“He’s everything a leader should be.” Why we should all lead like Gareth Southgate

“He’s everything a leader should be; respectful, humble, tells the truth, genuine.” 

Gary Neville, in an acerbic and cutting commentary on “the standards of leaders in this country over the last couple of years” also poured praise upon the achievement of Gareth Southgate and his young England squad in reaching the final of the delayed Euro 2020 tournament. Football fan or not, England fan or not, there is much to admire in the qualities that Southgate has demonstrated in his four years in the role. 

Had Southgate not missed that penalty in the semi-final of Euro 1996, many may have struggled to recall the names of all of Terry Venables’ squad that faced Germany that day. The outrageous talent and ego of Paul Gascoigne, the prodigious goal scoring ability of Alan Shearer, the physical game of Messrs Pearce and Ince; not for the fresh faced Southgate. Playing every minute of that tournament, he got on with his job in a defence that conceded only three goals and was undefeated in normal time in five matches.

The penalty miss could have defined Southgate in the eyes of the public, his dejection summing up the deflation of those of us who witnessed and lived the emotion as we watched that evening. Yet the squad didn’t hold him responsible. He was brave to volunteer for a role he would never normally have undertaken. Nine more years as an international player, 57 caps and loyal service to three clubs appear on the CV of a quietly and precisely spoken professional. 

Thrust into the role after the ignominious exit of his predecessor, Southgate may not have been the first choice of press or fans at the time, his quiet demeanour in sharp contrast to several previous incumbents. Yet the Southgate way has led to success and respect for the men’s team over a period of years and successive tournaments, banishing the “hurt” that Baddiel and Skinner sang of. 

However, this isn’t a post about Southgate the manager; it’s about Southgate the leader and the values he holds, shares and promotes among the squad, support staff and supporters alike.

Empathy: look how he spoke to the Danish players with words of encouragement and reassurance, but also how he reassured each player who was substituted or didn’t have the chance to play in a particular match. The entire squad has a sense of belonging, each is valued and knows their worth to the greater goal.

Learning from mistakes: previous defeats at key stages in previous competitions became part of the learning process, not a stick to beat anyone with. Working from a challenging position didn’t bring blame or shame into play, but highlighted the determination to raise the game and focus. Heads didn’t drop, but were held high. 

Respect: Gareth respects his players and they respect him in turn. He listens as well as leads. The same respect is shown for the opposition and for supporters whether his own, the opposition or neutral. Likewise this is shown with the press too, often a fraught relationship for England managers in the past. The same measure of respect is shown in victory as in defeat. He has allowed himself an air punch or two, but calm dignity remains a watchword. Not for him a team shirt thrown over a shirt and tie, but a respectful and smart image at all times.

Humility: humbled by his experience of the past, he will talk of it when asked but his lack of ego means the conversation rests on the subject of himself for little time. He understands the sense of service in his role and the way he has endorsed and supported the taking of a knee, in the face of opposition from some who should know better, reflects the manner in which Southgate conducts himself.

Honesty: Southgate will admit to any mistakes, take responsibility and live with it. As any leader should. 

Authenticity: this is Southgate’s team. Critics highlight the imbalances, the absences of some players and playing some in a different role. There is a job to do, he trusts in his instincts and he will select who plays for the opposition in hand, regardless of previous form. Gareth shows no ego: what we see is what we get.

Come Sunday, win, lose or penalties, the Southgate way is firmly embedded in the psyche of the nation, even those who may not be cheering for England. The way is embedded because that is the way our leaders should be.

The Education Staff Wellbeing Charter

Wellbeing in school has been a concern in recent years, but the pandemic has perhaps focussed and driven attention to the wellbeing of the whole school community, particularly in regard to the mental health of the children and the impact of the changed nature of their education through lockdown and the effect upon their social interactions. The pandemic has also led to a focus upon the mental health and wellbeing of staff, who have gone above and beyond their duties in ensuring that education has continued whilst also trying to keep safe. 

