experiences, opinions and attitudes. Interpersonal skills used effectively can enable the staff to forge effective relationships and work together as a team.

To motivate the team you need to start seeing yourself as a role model. As a good example to others. A good leadership role model sets high standards of accountability for themselves and their behaviours. Before motivating your team be sure to motivate yourself. Be the sort of person others can get behind and support. Be a good role model.

A good leadership role model:

  • Practices self-reflection – They set exacting standards for themselves and others.
  • Is self-aware – They are open to learning and new ideas.
  • Shows empathy – They think carefully about the impact they have on others.
  • Has vision, courage and integrity – They communicate their vision and expectations clearly so people know where they’re heading.
  • Is ready to lead – They lead by example. They are honest, sincere and practice what they preach.

Productive Relationships

We are in a profession that relies almost in its entirety upon personal relationships to drive our ‘end product’ and it is those personal relationships in our schools, between our staff and between teachers and SLT that ultimately determine our wellbeing.

Trust: mutual trust in each other’s underlying beliefs and abilities builds and strengthens any relationship. Without trust, personal and professional relationships have no foundation.

Establishing the most positive, constructive and mutually respectful relationships is key, I think.  Those you lead need to feel that they are listened to, that their contribution is valued, and that you take them seriously.  You have to be able to see the best in people in order to get the best from them, so recognising your colleagues’ strengths, ensuring they feel their abilities are appreciated and utilised, is just as important as having the highest aspirations and encouraging them to address those areas in which there is room for development.  If relationships are healthy, and all staff are treated with humanity and warmth, they are more likely to be able to accept constructive criticism and guidance.

Building a sense of community so that those in schools feel they are pulling together, giving and benefiting from mutual support in a common endeavour, is hugely important.  Goodwill is precious and powerful.  In my experience, if you show understanding and generosity when staff are in need of it, they will repay you with significant discretionary effort in the future.  So giving someone time when they need it may well mean that they go above and beyond in the future, in return.  Finding ways of connecting and communicating as a staff, sharing challenges and causes for celebration, underlining that you are all on the same side – which is, of course, the children’s side – can build a community which is mutually supportive, aware of the needs of others and prepared to go the extra mile for one another.

 

Losing the Dressing Room, or why we need to be more Ole than José.

We like a sporting comparison at Healthy Toolkit HQ. In fact we can learn much, particularly in the leadership of wellbeing in our schools, from sports leadership and sports psychology.

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José Mourinho, like Marmite, isn’t to everyone’s taste. His undoubted charm and tactical brilliance can be offset against his self-acknowledged arrogance and somewhat fractious relationship with club chairmen, directors and players.

“We have top players and, sorry if I’m arrogant, we have a top manager”, he announced on joining Chelsea for the first time, before adding, “Please don’t call me arrogant, but I’m European champion and I think I’m a special one.”

Football managers are of course employed with the anticipation that they will coach winning sides, hopefully with trophies to match.  A league champion eight times in four countries, Champions League winner twice and fifteen other trophies show he is no slouch. Large amounts of money to fund the purchase of quality players at Chelsea, Internazionale, Real Madrid and Manchester United probably helped too. Whether he would have produced the same results at more financially prudent clubs remains a rhetorical question.

Ultimately though did his arrogance, people management skills and sometimes confrontational style cost him his current role? It is suggested that, during a poor start to the current campaign, with players of the quality of Paul Pogba, a World Cup winner six months ago, plus a further ten players costing £400 million,  he ‘lost the dressing room’. ‘Losing the dressing room’ means losing respect from your playing staff. A week before Christmas, he was on his way.

Enter the baby-faced assassin, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, in an interim or caretaker role. Same players, new boss; form transformed overnight. Dismiss the ‘easy sides’ comments, these same players, dispirited a few weeks ago, have won eight games in succession, playing with the flair and confidence that fans of the Red Devils hold dear. Of course the winning run will end at some point but it cannot be dismissed that here are a group of happier players.

