Twitter Bullying: Further Reflections

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It has been little over a week since we posted this blog on the subject of bullying on social media in the world of EduTwitter. https://healthyteachertoolkit.wordpress.com/2016/11/13/how-does-the-use-of-social-media-impact-on-wellbeing/

Thank you to everyone who responded so positively to the blog by liking, retweeting, and commenting through your tweets about how important that this was said and how much food for thought this provided.

It would appear though that the individuals who really needed to be reading and acting upon the advice have failed to take heed of what was written. In the last eight days we have witnessed an inflammatory tweet aimed at one phase from another with a random and entirely unjustified comment. This is little short of mischief-making and it resulted in a stream of outrage from the offended phase.

We have witnessed an angry exchange of words about the use of Minecraft to support coding in the computing curriculum. It works for some schools and does so very effectively, appealing to an aspect of popular culture as a learning hook; how dare you criticise those who use it because it doesn’t fit your Utopian model of learning.

There have been fearsome words about behaviour and inclusion, again stemming from one tweet by a familiar antagonist. Yet again a particular school, which has more than its fair share of attention in social and printed media while the rest of us get on with the business of teaching and learning without a fuss, has again been at the centre of a tweet storm of contradictory opinions as to its values, merits or otherwise.

Most worrying of all was a blog naming and shaming one tweeter followed by an exchange of the most unprofessional, scathing and unapologetic nature. If this was conducted in a staffroom somebody would be looking at the sharp end of a disciplinary and possibly on the look out for another job, if not career.

Twitter reactions from the more level headed people have revealed their shock and horror at such comments and the intimiatory and arrogant nature of those trying to dominate the discourse.

We need not repeat the message of our previous blog: it is rather obvious. We would urge the majority who don’t indulge in petty mind games, self-promotion or egomania to share the message below.

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How does the use of social media impact on wellbeing?

Social Media really is a wonderful tool for communication allowing people to connect with old friends and new acquaintances; to share interests, ideas and ideas through networks and virtual communities; to express and share opinions; as a tool to market products, blogs and concepts.

Twitter is a favourite platform for many. The 140 character limit is ideal for those able to choose their words carefully and thoughtfully. Campaigners, cat lovers, foodies, would-be authors and lovers of subtitled dramas on BBC4 all have a gathering point to interact and build relationships with like-minded souls. Twitter has also been a focal point for teachers too, in a world called EduTwitter by many. It enables connections to be built with professionals in other sectors, authorities, phases and subjects. For those in more insular local authorities, Twitter has opened up pathways to CPD and career opportunities. Professional ‘chats’, of which there are several, allow for open questioning and for ideas to be bounced around. As a tool for debunking ‘myths’ about OFSTED, Twitter is invaluable. Many training institutions have recognised how useful Twitter is, and recommended trainee teachers to access the platform.

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There is however a darker side to social media. Tom Daley faced a barrage of abuse at the London and Rio Olympics over his performance, his sexuality and his public image. A number women campaigners were threatened with sexual violence over the campaign to feature British women on banknotes. Away from the world of celebrity and politics, social media can also be used to stalk  the movements of others, perhaps by an embittered ex-colleague or former romantic partner; it may be used to ‘spy’ on potential employees; it can sadly be used as a form of harassment, ‘cyberbullying’ and ‘trolling’ being additions to our lexicon in this digital era.

These are extremes of course, resulting in criminal charges and convictions in many cases. Can we just stop though for a moment and consider the impact on those who were targeted. Caroline Criado-Perez took the ‘I will not be silenced’ approach; Stephen Fry, a vocal campaigner on mental health issues, seriously considered closing his Twitter account at one point; Sara Payne, who lost her daughter to a paedophile, Zelda Williams, daughter of Robin Williams, and Jane Goldman, wife of Jonathan Ross, all left Twitter because of the abuse they had received. In some cases these were a reaction to a single tweet generating a mob mentality. The mental wellbeing of these people afterwards is something only they and their loved ones will really know.