The Education Staff Wellbeing Charter which can be found here was created by a broad spectrum of the education sector, including the DfE, Ofsted, Education Support Partnership, the leading education unions and a number of schools and colleges from the independent and state sectors, both primary and secondary. It is designed as a tool for schools to create their own wellbeing strategies and aims to encourage debate and accountability in the promotion and protection of wellbeing. From a leadership perspective, this charter is about commitment and principles, and more importantly that both are shared by all stakeholders, which includes the DfE and Ofsted. It is intended as a clear communication to the school staff that their wellbeing and mental health matters.

Whilst there is no expectation to sign up to the charter from Autumn 2021, the DfE recognises, as schools will, that the commitments made within the charter are for the benefit of the school and that schools should sign when they feel the time is right.

DFE

The Department has made nine commitments:

  • To integrate wellbeing into their workload policy test and to consider the impact of policy changes on staff wellbeing.
  • To support the sector in driving down unnecessary workload, promoting the Workload Reduction Toolkit including how data is collected. This builds on the workload reports first published in 2016.
  • A commitment to measure changes in staff wellbeing; of anxiety, happiness, life and job satisfaction.
  • Ensuring that DfE guidance meets the needs of users, including publishing guidance during working hours, with exceptions for legislative requirements.
  • To champion flexible working and diversity.
  • To break down stigma around mental health. 
  • To embed wellbeing into training and professional development. 
  • To improve access to mental health and wellbeing resources. 
  • To review progress and impact of the charter in 2023.

Ofsted

Ofsted acknowledges their dual role in protecting and enhancing staff wellbeing, that this commitment needs to be made clear and that they recognise inspection is a source of stress for staff. The inspectorate has committed to:

  • Take staff wellbeing into account in reaching a judgment and to monitor this through quality assurance and evaluation. 
  • To review the framework and if it is adversely impacting workload, especially unnecessary workload.
  • To clarify that additional documentation is not expected for inspection, that lessons and staff are not graded, that planning isn’t required in a certain format nor that it needs to be provided and schools aren’t required to prepare for inspection.

Schools

The main thrust for the delivery of the commitment will of course come from the school itself, the day to day decisions and long term organisational and strategic decisions ultimately having the greatest impact upon the school community and it being a safe and fruitful place of learning. The school is asked to make eleven commitments to the charter.

To prioritise mental health

Schools should be challenging any stigma around mental health and ensure there is an open culture where people can talk. Talk doesn’t simply mean allowing the outpouring of feelings; it can also be a supportive environment where staff can sound out concerns with trusted colleagues. Knowing staff is important, and recognising when someone needs channeling towards a particular support can be crucial. Schools will need a designated lead for mental health in the future, but there are many staff, and many teaching assistants are particularly adept at this, who recognise when someone is struggling, long before a senior leader does.

To give staff the support they need to support their own and others wellbeing

If wellbeing is considered as a proactive strategy rather than as a reactive response to a situation of staff absence, and training is provided on a regular basis (not simply one training day in September) then staff can have the tools and resources to turn to for support. Mentors and skilled listeners could be crucial here to maintaining the wellbeing and continued presence of staff.

To give managers the tools to support the wellbeing of those they manage

The key tool here for managers will be to know when to step this up. Most of our colleagues will not be trained professionals, but there will be one or more trained Mental Health First Aider able to recognise any potential crisis who has the skills and if not the connections to give necessary support.

To establish a clear communication policy

Communication is often a bugbear in many schools. Email a message and there will be someone who doesn’t read it, place it on the wall and there will be someone who doesn’t visit the staffroom. Develop a multimedia approach to communication, email, notices and word of mouth. More crucially though, keep it consistent and long term. Give plenty of notice of key events and never spring a surprise. Emails should be within set hours and there should be agreed times where responses aren’t required. 

To give staff a voice in decision making

A top down model of wellbeing will feel like it is being imposed, but a regular space for people to raise concerns and matters that can be solved is essential. A positive culture of working relationships in school will determine that this creates a purposeful environment. Recognise that where this culture isn’t in place it may become a place to sound off.

To drive down unnecessary workload

Use the reports for 2016 to look at your marking, planning and data collection and reporting. Consider if it is having an impact on the learning of the children and if it is not, think about removing it from your requirements

To champion flexible working and diversity

Many staff now look for a flexible approach and this management consideration might just keep them in the workplace.