The link with school wellbeing? Well, replace ‘lost the dressing room’ with ‘lost the staffroom’ and then the link is less tenuous. Here at Healthy Toolkit HQ we often hear of wellbeing not being a priority, of lip service paid to it or of leadership behaviours which marginalise staff or raise their workload. It is these leaders that may ‘lose the staffroom’ and the trust of their staff to look after their mental and physical wellbeing in school.

The situation at Manchester United this season was about relationships between the manager and his players. Wellbeing is equally about the relationship between school leaders and their staff. Be more like Ole and less like José and the relationships are more likely to thrive.

In May 2019 Healthy Toolkit will be in print: our co-founder Andrew Cowley has written The Wellbeing Toolkit which can be pre-ordered here and in discussing the leadership of wellbeing, there are links to sports psychology and leadership, as well as to effective leadership of wellbeing, unpicking the myths around the subject and challenging leaders to make their workload and wellbeing decisions based on principles and values rather than be reactive.

Keep an eye on our tweets for news about publication.

 

 

Wellbeing 2018: The Year in Posts to Welcome #Wellbeing2019

Happy New Year 2019!

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Where did 2018 go?

January: snow: Meghan and Harry: heatwave: football almost coming home: more heatwave: shouting about Brexit: Christmas.

It was a busy old year, and not as active on the blogpost front as previously as we have refined our content and had other ventures here at Healthy Toolkit HQ. So here are our top 5 posts of 2018.

5. Forte February

Revisiting a previous theme this post built on our belief in building resilience in our school settings to boost wellbeing. Promoting good feelings and emotional resilience in others in others is one core of good wellbeing leadership.

4. Culture is Everything

Whilst we would all love to have the self-care we so need, if the leadership of our schools doesn’t promote this through the school culture they grow, then self-care will suffer as will mental and physical wellbeing. Read the full post here.

3. Reverse Advent Calendar

This gave us our busiest week ever for stats. Focusing on acts of kindness as a school and as a socially aware action, our daily tweets motivated some interactions that may have been missing previously.

2. Tea and Talk

Ok this is two posts but our #TeaAndTalk initiative has had an impact beyond the twittersphere promoting time to talk, an absolutely essential tool in supporting mental health of our colleagues and of our learners. The first post, here actually dates to October 2017 but still had a healthy readership boosted by this subsequent post.

Contact Healthy Toolkit if you wish to have a copy of our leaflet to use in school.

1. Start As You Mean To Go On: Sixteen Ways With Wellbeing

We are proud to say that this is our most read post to date. Resulting from a Twitter poll of wellbeing and workload as well as from strategies the Healthy Toolkit team advocate in their schools, here were and are initiatives, not tickbox solutions, that teachers feel will make a difference.

What are you going to do in your school in 2019 to promote wellbeing and workload. Use the hashtag #Wellbeing2019 to share this.

We have had a busy 2018 for another reason. Healthy Toolkit will be in print in 2019. Our co-founder Andrew has written “The Wellbeing Toolkit” to be published by Bloomsbury Education in May 2019. We will share more details once proofs are back.

Have a wonderful 2019 everyone.

 

A Wellbeing Christmas Carol

Marley was dead,to begin with. In fact he had been gone this last seven years and the Scrooge and Marley Academy Trust no longer bore his name after he had failed to attend his return to work interview.  “A humbug of an excuse,” muttered Scrooge, working on his development plan by the light of a single candle.

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“Mr Scrooge,” came a plaintive cry from the booth opposite. Bob Cratchit, the mild mannered History teacher could not be observed, hidden as he was under a vast pile of quadruply marked manuscripts. Taking care not to spill the precious supply of purple ink for the fifth stage of his feedback, Bob slipped from his isolation and timidly approached the desk. “I wished to beg, if it wasn’t too much trouble for you Mr Scrooge, for tomorrow off.”

“A day off! What a humbug!”

