#JukeboxJuneHT: Remixed

Too busy to blog and tweet? Not surprising given that it is exam season, report writing time and the period in which many of us are packing our classrooms for ventures new.

As it is such a busy time, let’s take pleasure in the simplest of things: music. Jukebox June returns.

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“How soon is now?” asked one Steven Patrick Morrissey.

“Not soon enough!” reply all those teachers with report and exam marking deadlines looming.

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Unless you are in a school which has moved the bulk of written report writing to another point of the year, we can’t do much about the deadlines apart from ensure they are met. Public examinations and end of year testing are at this point of the year because it has always been the case!

If you have been following the  #MindfulMayHT and #SayYes2Wellbeing hashtags, we hope you have found some useful advice and support which schools can embrace to support colleagues at this pressured time and which individuals can adopt to aid their focus and boost their self-confidence.

This month’s hashtag recognises the workload, so we ask only that you think of music!

Primary schools will often play music as the children enter assembly or as they come to class in the the morning. It is intended to be calming and sets the mood for the day and activities ahead.

Music, and singing in particular, can be unifying, team building and at the heart of a community. Do you include your parents in the songs in celebration assemblies?

Music can be regarded as healing; a couple of links with more expert opinion are http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-22553467 and http://jamesclear.com/music-therapy.

This June we ask you to do no more than select some great tunes. Do they inspire or relax? Do they play in the background as you mark or do they blast through the car stereo on the way home? Do you ‘air grab’ or are you more of an air guitar person? Do you belt out ‘Nessun Dorma’ at the traffic lights?

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It makes a difference if you want it to make a difference! Music can inspire, motivate, unite and build. Just look at the communal singing of ‘Don’t Look Back In Anger’ in response to the events in Manchester.

If you join in this month, add the hashtag #JukeboxJuneHT and  add the link your tune using YouTube or whichever other music sharing site you use.

Trad or Prog? Jazz or Rock?

Mozart or Motorhead?

Stone Roses or Guns’n’Roses?

It doesn’t matter! Nobody judges you by your musical tastes.

We look forward to hearing your tunes. Let’s cheer up The Smiths!

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Wasted investment? Why do so many teachers leave the profession in the first 5 years?

Published originally by one of our team in March 2013, some three and a half years before Healthy Toolkit was forged and before workload and wellbeing were in our regular lexicon. Revisiting this piece has revealed that the concerns of five years ago haven’t  been addressed.

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The BBC recently reported that there are a growing number of teachers leaving the profession.  http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-20585457  Likewise The Guardian added that half of newly qualified teachers leave teaching within the first five years.  

Clearly this is a matter of great concern: to schools; to the teaching profession as a whole; indeed to the nation too, because if we can’t staff our schools with good, qualified teachers, what hope do we offer our children.

Why do so many teachers leave the profession so quickly? There is no single obvious answer to this question, but there are a range of aspects to consider.

Let’s take the obvious one first. The current Secretary of State for Education is likely to be judged historically as the most destructive force ever in the state educational sector, particularly if the Government is unseated in 2015 and if we have an extended period of non-Conservative administrations following that. Even simply undoing what has happened so far will reach far into the life of any new Government. His PR standing among the teaching profession is not terribly high, but anyone who witnessed his recent appearance on Question Time would be put off entering the profession. Here he said that he did listen carefully to teachers, but if you analyse his words closely, he actually meant that he listened only to those who agreed with him. It is true that selective soundbites from Michael Gove and other ministers, could be used to their detriment, but the overall message emanating from both is highly negative towards teachers as a whole. 

It is too simplistic to simply lay the blame at the doors of Gove; he has after all been in office for less than three years, and the exit of teachers predates the 2010 election, albeit a recently accelerated process. Constantly shifting ‘goalposts’, diktats about what is ‘good teaching’, changes to curriculum and the National Strategies, and a small rainforest of files, papers, guidance and suggestions poured forth from the Department under Labour, producing a range of mixed messages particularly for new teachers: was it compulsory or a good idea, or something that brought derision from others when it was brought back to school. I have seen many a young teacher confused by this volume of material. It is the younger minds in teaching that often bring the more progressive and creative thinking to the profession. For them to be turned off, and turned out, is going to leave a gap in the balance of professionals in schools.