Let us digress for a moment. There is a strategy employed often in a recruitment exercise where after a day of interviews, activities and dinner, the candidates are left in a bar, or invited to go into town, and told to relax and enjoy themselves. However they are all being observed and as tongues and inhibitions loosen, the results are revealing. True personalities are revealed; unreasonable, unsociable and anti-social behaviours become apparent; degrees of self-control and self-regulation are there for all to see. To many potential employers, this is the most useful part of recruitment.

The relevance of this to this blog? Throw a topic into the EduTwitter ring and look what happens. The response may often be unpleasant. Last week we blogged on Wellbeing in schools and how it should be promoted in schools. As Twitter is increasingly part of the education landscape it should be promoted and protected in this media too.

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Social media invites the expression of opinion. The nature of opinion means that someone will have a contrary belief. The character limit of Twitter means that one tweet may not be enough to  develop, justify or express the opinion of the Tweeter in full.

One tweet however may result in the virtual equivalent of being thrown into the bear pit. A recent example of Pokemon being used in the classroom was vilified, demonised and shredded. Why? Because it didn’t suit you? Because you are such a magnificent teacher that you know better? The person who shared it used it in their class. It may or may not have worked. Does it matter to you? Are you their line manager, tutor, mentor or performance manager?

Some topics provoke discussion. Phonics being one. Phonics has to be taught systematically in the primary phase, not only for the screening test but as part of the basis of reading. The phonics discussion rears its head often but it frequently comes down to tweets of an aggressive tone, often from teachers in phases or subjects where phonic teaching would have been several years back in the child’s history. The tone may feature a whole sequence of tweets often rubbishing the opinion of the other participant. It is not uncommon for a discussion to last for hours or sometimes a couple of days. Too much time on one’s hands? Does the use of ‘big words’ make you morally superior? Think also about how wearing that is for the recipient.

The role and position of women in education; mental health of children; the nature of SEND and diagnoses; behaviour strategies. All produce reactions and discussions which can at times be unpleasant.

Holidays often result in fierce and unpleasant argument. ‘The nasty half term’ was the terminology applied recently. An inflammatory tweet however may  cause individuals or groups to defend their phase, style or subject resulting in more fuel being added to the fire.

Those who butt into a discussion, particularly if they have a large following, do so in part because they know that the tweet then reaches a wider audience. The potential audience to view any reaction then expands to invite other intimidatory additions, belittling the original contributor. Semantics often feature in the tactics of the more negative users, often as a justification for their actions. Tweets however can be ‘shouty’, ‘loud’ or ‘aggressive’ in tone. Just look at the context.

Teacher blogs can be extremely useful reference points to share good practice, ideas that have suited the context of one school, strategies for behaviour and leadership. If we like a blog and what it contains, ‘like’ and ‘retweet’ are employed to share the resource. There are blogs that we may not agree with, in which case don’t respond. There are occasions when blogs are shared, or ‘filed’,  with a derogatory,  sneering comment. If the Twitter handle of the blogger isn’t used, then it can result in the Twitter equivalent of laughing behind one’s back. A blog is an opinion piece, not a PhD thesis. It isn’t there to be marked, mocked or hung out to dry.

Blocking is an interesting strategy employed by some. If someone is sexually or racially offensive then ‘block’ may be a tool to use. A number of teachers however have realised they are blocked for no obvious reason and without any interaction with the blocker. Blocking then becomes a form of censorship as you then stop somebody reading what you have to say. What are you hiding? Are you so important, such a talented teacher that the blockee doesn’t deserve the right to even see what you have to say? Do you then complain you have been blocked yourself? Use of a pseudonym account to look at the tweets of those who have blocked you, only to then comment on the primary account, is underhand. Arrogance and ego are unpleasant human characteristics. Trump; Brexit; the England football squad: all produce a strong response on social media but are these enough to block someone over? If a Tweeter’s words annoy you, unfollow then or mute them.

A further interesting tactic is the building up of followers by interaction and following back, only at a later stage to drastically cut back the numbers followed. The message here is a very clear ‘I want you to listen to what I have to say, but I’m not terribly interested in you!’ More reasoned tweeters will have followers/following in near balance. Others may follow only 5-10% of the numbers that follow them.