To create a good behaviour culture

A consistent behaviour policy, coupled with a culture which promotes good behaviour will help your staff. Even what we consider minor breaches of behaviour, not dealt with consistently, can undermine staff wellbeing.

To support staff in their career progress

Use your appraisal cycle to consider where your staff want to be. Moving on is not a reflection on the school, it is what will allow our younger teachers to develop and become the leaders of the future, hopefully employing the principles you embedded with them

To support a sub-strategy to protect leader wellbeing and mental health

Leaders have suffered in the pandemic. There needs to be a clear channel of support in the school and through governors which recognises that our leaders need this support and that they might too need time and space to let off steam.

For the school to hold itself accountable including measuring staff wellbeing 

There will be tools to analyse wellbeing when the charter is fully in place, but our accountability can be measured in terms of staff absences- though we can’t be responsible for someone being off with the ‘flu- but crucially in terms of staff retention and recruitment. This will be a strong indicative measure of wellbeing. 

There are five shared principles as an annex to the charter

  • Wellbeing is subjective- it is a measure of total health, not just the absence of disease.
  • There are multiple benefits of wellbeing, including the long term supply of staff in schools.
  • Wellbeing is holistic. Multiple factors impact upon the wellbeing of an individual, many of which are external and beyond the control of the school, but factors such as the quality of in-work relationships, workplace security and a sense of purpose are within the influence of the school.
  • Wellbeing is a shared responsibility. The Department, governors and trustees, Senior Leaders all shape the school. So to do the individuals within it and though they should be supported in a good culture of wellbeing, they should also be encouraged and supported in their own self-care and in looking after and looking out for the wellbeing of others. 

There is much to consider with the charter. Hopefully schools have already made some headway towards it, even if they don’t commit. The core message though is, don’t use it as a tick-box exercise, but one which is part of your school strategy.

Integrity

One of the most positive aspects of the Covid19 crisis for schools is the unity of teachers, the recognition of the same goal and of the need to recognise the importance of mental health and wellbeing for all members of our school communities as we attempt to return to some semblance of normality. The unity is not total, and one byproduct of the positivity as that the more negative and challenging thoughts and opinions tend to appear more prominent: consider the sometimes hurtful coverage of the teaching profession in some newspapers and social media platforms.

Some values are universal, trust, honesty, kindness and empathy for example. There are degrees within each of these: one person may be totally honest, another may only share some truths; for everyone showing 100% trust in others there will be many who would need trust to be proven. Empathy though might be selective; the empathy one shows to some people may not be shown to others because of the words, thoughts and deeds of others.

In search of integrity - Surviving Church

As we return to fuller reopening in the Autumn Term, integrity is going to be at the heart of decisions by school leaders and in the actions of all staff. Let us not imagine that we can simply slide back into exactly the same routines that we dropped out of on 20th March. Classrooms and staffrooms, corridors and hallways, playgrounds and shared spaces; all will look different, will see different behaviours and interactions, out of necessity.

Relationships are going to drive what we do in school; the aforementioned unity among teachers and other staff should be embraced and celebrated in our staffrooms, but also in the virtual staffroom that is our education social media network. The short form, instantaneous nature of some platforms can lead to some binary, partisan and hurtful opinions, but the majority of messaging is positive, supportive and integrity driven.

Integrity needs us to keep our unity by challenging actions which might divide us: where ‘banter’ becomes ‘over-familiar’, step in and challenge; when ‘banter’ verges on bullying, step in and challenge; when ‘banter’ becomes sexual harassment or worse, the consequences go beyond the places it occurs and impacts and upsets many. It isn’t about sides, it is about what is right.

Look forward…and dream

A heartfelt poem for the pandemic by our friend @MrsSardines

**********

Call for Contributions: International law in pandemic times ...

When we first heard about it
It seemed so far away.
Gradually it edged closer
Day by cautious day.

We started to get anxious,
They started to decree.
We’d all huddle sharp at 5 o’clock
To hear what how it would be.

As if they were in the dock,
They told us what to look for.
Some took it lightly,
Others seriously more.