Many complain of a culture of bullying in schools. This can take a variety of forms but it seems to be a current issue,certainly looking at the Twitter traffic, in making judgements on teaching for Performance Management . These judgements are not easy to make, and many teachers find they are down a grade from previously. How, I do not know, because surely with feedback from an observation a reasonable teacher would at least consolidate if not improve. I do know that a number of ‘tweachers’ feel they have been very harshly judged, and with futures and salaries potentially in the balance, some people will surely wonder why they should put up with such pressures. This does of course depend on the culture within a school. Isolated incidents can be referred elsewhere in schools with good support networks. If the culture emanates from aggressive management however, there would be genuine fear.

I have heard an apocryphal  tale of a male NQT who lived close to his school being pressurised to take on caretaking duties when the site manager took long term sick. The time pressures of this soon spelled the end of a promising career.
Bullying can take different forms, even in matters that some might consider petty. I have heard of schools with a highly specific dress code, with disciplinary action if staff broke this. Most schools have a dress code, but this was an example of sartorial fascism! Petty it may seem, but if Senior Leaders are on the backs of staff for matters not related to teaching, it builds on the pressure of a job where levels of anxiety are heightened as a matter of course.

Bullying exists in all workplaces, and often appears on the social media too. Tweachers enjoy a healthy debate on professional matters on Twitter, but dissent can be quick to descend. Any new or inexperienced teacher facing this may feel intimidated under this barrage. We can’t agree on everything, but Twitter is an effective communal voice for the teaching profession. 

Good induction in schools, and a support network for NQTs, can aid the process of professional development, but some young graduates come to the employment market and to teacher training believing the world owes them a living. Without reverting to a cry of ‘Thatcher’s Children!’ or ‘Blair’s Britain’ it can be said that the change in the political climate since the 1980s towards an emphasis on the individual prioritising working for her/himself as opposed to the greater good of society has impacted on the expectations of the younger generation, in an almost mirror image of JFK’s inauguration speech. A good student teacher is worth their weight in gold, a poor one is a burden on the school they are in. I have sadly seen students drop out during a placement because they didn’t really appreciate the pressures of their task.
Finally, teachers drop out because they don’t always feel appreciated. ‘Thank you’ costs nothing and whether it comes in assembly, in a staff meeting or in passing in the corridor, it means a lot. A lack of recognition, or seizing on the negative despite a wealth of positives, can be a real downer for teachers. For hardened old hacks this might be water off a ducks back, but for less experienced teachers this could tip the balance to them taking another direction in their working life. A plate of cakes at the end of term or after an inspection may not seem much, but every little counts!
I am sure there are many more reasons for the teacher drop out rate, and fellow bloggers no doubt go into more coherently argued cases, but given that it takes three or four years of training and tens of thousands of pounds of public investment for each individual, serious attention needs to be paid to this issue to stem the tide.

Five years on little has changed. Gove has gone from Education but the prediction of the fall of the Conservatives never materialised.

Some thoughts on SATS

Is it coincidental or ironic that Key Stage 2 SATS this week coincides with Mental Health Awareness Week? With concerns for the impact of high stakes testing being raised in 2016 but also last year and again in this assessment cycle with parents expressing their worries so much as to suggest a boycott of this year’s tests.

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Take a scroll through Twitter or Facebook today: search Key Stage 2 SATS and/or Mental Health. Though social media provides a vent for frustrations it is also a powerful tool for the expression of genuine concern. Just this morning we have seen ‘homework’ for Year 6 children being set along the lines of ‘eat an ice-cream/go trampolining/swim half a dozen lengths/don’t injure your writing hand’; which begs the question of what the content of the other homework every weekend since Christmas have consisted of.