In short, such tactics are bullying and as we enter Anti-Bullying week and give the issue a higher profile this week, teachers need to think about social media usage too. Cyberbullying will feature on timetables this week. We have all had to address children and their use of Facebook and other messaging services for how unpleasant messages and images can impact the mental health of our young people. Think then how such comments may impact a teacher, one who is already in a profession more stressful than many others, who is only sharing their opinion and progressing their professional development only to be sneered at.

Nobody runs EduTwitter. No one person has the right to set the agenda, tell us the rules of blogging or tweeting or who to follow. No single person can tell us that ‘progressive’ or ‘traditional’ teachers are any better than each other. There are some wonderful professionals out there who unselfishly share what has worked for them and have helped others in their careers. There are equally those words harm, hurt, offend and upset. These may also impact on how someone performs in their job. There are teachers and other education professionals who have left Twitter, even temporarily, because of this.

We are in a caring profession. That means we care not only for our children and their futures but for each other. There are few genuinely successful schools -by ‘genuinely’ we don’t mean because OFSTED says so or because of results, but one in which children and staff succeed because they are happy- that do not have Wellbeing at the core of what they do. We need to share that Wellbeing in our online behaviour too.

 

 

 

Wellbeing: It isn’t a tick-box exercise

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Many of us have been back at school for a week after half term. Many of us will have had the same conversations: ‘A week.. it’s never enough’; ‘It seems a long time away now’; ‘I’m exhausted already and it’s still six and a half weeks until Christmas!’

Though these words will have been heard in schools the length of the nation this week, term dates and holidays are an issue with consistency of school holidays between authorities and increasingly between schools.  This matter is one to discuss in another blog at a later time though.

Over the weekend however we have seen some Twitter traffic on the nature of wellbeing in schools. One tweet was on the lines of ‘wellbeing can’t be put in a bag’ whilst others discussed ‘wellbeing was covered in a staff meeting’ and another mentioning wellbeing being covered on a mindfulness course.

Here at Healthy Toolkit HQ we launched #NurtureNovember last weekend. https://healthyteachertoolkit.wordpress.com/2016/10/29/nurture-november/ 

This is the first of a calendar of themed months, the concept behind these being to keep wellbeing on the agenda at all times. Though the use of motivational quotes may raise some cynical responses, the use of these in posters, newsletters, and emails can have a drip-feed effect into the ethos of an establishment.

Teaching is a stressful occupation. We don’t need research to tell us that. We just know it. Some pressures will be there regardless of your geographical location, sector or phase: there will always be meetings, assessments, testing, marking, sickness, Christmas etc. More recently, tighter budgets, curriculum changes and new assessment arrangements have added to the pressures upon the profession.

Our message is this. Wellbeing needs to be in the culture of your school. It cannot be delivered in a staff meeting and then forgotten about for the rest of the year. It cannot be delegated to a member of staff to deliver as part of their appraisal cycle. One course on Mindfulness and ten minutes of rather awkward meditation doesn’t solve anything. A bag of goodies can be a pleasant surprise, but if is a one off, the gesture becomes tokenistic. Wellbeing might be on the development plan but so might be extending the Nursery, building a new Science block or updating the first aid training.

School leaders: Wellbeing needs to be in the very fabric of your school. It isn’t ‘done to’ staff. It should be part of the working environment. We need to breathe it, feel it, touch it, smell it and live it. Otherwise it does simply become something to tick off the list of things to do, like testing the fire alarms or paying the bills. Though this is a cliché, you do need to think beyond the box!

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We do hear of some extraordinary things through social media, the education press and through conversation: ‘I work my teachers like dogs!’; ‘I’ve got rid of twenty teachers in my time’; ‘Working to 11pm, that’s the nature of the job, get used to it.’

Do you listen intently to somebody’s issues, then as soon as they have left the room dismiss them as a whinger. Do you have ‘favourites’? Are you perceived as having ‘favourites’?

Excuse us, but if that’s you that you’re hearing there, take a long and hard look at yourself. You are talking about people; people with lives, mortgages, families and a career, a career which they are dedicated to. People who are giving their utmost to the children in their care.

There are a number of things as school leaders that you be implementing or ensuring are in place.