Offices started closing
People stayed away.

Gradually the numbers got less
Attendance shrunk each day.

Stay at home they shouted.
Rules must not be flouted.

Work on laptops, phones if you must
Hopefully the country won’t go bust.

School children waited to hear their fate
Whilst people quickly started to berate.

The numbers dying started rising even higher
Was someone being a bit of a liar?

Nurses tended to the sick and poorly.
Things had to ease soon, surely.

Parents had to hold the fort
Remembering back to how they were taught.

Teachers desperate to see their class
This situation wasn’t getting better fast.

Everybody shut up in their houses
The few brave ones still soldiering on.
Gratitude for what people were doing
People started clapping, sharing rainbows
How long would this last? Who knows.

Illusion Design and Construct | Page 2

Grandparents missing comforting cuddles
No more friendly, warm huddles.

Masks hide our smiles, hide our faces
Fearful eyes left in their places.

The only winner is the planet
Free to breathe more easily again.
Bluer skies, cleaner waters
Escaping from the damage of men.

As our planet slowly crawls
Away from this murderous beast.
We must come out of this kinder
At the very least.

Enough with blaming others
Enough with saying it’s wrong
Look for all the wonderful
That has been done.

CHOOSE KIND – It's a Fort Bend Thing

Humans are stronger together
Let’s be a better team.
We will never forget those lost
But we can look forward and dream.

Superstars

A great guest post from our friend Cate Knight @Missymusician81

**********

Roger Hodgson Quote: “You are your own superstar, and only you can ...

Try not to get worried, try not to tune in to, problems that upset you… This is the tune I hum to myself when things start piling up. It’s a little ditty to remind me to take a step back, breathe and tune out some of the anxiety inducing white noise that can come from being a teacher.

As educators, we live in an artificial world where EVERYTHING is deemed urgent, EVERYTHING must be recorded and evidenced and if we fail then it affects young human lives.

It is important to remember: This is NOT reality! Outside of school mistakes are made freely. Priorities are shuffled and little thought is given to whether you used the right pen to mark last weeks homework. There are times when we need to burst the institutional bubble and realise that URGENT for us in school simply isn’t on the same scale as urgent in a hospital saving lives or on the stock exchange trading in billions.

Yes, we are super heroes who make an enormous difference BUT life continues on regardless of whether we have photocopied the sheets for lesson four. So, my little song reminds me to put things in perspective. To think, “this too shall pass” and to do my best without allowing the stress and worry to damage me too much! What will be your reminder?

The Positive Nation — Let's try not to worry today💭 #wise #wisdom ...

