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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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 Daniel Sobel; Leading on Pastoral Care considers the most challenging aspects of pastoral care such as paperwork, time, confrontational parents and Ofsted. Again based on practical advice and case studies, like Clare’s book, Daniel enables schools to think effectively and efficiently about pastoral care, to the benefit of the whole school community.

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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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The Power of Positive

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Last week on Twitter one of our Headteacher followers posted a picture detailing the ‘New, Improved Staffroom’ containing a list of initiatives and actions aimed at the wellbeing of the whole staff. Fruit teas, a breakfast bar, tidy spaces, photocopier and laminator moved out: all actions which will have a direct impact upon the wellbeing of the staff.

One bullet point raised some discussion on Twitter: the staffroom was to be a ‘no moan zone’ with no complaining about pupils, parents and other staff. Some responses were along the lines of staff having a safe place to let off steam or that having such a zone would be hard to achieve. A single tweet does not of course give the complete context of a school and in this case the context was the staffroom was also used by visitors, including parents.

This tweet got us thinking about the power of positive language: in this case the school is actively promoting staff wellbeing and the stated aim of the Head is to make the staffroom a positive place. Those who discussed and debated the original point were not being negative; rather they may have been reflecting upon their own experiences.

In an ideal world we will have no negativity but of course the world is far from ideal and the very nature of social media makes negativity an easy and instant option.When this negativity begins to invade our staffrooms, we then need to be concerned for the wellbeing of our staff.

Staff may need a safe place to sound off. For some people, their wellbeing is served by the ability to have a grumble. They may not agree with every decision made by SLT and they have the right to express this disagreement. How, when and where this is expressed comes down to school culture. A positive school culture will allow for constructive criticism to be given in a non-judgmental and blame free environment. Senior leaders in such an environment will accept reasoned and polite challenge to their decisions.

A toxic environment, where leaders aren’t willing to listen or where it is staff  ‘sound off’ in the staffroom so others can overhear sometimes personal criticism, does not serve anybody’s wellbeing in any way. Leaders need to listen as our good friend Simon Smith tells us here with his usual eloquence. Listening is important; acting upon this, even if it only comes to ‘thank you for your contribution’ is more so.

If we encourage our staff to speak positively to each other then we instantly set the tone, the ethos, that we want wellbeing to be promoted and that if there is be be any criticism, it is valid, polite, non-judgmental and will not undermine the mental wellbeing of our colleagues. Negativity is a drain. Repetitive and constant negativity will undermine confidence. As another friend of ours, Adrian Bethune, clearly states in his new book, available here for every negative interaction with a child there should be at least eight positive ones. Why don’t we repeat the same balance with our colleagues.

Staffrooms can be horrid places in toxic schools; dominated by a small group, ruled by one department, space occupied by the lunchtime markers who are all over the table or with someone repeating conversations ‘upstairs’ so staff are wary of their conduct and in the worst cases teachers scared away from their communal space because of the words and deedsof others.

All staff should be welcome in the staffroom. The positive language you promote will encourage them. If individual staff don’t appear, or if the staffroom is empty, ask yourself why.

It is easy to be negative in our words.Negative words can hurt, can upset and we just can’t see it. They impact upon the mental health in ways that some people don’t understand or appreciate.

That is why we need to keep our language positive, and realistic, to support each other and our whole team in their wellbeing. Accept the odd grumble or too,but let your staff feel safe in doing so. If your ethos is positive, your teachers will be too.

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

Two years have passed since we founded Healthy Toolkit. If you haven’t found us before, we formed to promote values and principles led whole school wellbeing; let’s face it, if the school isn’t committed to wellbeing, teachers are going to be challenged to manage their own wellbeing.

Over the last part of the holiday we ran #WellbeingWorldCup on Twitter, asking for the initiatives that you have seen, or would like to see, in school this year. As schools in England return this week, these top sixteen ways  with wellbeing should be an essential read for everyone in school.

Sensible marking policy

Our runaway leader by a long way. Workload is only part of wellbeing, but it is the most time-consuming intrusion into it. Has the school read the workload reports from the DfE and the blogs promoting the impact of whole class marking? Or are we still on triple marking, multiple pens, responses from the children and replies back from teacher. Are your teachers staying until 6pm and taking marking home? Is the marking making a difference to learning? Probably not; so if it isn’t, why carry on with it? Because ‘OFSTED say so’ (they don’t), because it ‘promotes deeper learning’ (it probably doesn’t) or because ‘it works and we have always done it that way’ (this began around 2003 and built from there)?

A no-brainer; if it doesn’t benefit the children, then sort it so it does, and cut the time your teachers spend marking.

Whole school mental health training

Despite what some voices may say, there is a growing crisis in child mental health but also in teacher mental health. Recent years have seen a lifting of the stigma surrounding discussion of our own mental health and lessons to address this in school are becoming more widely taught. Organisations such as Place2Be and Young Minds offer professional training opportunities and if budget permits, this should be followed up for the benefit of the children and the staff.

Time to Talk

Know your staff. Not simply on passing terms. Not keeping your conversations to the professional only. Really talk, find out what makes them tick. Try our #TeaAndTalk initiative which can be found here and here which is a really simple way to generate conversation which might reveal a little more about your colleagues.

Wellbeing resources

A surprise finalist, the provision of wellbeing resources for teaching is one matter.There is much accessible online for free. Resources for staff are a matter for awareness and accountability.