We heard last week of schools where the Year 6 children, possibly with parental support or maybe without, protesting to their Headteachers about the pressure of SATS preparation and the failure to have a broad curriculum, missing the opportunities for art, music and design that for many of our children will be their area of strength. We should be providing breadth and balance as a legal requirement and because it will hopefully lead to children with a broad range of interests and talents. Whether you believe in a knowledge led or a skills led curriculum, neither are best served by a regime dependent upon sitting test after test as preparation for ‘the real thing’. Mathematics and reading are life skills, something in danger of disappearing in the reams of paper copies of past papers spilling from the photocopiers of our primary schools.

Let us not forget we are addressing our comments and teaching a curriculum (or not teaching some of it until June) to children in their final year of primary school, nearly one-third of whom will still be 10 years old when they take SATS. Many of them will have had the talk that ‘these tests are important’. Some Heads and Year 6 staff may be transparent enough to admit that the results are important for the school and how it is judged. The children may also have been told that their results will be used by their secondaries to group them and predict targets for GCSE. When we were 10 and 11, the age 16 seemed long distance and the implications for our futures  of confusing area and perimeter and not identifying a relative pronoun passed us by.

To label a child as a success or otherwise at the age of only 10 is surely going to impact upon the mental health of their young minds, regardless of the degree of resilience and self-confidence they may have. High stakes testing is exacting for both children and teachers. The picture under ‘life without levels’ has barely been a focused one, particularly given the perpetual confusion and mixed messages surrounding the frameworks for writing. Schools being honest or cautious are prone to being identified as under performing, schools with a more liberal interpretation of the frameworks, free of the yoke of moderation,  may find their writing scores considerably higher than their reading test scores.

In the week where a further £50 million has been found for grammar school places, at a time where some schools are cutting paper budgets and make glue sticks last a term, it is worth remembering that many of these additional places will be filled, if they materialise, by children who have been afforded the luxury of a private tutor or a tutoring business to guide them through the 11+. Grammar schools in the days of levels were suddenly finding they had children reaching them will Level 3, where realistically they needed to be admitting children with Level 5 or higher. Under our current regime ideally the grammars should be full of ‘Greater Depth’ children but we know that there will be many ‘Working Towards’ children arriving in September. SENDCOs in grammar schools may be finding their registers more full and with a more diverse range of general learning needs to address than previously.

We don’t want to suggest that measures of accountability be removed for Primary Schools, but here is a suggestion. Sit the SATS in November/December of Year 6. Don’t permit cramming, test overload or the stripping back of the curriculum. This will require some careful monitoring by schools and local leadership, particularly through Year 5 and the early Autumn of Year 6. Tie the whole process in to the secondary school application cycle so the secondaries know the scaled scores when places are offered to their new intake. Of greater importance though is taking the pressure from Year 6 and their teachers. Let them have that time from Christmas onwards to develop a really deep and meaningful curriculum experience and to be really prepared mentally for that transition.

The care mental health of our children and of our teachers needs such radical thinking.

#MindfulMayHT: Rebooted and Refreshed.

Is May the most pressured time in UK schools?

Deadlines, assessments, reports and of course the high stakes test of SATS, GCSE and A-Level. Who is more stressed? Teachers or pupils?

It is a year since we launched #MindfulMayHT and the original blog discussed the benefits of being mindful:

“The benefits of being mindful are many fold. In a role which by its very nature is pressured, stressful, increasingly target driven, it is easy to lose sight of our personal priorities and of those of our loved ones. Poor sleep patterns, irregular mealtimes, lack of exercise and failure to remain hydrated may all result from work-life imbalance. Being self-aware is a challenge and often we are more aware of the needs of others than we are of our personal needs.”

Fuller details can be found in the original post; however these include for self-care

  • Electronic shut down, digital detox, phone free Friday.
  • Mindful eating.
  • Other eating habits to consider include alcohol free times, avoiding caffeine after a particular watershed, avoiding processed foods and keeping hydrated.
  • Have you considered meditation?
  • Live for now!

A mindful attitude also supports a team ethos, particularly for School Leaders:

  • Trust your teachers.
  • Don’t spring any surprises!
  • Be aware of who isn’t coming to the staffroom at lunch and breaks.
  • Consider your email times. A Headteacher and an education journalist had an lively discussion on this topic this week. Also consider email etiquette; please and thank you, basic good manners, goes a long way.
  • Ultimately your staff need calm, safe and secure space to work. Your good intentions must be concrete not abstract.