Covid-19 from a leadership perspective

A guest post from our dear friend Cherryl Drabble @cherrylkd

* * * * *

20+ eLearning Platforms for COVID-19 Affected School Students

During this pandemic I’ve seen several posts for our NHS heroes, articles about our shop workers, delivery drivers and all manner of people who are helping to keep the country going during this crisis. This is quite right too and I personally applaud everyone who is putting themselves out there to help others. I’ve also seen lots of tweets from teachers who are trying to adapt to online teaching and consultants who are now sometimes struggling to find their place in this new educational world we’re all facing. What I haven’t seen much of is a voice from the leadership teams up and down the country who are attempting to lead staff and children with no precedent to work from. This post will tell you a little of how our leadership team is coping with this ever changing educational landscape.
Just like all other schools we had very little time to work out how we were going to work our way through the school closing. We had no instructions and we had to move swiftly. As we are a special school for children with complex medical needs it wasn’t just a case of closing the school and handing over to parents. All of our youngsters have EHCPs and that meant in reality we had to remain open. Our staff numbers were reducing on a daily basis as they had to isolate due to showing symptoms of Covid-19. As a leadership team we were meeting daily, making new bathroom and teaching rotas only to discover that overnight we had lost more staff. We convened a socially distanced meeting and took the decision to close the school. Parents were supportive, after all, we were in lockdown as a country and we didn’t have many key workers amongst our parents luckily.
Safeguarding
With the school closed we now had the headache of ensuring that safeguarding remained a priority. Out of sight definitely does not equal out of mind. As a leadership team we took the decision that we would need to hear from, speak to, or see all of our children once per week. More frequently than that wasn’t practical and any less wouldn’t be acceptable. For parental engagement we use Seesaw. This was introduced by one of our SLT over the last 12 months. We’ve always been fans of it but during this pandemic it has really come into its own. Teachers in each class were asked to put activities on there for the children to give them access to online learning. We stressed that it wasn’t compulsory and that parents should not feel obliged to complete it with their child but the work was there if they wanted it. Some children do the work, some children post pictures of what they’re doing during the lockdown and others write messages to their teachers. The beauty is that we can see who has been on the app and that eliminates a large number from our self imposed safeguarding list.
During the first week we delivered Easter eggs to every single child in school. That was a mammoth task to organise by SLT as we needed 3 staff for each of our 3 mini buses. Routes needed to be planned, PPE sought and distributed and all with staff decreasing daily. We were very lucky, we had enough staff volunteering to complete this job. We also delivered food to all our families to help them adjust to not being able to get out. This gave us access to all our children and they were very happy to see staff even though it had only been a week. As time has gone on SLT continue to arrange for our families to have food if necessary and we are also continuing to help with free school meals. Not everyone has access to the Internet and therefore can’t access the vouchers.
When Friday comes around any children who have not received food, not needed to call school, not been on Seesaw or not been seen or heard from in any other way receives a call from one of our SLT. This means that every single week we have checked that all our families are safe and as well as can be.
I happen to be DSL and from my point of view I’ve been kept very busy with all the new documents. Everyone is learning as we go on this one and it’s no different for safeguarding leads. The Child Protection policy needed an addendum to take account of the new way of working and we then had to ensure everyone had read the document. Each child with an EHCP now needs a risk assessment, for us that means every child in school. As a leadership team we convened a meeting via Zoom to work out how to ensure all children had a risk assessment. This is now well underway.
Staff wellbeing.
High on the priority list for us as SLT is staff wellbeing. We always do our best to ensure the staff are happy in their work whenever possible. This current crisis means we need to keep a closer eye on our staff than usual. One of our SLT has set up a Facebook private message group for all staff and all have been encouraged to join. It isn’t used for anything official, it’s simply there for the staff to keep in touch with each other. They are loving the group. They are managing to keep each other’s spirits up and are having a laugh and a joke. They can instantly see if anyone is quiet and can be there for each other.
At the end of last week during our Zoom meeting we found that a few staff were struggling in one way or another. Thankfully, no one actually has Covid-19 but they still have other troubles to contend with. Our Head Teacher then spent his afternoon ringing those staff members to see if he could help in any way. I like that personal, caring approach and it helps all staff to feel like we are part of a large family.
At the start of the pandemic all staff were treated to bacon butties, or a sandwich of their choice for the vegetarians just to keep everyone happy. Small gestures like that go a long way towards helping staff to feel appreciated.
Planning ahead
Now that we as a leadership team have a routine in place for each week we feel a little more like we have the situation under control. On Mondays we discuss any new safeguarding issues that have arisen over the weekend and the food deliveries also go out to our families. Seesaw is constantly checked by our teachers and SLT are making phone calls as needed. The risk assessments are underway and we have SLT meetings through Zoom.
Our next task is to plan ahead. We aren’t speculating about when we will return to school at all but we do need to give it some thought. We know that children will not be able to go straight into lessons because there will be much work needed around their mental health before we can think of education. In the blink of an eye many of our children had their whole world turned upside down and they have no idea why. We will need to spend a great deal of time working through attachment issues that will have resulted from being at home for several months.
From next week we are going to start looking ahead to the new school year whenever that may be. It will happen sometime though and we want to be prepared when it comes so that we can concentrate on the children’s mental health when they return.
I’ve given a little peak into what we as a leadership team have been doing for the last few weeks. I haven’t done my colleagues justice because I know they’ve had sleepless nights with worry over what will happen for our children. My SLT friends have worked exceptionally hard throughout all of this and I’m hoping that it’s over soon so that we can relax a little.
What I know for sure is that I’ve never worked so hard and not even been in school. That said, I work within a very supportive team and that makes all the difference!