What do you support your staff with? Do they have the chance to choose a session of mindfulness? Can they access support, such as the Education Support Partnership, where it is needed? Perhaps you provide a space where there is a chance to escape from education talk. Budgets are tight but if you can spare something to support staff wellbeing, then please do so. Retention of staff is as big a challenge as recruitment.

Our other finalists

Workload and marking was a clear leader in our poll. Wellbeing is more than workload as our forthcoming publication will outline in greater depth. Enough of our followers voted for mental health as a whole school issue, time to talk and the provision of resources to support wellbeing as of huge importance too. There were twelve other finalists, all of which are essentials to your entire wellbeing jigsaw.

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  • A Wellbeing Coordinator: if this is a member of staff who isn’t on SLT, it is important that they have a voice and that the voice is respected by SLT. Otherwise the role may simply be washed away as the one that organises social events and Secret Santa. If your lead is on SLT then they need to speak with passion and authority on the issue. Whoever has the role needs to be aware of budget. We would all like an extra person or two to allow for release, but without the funding it isn’t going to happen.
  • Focussed gratitude. School leaders; do you thank your staff enough and do you mean it? Or is it saved to the end of the term or year? Or maybe you don’t give thanks because you feel that someone shouldn’t be thanked for doing their job. Recognition and meaning it can have huge positive impact.
  • Empathy lessons. We are good at teaching this to children but do we show it to each other enough? Is there an understanding of your colleagues’ lives and the things that impact how they work? See ‘Time to Talk’ above.
  • Closer collaboration. Look at your school team. Who works in isolation and who works together? A shared goal shares the workload and the responsibility. Wellbeing is a group responsibility after all, but needs effective leaders to enable it.
  • Greater departmental time. Linked to above and a suggestion from our secondary colleagues. Again this is about collective goals, particularly if you are a department under high pressure with public examinations.
  • Wellbeing lessons. Do you teach your children mindfulness, healthy relationships etc. You probably do but is it wrapped in the PSHE banner or in a more holistic way embracing all of their learning, attitudes and behaviours.
  • A mindful space. Not the staffroom! It could be a garden space, a room with no books or reference to education at all. Mindfulness isn’t the entire answer to wellbeing and there are cynical voices about it but there are enough people who believe in the benefits of mindfulness to allow for a space to be free for it.
  • Staff community building. Staff teams aren’t built on cakes in the staffroom and Pilates every fortnight. Community is built on the mutual respect and celebration of each other person’s worth and efforts.
  • Team building activities. The bane of the INSET day organiser! Stilted and awkward doesn’t work. Some are potentially embarrassing, but well organised and thoughtful activities promoting talk and empathy are the way forward.
  • Wellbeing CPD. Use your staff survey to write your development plan. Do you include some aspect of wellbeing in each staff meeting or do you pepper them through the year? Whichever the option, please make sure it is addressed.
  • Coaching. The most effective impact in the use of coaching is on the language we use. Turning a challenge to a reflection allows for less confrontation and more effective discussion.

That is fifteen ways with wellbeing so far. Not tips for wellbeing, because tips are tokenistic and if you ‘cover’ wellbeing on your INSET days this week, be aware of this in December when flu, deadlines and Nativities strike. Wellbeing is for everyday, not just for INSET.

The last way for wellbeing is a simple one. Be kind. It ties with empathy, compassion and talking to your staff. It isn’t difficult to be kind, but it also isn’t difficult to be critical. Parts of EduTwitter have not been pleasant this summer, sometimes cynical, sometimes cruel. If similar attitudes and language, verbal or written, are shown to our colleagues, then wellbeing is going to be under the cosh. The simplest thing you and your school leaders can do is to put kindness at the top of your wellbeing agenda.

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Let’s have an #AmazingAugustHT and celebrate our #SummerWellbeing

Well! We’ve have made it! All of us are now on our summer holiday and even though some vocal members of the journalistic profession may protest otherwise, we all deserve our time off. So let us take August to celebrate our wellbeing, to separate our education lives from our real lives.

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It is your real life that defines you, makes you who you are, determines your friendships and your relationships and ultimately makes you the teacher that you are.

A few days ago we tweeted this:

Summer Wellbeing in one tweet.

Share the books you have read.

Share the dishes you have cooked.

Tweet your garden pictures.

Meet some friends.

Connect with family.

Tweet positive.

Read: share those amazing books you have been saving for months, amazing fiction, extraordinary children’s books, brilliant biographies. Poolside, beachside, lakeside,in your tent or on your patio. We want to see whatever you are reading!

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Cook: whether it is something new, an old favourite, something from BBC Saturday Kitchen (a Healthy Toolkit favourite) or your meal on holiday, we would like to see it, share it and your never know we might just cook it!

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Garden: are you truly grounded? Connect with your soil, share those vegetables, your amazing sunflowers, the window boxes, pots, beds and allotments that define us as a nation in touch with the earth.

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Friends and family: make sure you celebrate and commemorate both. Connect, or reconnect; it has been a busy year, but these are the people who you love and love you back in equal measure and for every hard day you have survived, they are there for you.

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Tweet positive: keep connected with your community but let’s stick to the good stuff. The world of education will still be there in September!

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So please share your books, gardens, cooking, friends, family and positive thoughts. You are all awesome, because you are in the most awesome role there is!

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Happy Holidays from all at Healthy Toolkit HQ!