For everyone:

  • Appreciate boundaries.
  • Appreciate the sensitivities of others.
  • Think before you post.
  • Have you ever tried a random act of kindness?

Small things: big difference. As that great philosopher says:

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One member of the Healthy Toolkit family speaks with great authority on mindfulness and the #MindfulMayChallenge Week 1 post can be found here.

If you haven’t read Tammie’s work, she is an authority on the use of mindfulness in school and she is in print: here is a handy Amazon link.

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Mindfulness isn’t for everyone, but for those who engage deeply, the impact is appreciable. Please share your experiences on Twitter with the hashtags #MindfulMayHT and #MindfulMayChallenge

 

#AwarenessAprilHT: Rebooted, revised and refreshed.

It is a year since our original April blog was posted, and our opening salvo was on the theme of self-awareness and considering the impact of our actions, words and attitudes upon others in the staffroom and through our classrooms.

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Let us move from education to sport for a moment. Even non-cricket fans will have been aware of the ball tampering scandal in Test cricket this week. The actions of the Australian team were disgraceful and an embarrassment to a nation proud of its sport. The punishments dealt out by Cricket Australia were hard and in excess of what the ICC had imposed. Viewing the press conferences that the players and head coach endured may suggest to some that they have been hung out to dry. They have come clean quickly though it would appear that one person has a few more questions to answer than others. All though have demonstrated a degree of self-awareness of their actions, something which Lance Armstrong failed to do for years.

The sight of Steve Smith in tears, supported by his father, should make Cricket Australia aware of the needs of their player. Crocodile tears? Or raw emotion? We believe the latter. Possibly in a situation over which he lost or never had control,Smith admitted wrongdoing immediately. He has accepted his role and his punishment. There it should end. He is 25 years old, and the best batsman in the world. He now needs the support of his family and the cricket authorities to rehabilitate himself.

David Warner has received a less lenient response on social media, possibly due to his previous reputation and also his previous actions including the mocking of Jonathon Trott for a stress related condition. As we said last year:

“Mental health is a good starting point, because it one of those great ‘invisible’ issues and one which is often taboo in conversation. As a topic, its extent is often denied and sometimes subject to furious debate. To use the terms ‘mentally ill’, ‘mad’ or ‘insane’ as an insult or criticism actually demonstrates an ignorance of what mental health is. These are also terms which so-called informed people should not be making use of.”

Even Warner though, despite previous actions, is entitled to the same support and fair treatment as the others. To take the discussion back to our sphere, if a child is sanctioned for a breach of rules they receive one punishment. We don’t return to an indiscretion time and time again. Likewise with our teaching colleagues, one mistake, one poor lesson, one ill-thought email; these should not ever be used to continue to taint their reputation.

Mental health is ‘invisible’ and as part of our awareness of it we need to be able to talk. We have been promoting our #TeaAndTalk initiative here and the leaflet for it is available online here thanks to our good friend Sam at Schoolwell.

Let us be aware of mental wellbeing but also consider other ‘invisibles’; as we said last year:

“Autism, ASD, ADHD are ‘invisible’ disabilities. If anyone is judgemental they tend to be so based upon the outward indicators rather than actually be fully aware of such conditions. Dyslexia is another such ‘invisible’ condition. Who remembers the days of it being described as ‘word blindness’? Dig a little deeper and you will understand that it is more than a visual issue and there are more challenges than finding reading and spelling difficult; personal organisation and task completion may be more difficult, but it doesn’t impact intelligence or innate ability. If we have colleagues who are dyslexic, awareness and understanding are essential for their wellbeing.”

Through the month our tweets will be promoting awareness of issues that are often dismissed, used as a label or sometimes an insult, but most often misunderstood.

“Also this month we would urge our readers to be self-aware and to consider their own words, actions and opinions. Sometimes you might just be wrong! It is so easy and instant to be critical, to hide behind a keyboard or tap into your phone and be immediately dismissive, negative and cynical, or to simply react by blocking which is effectively a form of censorship. As teachers we promote tolerance and respect of the opinions of others so be aware of what others may think.”