“It is Christmas Day sir. And what with Tiny Tim being so unwell sir. And what with your nephew’s free school guaranteeing staff time for family medical emergencies I thought that….”

“You’ll be expecting the whole day then. I’ll dock you the half-crown of your wages. And that data won’t input itself you know.”

Wishing to avoid an evil stare, crossed arms or an unannounced learning walk, Cratchit grabbed his scarf and hat and hurried out of the door. Scrooge meanwhile finished his business and took the candle with him to his chambers.

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That evening, a phantom appeared. “Will you not ask who I am?” asked the visitor. Scrooge cowered. “I am the ghost of Jacob Marley, gone these last seven years. My wellbeing was naturally compromised by my untimely death and the thirty-seven reports I was expected to complete on a Sunday evening. Scrooge: you will be visited this very evening by three spirits. Expect the first as the clock tolls one.”

True to Marley’s word, at 1am a kindly looking man, wearing a dark suit and bearing a clipboard appeared. “I am the Spirit of Wellbeing Past. Come with me.”

They arrived soon enough in a classroom, desk at the front with the teacher sat behind, intoning from the volume before him; children in rows, observant and sitting straight. Incorrect answers met with derision, correct answers with a curt “yes” before the teacher directed the smallest boy to “fetch the art books from Mrs D next door so I may monitor unannounced the progress towards her target grades.”

“That is me, in my younger years. But Spirit; you said you are the Spirit of Wellbeing Past. There is no wellbeing here.”

“Precisely. My fellow spirit will direct you further to the consequences.”

Scrooge slept fitfully, woken at the next hour.

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“I am the Spirit of Wellbeing Present,” uttered the ghost, still in a dark suit and with the same clipboard but with a careworn expression and bags under the eyes.

Scrooge was taken by the Spirit to a staffroom, on the last staff meeting of the term. Equally careworn staff lay strewn over the threadbare chairs, late arrivals perched nervously by the tea urn or leaning on the filing cabinet.

“I recognise this place,” announced Scrooge. “It is the failing school I took into the Scrooge Academy Trust last summer.”

The meeting was in full flow, or at least the interim Head of School was, listing the progress seen in the last twenty minutes, feeding back his monitoring of the shades of blue on the displays and the acceptable level of diversion from the vertical he would accept, which was a very round zero.

One brave soul, due to retire at Easter, piped up. “Where is the wellbeing you promised us?”

“You had half an hour of mindfulness on the training day in September,an Indian head massage the day before half term and a box of oranges from the PTA a fortnight ago. What more do you expect?”

“Workload reforms! Did you not read what the Department sent out?”

“Never heard of them! Probably in my spam emails. You know I never read anything that comes at the weekend or in the holidays.”

At this point the staff collectively sighed as the meeting entered a third hour.

“Your third visitor will come for you soon Scrooge. Be ready.”

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Expecting an empty hooded Spirit, Scrooge was relieved that this one did not reply to his question “You must be the Spirit of Wellbeing Yet to Come, are you not?”

A single bony finger emerged from a gown, pointed at Scrooge and then to Cratchit’s house.

“What am I to see here Spirit? Tiny Tim lying in his coffin whilst his father completes the assessment due tomorrow, barely having time to comfort his wife?”

But no! Before him lay a table, groaning with Christmas fare and the finest prize turkey in pride of place.

“I do believe Mr Scrooge himself was my Secret Santa,” announced Bob, “as the turkey barely fitted onto my desk. The assessments had all been completed overnight and the data entered into the ledger in a hand different to my own.”

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“Mr Scrooge really is a man of integrity, values and principles, with the wellbeing of all his staff at his very heart,” replied Mrs Cratchit. “He gave you time to take Tiny Tim to his appointments, guaranteed your release time and done away with that ghastly purple quill of quality. It is almost as if he has found a toolkit of wellbeing strategies.”