The government set up a commission to investigate reducing teacher workload. The report on marking can be found here https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/reducing-teacher-workload-marking-policy-review-group-report together with those on planning https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/reducing-teacher-workload-planning-and-resources-group-report and data management  https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/reducing-teacher-workload-data-management-review-group-report

The messages contained within each are simple, direct and ought to be simple to implement. Last week we conducted a survey through our Twitter account, and though we cannot claim it to be scientific or totally accurate, our responses indicated that only 6% of our readers had seen all three acted upon in their schools, 35% were aware but seen no action and a further 47% were not even aware of the existence of the reports. 82% of those in our survey had seen no action on an initiative sanctioned by the government. Why? Surely you are aware of these!

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There are a number of things which you can do as a school leader to embed wellbeing into your school culture and your own practice.

  • First- put those reports into action. Read them, set up a working party for each. Act on them and monitor it constantly.
  • Wellbeing doesn’t come from a book, though there are some great reads out there. Likewise courses and dare we say blogs only deliver advice and tips. Culture comes from your heart!
  • Be aware of what is going on in your school. Don’t stay in the office. Get out into the staffroom and classrooms. Notice what your staff are doing, praise them and thank them. Not sanctimoniously, because that can be seen through, but genuinely.
  • Talk to your staff. Don’t do it all through email.
  • Have a rule about email. No school emails to be sent or read in the evenings or weekends! If it isn’t urgent, it can wait. If it is important, such as the school burning down  or an illness or death in the family, then a phone call will do.
  • Be aware of what is going on in your colleague’s lives. Show an interest in their children, families and holidays. It will make it easier from them to approach you if they have a problem.
  • Look out for body language and facial expression. They reveal if someone is under pressure. Then do something about it: talk; take their class, mark their spellings; hear some readers. Simple gestures do ease the pressure.
  • Make yourself aware of what is going on in your staffroom. Handling a diverse range of people is a challenge to management. One negative person can kill the mood of a room. Don’t let that person be you. negative
  • Do you have cliques? The existence of such can stress school leaders and other staff. Being excluded by a group does impact on people, particularly if they keep themselves to themselves. Cliques aren’t easy to manage especially if they existed before your arrival. Wellbeing isn’t all about being nice! Sometimes you are going to have to be hard to address such issues.
  • Likewise you may have to deal with people who are loud especially when it comes to issues such as cover and timetabling. The perception that those who shout get what they want is not one that we like to see.
  • Is everyone getting what they are entitled to? If there is a crisis, is the burden being shared? Usually it is PPA that is affected. If it can’t be covered, is it paid back later? Do the same people miss out? Is there a balance so that everybody gets something?
  • Is everyone appraised fairly? Appraisal is something done with staff, not done too them. Is it a means of developing a colleague professionally, or an exercise in hanging them out to dry.
  • Is there an open channel of communication in your school? Can staff express what they feel in a way that they won’t feel criticised or victimised?
  • Don’t listen to myths and rumours! Just because one school had a particular experience of inspection, it doesn’t mean it will apply to you.
  • Please, thank you, well done; simple words; big impact.

There are a few tough words in this piece. However a culture of wellbeing need not be rocket science. It is something that needs to be there without being a mere token. It needs to embedded in mindset and practice.

Keep your staff by keeping your staff happy!

 

Nurture November

It is almost November. Some of us are finishing our half term break, some of us about to begin it and the lucky ones have a further week to recharge their batteries. We hope you have had a chance to read and share our recent blog about stress reduction https://healthyteachertoolkit.wordpress.com/2016/10/19/can-you-reduce-your-own-stress-levels/

We know that some of you will have sought out some means of relaxation, but equally there will have been colleagues who spent the break catching up, getting ahead or simply facing such a burden that work was unavoidable. This is why we are launching our hashtag for the coming month #NurtureNovember.

November can be the first really tough month of the school year. It is a time when sickness and absence rates can be higher than other months (February is another) as immunity wears down and we start picking up the bugs and sniffles from the children. The hour goes back this weekend and we will be coming home in the dark as well as arriving at school in the twilight. Seasonal Affective Disorder, though not fully understood, is a real issue for some people. If you are in primary, Christmas starts now! Or perhaps it began in September: Nativities, carol services, Christmas parties, added to keeping the curriculum ticking over and keeping up with deadlines can lead to frayed nerves and grumbling tempers.