Be aware of others but also be aware of your own wellbeing, because ultimately this will impact on the wellbeing of our colleagues and of the children in your school.

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More importantly use this fortnight, whenever yours begins, to recharge, reflect and rebuild.

Tea and Talk: The best CPD in life is free

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#TeaAndTalk began as a blog post which you can find here but this week we roll it out for real.

Words are our strongest weapon.Used harshly they wound and demoralise; used positively your words can lift, inspire, drive and impassion your colleagues. A well crafted phrase can make someone’s day wheras an ill-chosen sentence or unconsidered overreaction may trigger anxiety or self-doubt.

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When was the last time you talked to your colleagues?

Not a passing ‘Good Morning’, ‘How was your weekend?’ or ‘How’s the dog?’

Not a quick natter over coffee at break time, when minds are on the next lesson, whether we should be on duty or if the PowerPoint saved on your USB last night.

Do you know your staff? Really know them? What makes them tick, what pushes their buttons, what worries from life outside they carry with them all day? Does the culture of your school encourage staff to come to the staffroom at break and lunch or are they squirrelled away in their room? Are they working or hiding?

  • Are the only conversations in your school about learning, targets, behaviour and appraisal?
  • Do staff feel they are only ever ‘talked at’ rather than ‘talked to’ by leaders and their colleagues?Image result for teacher teacup

We are not, as a profession, retaining our staff nor recruiting enough. Whilst funding and governmental interventions are beyond our control, the way we look after our staff is not. The loud and complaining voice in the staffroom may drag down the mood, but what is behind this? The quiet teacher who barely interacts with anyone; solidly professional or frightened and anxious? We will never know if we don’t talk.

There is increasing stress on teachers and support staff. If we are seriously going to address the mental health issues of our professionals, a channel to voice their concerns to colleagues is vital. This is the thinking behind #TeaAndTalk. It won’t solve everything, nor will it be an overnight success. It is however about the twin supports of relationships and culture and of developing both

Hosting #TeaAndTalk is easy.

It is up to the school when you host it: it could last all year; be every term; every month; every week.

It can be hosted by a Head, SLT, governors, teachers or teaching assistants.

It can be on a one-to-one basis or in a small group.

Ban the biros, hide the highlighters, lose the lined paper: this is time set aside for talking and listening. Not ‘talking at’ but ‘talking to’, promoting Wellbeing and Mental Health.

We have produced a leaflet and poster which can be shared in your staffroom. Please see our tweets or send us an email address and we can send it on to you.

#Tea&Talk is about bringing people together over the best drink of the day.

#MagnifyMarchHT: Redrafted, rebooted and refreshed

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Another month dawns, and hot on the heels of #ForteFebruaryHT comes #MagnifyMarchHT. It is a year since the publication of the original post and it follows in the footsteps of February in celebrating what we do well, but standing in the face of drains on positivity. We may be in the grip of the Beast from the East but we are also mere weeks from St Patrick’s Day, Easter and … the Summer Term!!

“Negativity comes easily to many. It is quick, simple and painless to deliver. A put down, a gesture, an ill-considered text or tweet; they fuel the ego but hurt the recipient. Negativity about ourselves comes equally easily. When we are negative about ourselves we don’t fuel egos but we can drag ourselves down.”

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One of the keys to successful wellbeing in our schools is growing a culture in which positivity thrives and where negativity is starved of oxygen. Disagreement and discussion do not represent negativity, but being set in ones ways and being determinedly inflexible does. Positive thoughts and comments can impact the mood of a whole staff in a way that can genuinely make someone feel good about themselves. However this does need to be authentic and reflect the integrity of the person delivering it. We all recognise the stilted communal praise that might come at the end of a term largely punctuated with criticism and may question the authenticity of it. Consider the difference that an aside, a note, card or even a simple gift can make. It becomes personal, real and memorable.

