#JoyfulJulyHT: You are just awesome! Celebrate it!

Yesterday two of the Healthy Toolkit family were represented at the first Teach Well Fest, a celebration of the drive towards Wellbeing in our schools, organised by the effervescently energetic Georgia Holleran. For such a sizeable group of educators to be gathered at Vic Goddard’s Passmores Academy on one of the hottest Saturdays of the year, avoiding the twin attractions of the World Cup and Love Island is testament to the dedication to Wellbeing that our schools need. Just search #TeachWellFest and you see what we mean.

* * * * *

Life is a journey and for those of us in education we look forward to the breaks in our travel. July is upon us already and with three weeks to go for most of us in England, thoughts turn to the summer break and beyond: new challenges; new post; new direction perhaps.

This month the team at Healthy Toolkit invite you celebrate your journey be it through this past year, your whole career or through life. Tweet them, blog them, share them on  Facebook, but most of all appreciate and celebrate them.

Our experiences are what motivate and make us, engage and energise us. Maybe sometimes they may try to bend and break us, but ultimately our experiences shape us. They guide our values, they help us in choosing our friends and associates and determine the paths that our personal and professional lives take. We owe our journeys to those we love and care for. Our parents and partners have held our hands and helped along the way. We should celebrate every step of our journeys, for good or otherwise.

So let us begin with the Healthy Toolkit journey. We came together as a group through Twitter, through a shared love of healthy, homemade and sometimes homegrown food. However we soon realised that we shared much more; values to be precise. Our shared values have guided the way we have moved forward as a team and they mark not only how we work as a group, but represent what we believe are the authentic values that the most effective school leaders should be promoting.

wheel

Our concept of ‘Healthy’ has grown with us, from our initial thoughts about healthy eating and proper hydration, to healthy attitudes to colleagues, to healthy use of social media and digital interaction. We are absolutely dedicated to developing effective wellbeing not only in our own schools but in modelling it for others too. We believe that wellbeing needs to be real, hard and practical and based on genuine need because it impacts upon real people with a diverse range of strengths and abilities.

There is more to wellbeing than group hugs and motivational posters, though both have their place. Wellbeing thrives on relationships and culture. A culture of trust, equality, personal liberty and development where staff feel safe needs to be cultivated. Where culture promotes collaboration and celebration through shared values, healthy professional relationships will develop and be maintained. A culture of blame, of criticism and of sniping at the tiniest perceived affront, even down to semantics, is most unhealthy and would undermine any wellbeing initiative.

We have grown over the past two years to believe that wellbeing is for everyone, led by everyone, for the benefit of everyone.

In a few sentences, this sums up Healthy Toolkit. We have grown, bonded, laughed and cried together  and have become genuine friends.

Image result for journey with friends quotes

That’s our journey. What’s yours?

Please let us hear how you have grown in life, in your teaching career or in recent months. Twitter is the best way to share. Use the hashtags #JoyfulJulyHT and #SayYes2Wellbeing and to promote the influential Twitter friends you have made use #FFInspirational and tag in those educators who have truly inspired your journey.

You are all awesome!

Image result for journey quotes

Advertisements

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.

Image result for teachers leaving profession

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.

Call it out!

Image result for call it out

A fortnight ago our blog ‘Man Up!’  https://healthyteachertoolkit.wordpress.com/2017/10/21/man-up-men-need-to-stand-up-and-challenge-sexism/ urged men to stand up to sexism in our staffrooms and to challenge those who blocked the careers of women over gender, maternity or simple minded prejudice. It also called for men to set an example to the young men in their classes with regard to healthy and positive relationships with women. Since then events at Westminster suggest a number of our male politicians need to heed this message too.

We were perturbed however this weekend to hear that on EduTwitter there had been sexual harassment of female teachers via tweets and DM. Whilst details are scant it would appear to relate to suggestive comments and more seriously the sending of images of male genitalia.

This issue needs addressing. It would appear that more than one man is involved and that it may have taken place over a long period. Whilst we should not speculate about those involved, this being a matter for the law, there are valid points to raise now, especially if you are a perpetrator of these acts and are reading this on the phone or computer from which the offending material was sent.

You are men. You are men in a responsible position. Maybe leading a school or department, maybe a consultant. You have responsibility for safeguarding. Maybe you have thousands of followers and that gives you a sense of entitlement. If you’re reading this, here’s news for you. You have zero entitlement.

You are an embarrassment to your gender; our gender.

You are a threat to our daughters, our wives or girlfriends, our sisters and mothers and to our female friends and colleagues. You are a threat to men too: men can also receive such vile communication, but also you are potentially sowing the thought ‘Is this new follower a potential offender?‘ in the minds of those who have received such repugnant treatment or who may be feeling vulnerable.

You are predators, seizing on what you perceive as a vulnerability or weakness. Your conduct revolts, disgusts, turns the stomach. How in a thousand years could you consider this normal, acceptable or likely to succeed?

You should be hanging your head in shame not massaging your ego. If you defend such behaviour  in others you are equally to blame. You have no place on Twitter and no place in teaching.

The good men out there: let’s have some affirmative action. ‘Call it out’ if you see it or hear it. Challenge it, report it. We stand with WomenEd – “We’re just not going to tolerate it.” If anyone behaves inappropriately report to Twitter. Block them.

Signed: the decent men of EduTwitter.