“A Wellbeing Toolkit,” thought Scrooge to himself, now there’s a thought.”

Scrooge had no further unannounced learning walks with Spirits. He lived by the Total Wellbeing Principle ever afterwards. And so as Tiny Tim observed, “God Bless Us, Every One!”

 

 

 

The Healthy Toolkit Reverse Advent Calendar: #DetoxDecemberHT #ActsOfKindness

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The #DetoxDecemberHT theme is something Healthy Toolkit has embraced over the last two years. Detoxing isn’t simply a matter of ditching the mince pies, upping the water intake and shaking off a pound or two.

” ‘Detox’ is one of those words which through slang and ‘text speak’ has been abbreviated from its original spelling. As a noun, detoxification is a process or period of time in which one abstains from or rids the body of toxic or unhealthy substances. As a verb, to detoxify means to be actively involved in abstinence or expulsion of toxins. We normally associate detoxification with diet, alcohol or medication, but as we shall explore further, there are other aspects to our professional and personal lives to which the principles of detoxification can apply.”

This year we would like all of our followers to embrace the principles of Detox:

“The spirit of #DetoxDecemberHT lies in more than simply a change in dietary habits for teachers. If we examine our lifestyles as a whole we can identify other means to bring a more positive tone to our lives at a challenging time of the school year.”

Can we go a little further? Through December we will be tweeting our Reverse Advent Calendar, suggesting acts of kindness. Not random acts of kindness, but deliberate,considered, thoughtful and impactful acts of kindness and generosity which will genuinely reflect our standing as a caring profession.

1st December: Curate your Twitter block and mute list. You will never remember why you put this person there.

2nd December: Choose one additional item on your weekly shop and leave in the Food Bank box. The Trussell Trust will support so many of our vulnerable families this Christmas. Maybe some from your school.

3rd December: Leave cookies,chocolate or a lottery scratchcard in the pigeonhole of a colleague who has looked a little stressed.

4th December: Cover the playground duty of a colleague. Not for a swap but because it is the decent thing to do.

5th December: You know that child you only seem to be negative about. Call their parent/carer with news about the great work they have done. Positive interaction.

6th December: Bring a bag of fruit to the staffroom for your colleagues to share.

7th December: Hot Chocolate Friday: Make a Hot Chocolate for a deserving colleague who has had a challenging week.

8th December: Donate to your local charity shop. Toys, clothes, books: give a new home to something well loved.

9th December: Wish everyone a great week ahead on your group WhatsApp.

10th December: Make a pot of tea for your colleagues and indulge in some #TeaAndTalk

11th December: Strike up a conversation with that one colleague you never quite get around to talking to.

12th December: Mark some books for a colleague who may be getting behind.

13th December: Tidy a colleague’s book corner or desk, without them knowing it is you.

14th December: Hot Chocolate Friday: Make a Hot Chocolate for a deserving pupil.

15th December: That elderly neighbour of yours. Invite them for tea. Help with their shopping. Ask them about their Christmas.

16th December: Walk a neighbour’s dog.

17th December: Leave a Secret Santa gift for a colleague.

18th December: Smile at everyone you meet today.

19th December: Leave an anonymous note of thanks to someone who may be underappreciated.

20th December: Thank every child in your class individually for their great work.

21st December: The last day of term. Find that person you haven’t spoken to since October. Maybe you fell out. Make it up. Wish them the best for the season.

22nd December: Tape loose change to the car park ticket machine.

23rd December: Thank the person who has made the difference for you this year. Let them know just how much impact they have had.

24th December: Jólabókaflóð: The Yule Book Flood. Take the Icelandic tradition and gift a book to a neighbour or friend. Or just leave one in the pub, cafe or on the bus for an unknown person to encounter and enjoy.

One simple act. That is all it takes to show some positivity, love and respect at a challenging time.

Look out for our tweets through December. Use the hashtags #DetoxDecemberHT #ReverseAdventCalendar or #ActsOfKindness.

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