“Teachers are sadly very good at being negative about themselves and it is easy to see why. Teaching can be a lonely task at times. If you have had a tough day and it comes to 3.30 on a cold, damp and darkening winter afternoon, the children have gone and you might be alone with only a pile of books and your own melancholy to keep you company. We tend to be very self -critical as a profession and if we don’t self-manage workload or deadlines we can add to this.”

Be aware of what you and what others do well.

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In magnifying the achievements of our staff, school leaders need to know that by identifying success and raising its profile we can boost the confidence and self image of our colleagues. Authenticity is important here. Finding one nugget in a poor lesson shouldn’t divert from the priority of challenging the quality of teaching, but it may be a way into developing that teacher’s skillset. In a wider context, ‘thank you’ and ‘well done’ cost nothing, are polite, demonstrate good human values and they become habit forming. Creating and maintaining this positive culture in the school will show everyone is equally valued and encourage them to be positive about their own successes.

Magnify our own successes: find a positive in day and praise yourself for it. Even better find five or ten different things that went well, note them and refer back to them at the end of the week, month or year. Tweet it or blog it but not to the point of inflating your ego; we can all teach well, but we all do it in our way. Magnify your core rather than your ego because your core spirit and values, as well as our physical core, upholds you as an individual.

Share successes: displays, progress, small or larger steps in learning. Share what you do outside too: climbing; baking; fitness. If it’s important to you, make it count and be proud of it.

If we are authentic in our praise of others then we can be genuine in reflecting upon our own successes. In a successful team, a diverse range of talents makes the collective whole run smoothly. You might be the creative one, the philosophical one, the practical one or the organised one. Recognise yourself for what you do well as well as acknowledge the role of others.

Be you. Be brave. Be fabulous. Be kind. Be grounded. Be real. Be authentic. Be ordinary. Be extraordinary.

Just be…..

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Oh The Weather Outside Is Frightful

The tabloid press churn out ‘The Beast from the East’ once more, gritting lorries are prepared for the 3am shift and through the length of the nation thousands of Headteachers look anxiously at the forecast and at the leaden skies and pray that the creaking boiler holds out at least until the end of the budget year. Meanwhile children await the ping on their parents’ phones that the school is closed and the mythical ‘Snow Day’ at last becomes a reality.

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However, where does that leave our teachers, teaching assistants and other staff? Whilst the idea of a snow day and an unexpected day out will be celebrated for many, for others it is a time of dread and anxiety.

During the last few mild winters closures have been rare in the South East of England, though earlier this winter closures hit the Midlands, the North of England and Scotland. A glance through teacher social media reveals a range of school responses; some close completely whilst others remain open for staff.

This is where stresses and anxieties can be heightened. Are you in a school where there is an expectation that staff must make every effort to arrive, regardless of weather conditions? Closures are usually there for the safety of the children, but how about the safety of the staff? In one of our former schools we once had two members of staff lose control of their cars on the same day on  same patch of black ice mere yards from the school. Both were written off. Both staff had been asked to come to school because they lived nearby, though not close enough to walk.

Then we have the ‘work from home’ expectation. In another case we have been made aware of, one member of staff had a day’s pay docked being snowed into the village where they lived, yet another on SLT escaped without penalty. In this case the snow was unexpected and the class teacher had not taken work home the previous day. We have seen more arguments over snow closures than many other school issues.

Freezing weather brings other concerns too. Chionophobia is the extreme dislike or fear of snow. The word originates from Greek chion meaning snow and phobos meaning fear, aversion or dread. It is a real fear, often with causes going back to childhood memories of being injured by an icy snowball or a hard fall on a slippery surface. Driving on untreated roads can heighten this anxiety.

Snow is a political ‘hot potato’ in school and something for school leaders to be aware of particularly in regard to the mental wellbeing of our staff. While a time of great joy, exploration and an opportunity to see if the skeleton bob is for you for others it is an occasion of fear, stress and anxiety, particularly with the pressure to come to school or work from home.

Good leadership will already have considered alternatives for this week, rearranging meetings, trips, plays or assemblies, for the safety and mental wellbeing of their staff. An unhindered week is not a realistic expectation.

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Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!