#Covid19WellbeingEdumeet: Staff Wellbeing

 

I have said this before, but never has this been more relevant; staff wellbeing needs to be values led, proactively planned for and embraced by everyone. The days before schools shutdown were incredibly stressful and upsetting for everyone in schools as the realities of what this virus might do became stark. Teachers were worried about themselves, their families and the children they teach. Schools which engage in an empathetic approach to wellbeing will have minimised the exposure their staff and children have to each other, maintain social distancing with their few remaining pupils and will also have been aware that a switch over to online and digital learning doesn’t need an online presence from 9 to 3 or beyond, but a recognition that time away from a screen is essential to the digital wellbeing of all parties.

Four weeks into the shutdown there seems to be, from certain sections of the press, a lack of awareness that schools are actually still open for our vulnerable children and the children of our key workers and that many schools have opened for some or all of the Easter ‘holiday’ including on Good Friday and Easter Monday. There has been over the last week at least one story a day in the press, including the education press, of schools reopening. Such speculation is damaging. Safe behind their laptop screens, quoting unreliable -or perhaps non-existent- sources, this standard of journalism only serves to worry teachers already struggling with their mental health in an unprecedented situation. Our staff are now facing harsh reality that members of their school community, colleagues, parents and sadly some children, are losing their lives to this high risk disease. To read that they are now potentially being sent back to face the risks that NHS Staff do on a daily basis but without adequate personal protection equipment, will send anxieties through the roof.

Perhaps the Fourth Estate needs to read what the Department of Education has tweeted: “No decision has been made on a timetable for re-opening schools. Schools remain closed until further notice, except for children of critical workers and the most vulnerable children. Schools will only re-open when the scientific advice indicates it is the right time to do so.”

History will tell the story of who kept society together in this crisis: the talkers or the doers. I would rather ‘do’ than ‘say’ as would any school leader with wellbeing as the beating heart of their school.

Journalists have papers to sell; school leaders have staff and children to keep alive. Moral high ground? No contest.

A Moment in History: how will history remember you?

Play areas, toilets and outdoor gyms closed to prevent coronavirus ...

We are living through a moment in history, an extended moment without a current end point in sight, but one nevertheless which will be marked in time as one where the wellbeing of our nation and the global community came under more strain that at any point in the previous one hundred years. This is historic not merely because of the unprecedented level of state intervention, necessary to save lives and support the NHS, but because this could be a trigger of lasting societal change, much more significant to our future than events such as the death Of Princess Diana or the 9/11 attacks caused.

Any student of history would point to two previous pandemics. The Black Death wiped out one in three of the population of the areas it reached in the late 1340s, and the inaccurately titled ‘Spanish Flu’ of 1918-20 killed anywhere between 20 and 50 million people; 100 million according to some estimates. The first changed society by its impact on feudal life, but the stories of the era were told only by the small minority of literate people. The second, most likely originating from US Army bases or the British base at Etaples, went largely unreported at the time. Wartime censorship kept it out of American, British and German press, and its poplar name is derived from the illness, recovery and subsequent humanitarian work of the Spanish King Alphonso XIII.

This is a moment in history which will be recorded by the people. The headlines will point to the fact that the heir to the British throne, the Prime Minister, Health Secretary and Chief Medical Officer for England all demonstrated that the current virus is not selective in who it strikes. YouTube statistics will show the number of hits on the work of Joe Wicks, David Walliams and the like. However the true documentation of this outbreak will lie in the social media usage of the people, in their use of the internet and the whole gamut of platforms contained therein, in the tracking of our movements on our mobile phones and in the record of our children in their online and written work that accompanies the current school closure.

So….how do you want to be remembered?

As the person who stood up to be counted, or the one that ran away to avoid facing the music?

As one who filled their timelines with empty platitudes or one who filled it with genuine offers of support for your community?

As the person who continued a pointless social media feud when quite frankly there are more important issues to consider?

As someone who took the vague outlines of initial government guidance as an opportunity to ‘push the envelope’ or one who instinctively knew that despite what you thought of this administration ‘we have got to do what they say’ because they are our government whether you voted for them or not?