The Secret to a Happy Relationship

Image result for happy relationshipWhat state are your relationships in? The plural is deliberate because our relationships define us. The relationship with our ‘special one’ may well be at the core of our personal happiness, but so too are the relationships we have with our family and children. Is this practice in your relationships mirrored in how you relate to your colleagues and your pupils?  As we wrote here schools thrive on positive 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.”

There is no secret to a happy relationship but there are a values and features of romantic and family relationships that apply equally to the professional relationship we have with our colleagues, students and parents and to promoting a positive school culture.

Do all of these feature in your relationships both in and out of school?

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.

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.

Laughter: lots of it. Usually with each other, sometimes at each other.

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#ForteFebruaryHT: Rebooted and refreshed. Stronger; not louder.

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As we said a year ago putting aside the two syllable ‘forte’ meaning ‘loud’ for the single syllable ‘forte’ meaning ‘strength’ or ‘talent’ is a measure of mindset and attitude over ego and a lack of awareness.

#ForteFebruaryHT recognises talents and strengths, rather than volume and intensity, and is our opportunity to celebrate our own abilities and gifts as well as those of others. Here we revisit our key aspects from a year ago and bring some new suggestions to support self-care and promote wellbeing through a principled approach.

“Good job applications balance the ‘I’ with the ‘we’ particularly where a team environment is required, as we are in teaching. It is a skill to draw upon one’s own strengths without sounding self-centred. If we consider self-confidence though, and the positive approach we encouraged through #JoyfulJanuaryHT , then we are able to recognise the strengths we have by picking the positives from each day.”

Let us consider resilience. For those of you lucky enough to be able to deal with any challenge, difficulty or unexpected drama without betraying a hint of distress, there will be colleagues who will find each of these a stressful or worrying experience. How might we boost their resilience or self-confidence this month?

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As detailed here a key point of entry to unlocking resilience is to enable your staff to recognise their emotions, talk about their triggers and make it not just acceptable but good practice to seek advice and support. We have all been in the situation where we ‘didn’t know’ and, truth be told, we are probably in such a position more often than we might admit. Similarly, connecting with our core values, being authentic and relating these to our goals and ambitions can give a channel to our resilience and a measurable target.

“Sometimes however our colleagues and friends will need a confidence boost, not because they are down but because their natural demeanour isn’t one that exudes or promotes what they are good at. They may be the strong but silent type. The power of a ‘thank you’ or a smile can transform a day. Little asides recognise gifts and can give a timely boost to resilience: ‘What a great display!’; ‘I really admired the way you dealt with that situation!’; ‘Thank you for standing up for me!’. Don’t forget there are many qualities that go unrecognised or unacknowledged; when was the last time you told a colleague what a great parent they were, how grateful their partner must be to have them or what an example they set through their conduct.”

In short, do you know your colleagues? Really know them? If you aren’t doing so already we really recommend our ‘Tea and Talk’ initiative as a means of starting conversations that are meaningful, productive and supportive. A professional conversation that isn’t about data or pedagogy; try it, you may just learn something.

Valentine’s Day is on the 14th and whilst an ideal opportunity to show the special person in your life just how much they mean to you, it also gives us the opportunity to consider ‘love’ in its broadest context. As a value, love is more than attraction and fondness: it embraces respect, kindness, friendship, understanding, tolerance and sincerity. The spirit of love means that others aren’t belittled or excluded, but are given a boost to their confidence and truly valued.

“This month we ask you to recognise and acknowledge strength and talent and to share it using our #ForteFebruaryHT hashtag. Recognise others for their talents and tell them. Remember that talent might be on the sporting field or the stage, but equally that talent might be through a kind word, a welcome hug or simply through the confidence that this person is there for you.”

To promote your own talent without showing off is a challenge. We all, however, have inner strength to celebrate. Self-esteem, resilience, strength of character and a positive sense of self is something to promote and be proud of.

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On the 28th February let us all tweet just one great thing about ourselves, but use the first 27 days to build our resilience and recognise the talents of others.

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There is much more content to come this month and as in our previous themed months we are looking for you to share how you have been promoting strength and talent in your setting. Don’t forget the hashtag #ForteFebruaryHT.