As someone who is kind, compassionate and dependable?

As someone who is empathetic and recognises that we are in this as a team and that everyone in that team, whatever their role, plays a part in that team success?

As the person who punched a fellow shopper over the last packet of sausages or who recognised the despair of someone finding the situation overwhelming and stressful and offered to share?

As the school which put paramount importance on the wellbeing of your staff, children and parents?

These are unfamiliar and unusual times. The ‘new normal’ isn’t ‘normal’ and as teachers we are entering a world of distant and digital learning which is new and which we were never trained to deliver. If we recognise that overloading children and parents, and our teaching colleagues, with an overwhelming volume of digital  content and demand in the coming months (not weeks) might trigger anxiety and stress, then we are heading in the right direction. History will record how we felt about this, but history will also record that people are frightened of the unknown and the unfamiliar. We need to keep as much familiarity, normality, decency and empathy at this time….and show this.

Thank you.

Keep well.

Stay safe.

#StayHomeSaveLives

 

 

How to Build a Great Team

Healthy Toolkit are delighted to welcome our very first guest blogger, our very dear friend Maria Brosnan, co-founder of Striver, part of the 2Simple range of wellbeing resources, wellbeing coach and trainer,and a thoroughly lovely person too! Find Maria on Twitter @MariaBrosnan

* * * * * * * * * * *

An unhealthy atmosphere at school can have a dramatic impact on our personal wellbeing. A toxic culture of gossip, bullying, complaining, competing and criticising in the team can utterly drain us.

Image result for great team

What is a school’s ‘culture’? I like the simple definition that culture is just ‘behaviour over time’.

Google had been searching for years to find the secret behind a high performing team. They researched whether gender, ethnicity, education level or location made a difference. They didn’t. Eventually, after two years of research, in 2012 they found it. Psychological safety is the number one predictor of the best performing teams.

Psychological safety is where you feel safe and comfortable to speak and be heard; to be yourself.  It is knowing you have the freedom to succeed and the grace to fail.  It is a shared belief that you won’t be punished if you make a mistake.

And it’s essential for individual and team growth.

Make it Personal

Psychological safety is not nearly as complicated as it might sound. Since culture is ‘individual behaviour over time’, your behaviour counts!

Ghandi famously said ‘be the change you want to see in the world’.

Image result for gandhi be the change

So how can you contribute to ‘Psychological safety’ and building a healthy culture in your school?

The more you bring your open-heartedness to your school – your compassion, your kindness, your willingness to listen and take another person’s perspective into consideration – the more your school culture will thrive and flourish.

Your personal, positive contribution will help build trust, respect and emotional connection in your team whether you’re a Head Teacher, teacher or member of the support staff. It will help create more effective collaboration, greater engagement and improve individual wellbeing.

There’s a big ‘watch-out’ here though! Make sure you have good, clear boundaries in place. I work in schools every week and there can be a tendency to take on more responsibility than belongs to you. I’m not suggesting that at all. I am suggesting though, that as an individual you can have an enormous impact in the culture.

And the added bonus is that rather than drain you, your contribution will boost your personal wellbeing.

Try this…Triple H Activity

This is a powerful exercise used by elite sporting teams, including the Atlanta Falcons and the Richmond Tigers. Both team’s coaches identified this exercise as the most powerful tool they’d used in getting them from the bottom of the league to the top. It hinges on building psychological safety and trust.

Share the Triple H as a team. Start by reflecting on your life, consider these 3H’s and write down your answers to:

A Hero. Who has been a positive influence in your life, as you were growing up or recently? It could be someone personal like a family member, a favourite teacher or someone you don’t know personally that inspires you.

A Hardship.  What is something you’ve gone through that has been very difficult – an illness, a difficult relationship or breakup, a housing crisis, a safe guarding issue – that has had an impact on who you are today?

A Highlight. And what about a time where you’ve experienced a moment of grace, a beautiful experience, a great personal time in your life?

You could start with one or two people voluntarily sharing each week at a staff meeting. Listening to your colleagues speak about something personal can help create trust and deeper connections.

It will take courage to be the first. Will it be you?

Image result for great team

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!

Image result for 2020"