#NurtureNovember is all about positivity, looking out for ourselves, but especially looking out for our colleagues. We will be tweeting regular content throughout the month, but here are a few things that you can be doing to promote the health and wellbeing of your teachers, teaching assistants and other colleagues, and hopefully your students too.

  • How many conversations begin ‘Can you…’, ‘Will you…’ or ‘I want…’ instead of ‘Good Morning’ or ‘How are you?’. Words are the simplest and most powerful weapon we have. Make them count.

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  • Set up a Staff Shout Out board. We might not always remember to say  how great a class did in assembly or how wonderful that display is looking, but here is a chance to say it, and to make it public. It can be anonymous too, for those a little shy of expressing yourself publicly. Acknowledgement is a powerful boost to confidence.
  • When you reflect on your own day, list five successes. However insignificant they may be to others, it was a success for you.
  • If you are a leader, find a success for everyone, everyday and thank them. Not in a sanctimonious way, but genuinely. Watch the recipient smile!
  • Think about your leaders too. Leadership can be a thankless task; everyone can do with a leg up.
  • Share a positive or inspirational quote. Not for the sake of it though. Live it, breathe it and make it part of your everyday fabric. We will be posting a few of these and look forward to seeing yours on Twitter and Facebook too. School Leaders: put them in your staff newsletters and on your noticeboards.
  • Recognise when someone is in need of a boost. Leaders need to be aware of this, but everyone else should too. Are they not their normal smiley self? Do they show that they might be in need of some support. Proactive measures can head off more challenging difficulties. 6-4315-7-funny-minion-quotes-of-the-day-273
  • Smile! A lovely smile lights up a room, calms people down and sets the positive tone. Even better, it costs nothing and it is an investment with infinite returns.smile-its-free
  • Share some ‘mindfulness’ colouring activities. It is a calming way for children to start the day, especially if you have a ‘soft start’. Anything that is good for the children can only benefit adults too. breathe
  • Comfort food makes us all feel better. We don’t want to overdo it of course, thinking about our waistlines, but some simple things are a source of pleasure. In September we launched Team Salad  https://healthyteachertoolkit.wordpress.com/2016/09/10/team-salad-building-teamwork-wellbeing-and-healthy-eating-habits/ but now the weather is closing in we are also added baked potatoes to this Friday mix. A bag of 10 for £2, brought on a rota, and placed in the oven at morning break provides a comforting, warming gow to Friday lunchtime.

Please join in this month, and share your positive actions.

Finally, a few simple words that in the maelstrom of modern schooling we may forget.

  • Good Morning.
  • Thank you.
  • Could.
  • Together
  • Have a good evening/weekend.
  • Yes.
  • The name of the person you are addressing.

It is #NurtureNovember; enjoy, share, tweet, promote and live positively.

Chips and Pies and Sausage Rolls: Cutting down on fats

The evenings are drawing in, a chill is felt in the air on playground duty and suddenly we’re driving to and from school with the headlights on. The good intentions of the first day of September to lunch on salad and to dine on plain chicken or fish with steamed vegetables might becoming under strain as the autumnal rains whip in from the seas.

The most common non-education based conversation in the staffroom is often diet and there is always somebody who is ‘starting tomorrow’, cutting out carbs, avoiding chocolate for a month or reducing their drinking. The change in the season, the reduction in natural daylight and the pressures which inevitably grow as the term gets into full swing often challenge even the most resilient and determined of dieters. A retail development which opened near one of our schools a few years ago included two popular fast food establishments and a well-known purveyor of baked goods. Inevitably it proved a popular lunchtime attraction: hence the title of this piece.

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We all have our favourite comfort foods: stews, crisps, ‘Hobnobs’ or even a very guilty kebab. There are times when such treats are most welcome. As with all food decisions however, the key word is balance.

Teachers could very easily have a quite sedentary lifestyle. Consider your classroom environment: Reception teachers will be on the move much of the time but if you are in secondary do you base yourself at the front of the class or keep mobile? Do your evenings or weekends allow you to walk the dog, ride your bicycle or dig the garden? Or do you spend your time catching up on work then flopping down on the sofa in front of the television? Some teachers, or so it is rumoured, spend their ‘down time’ tweeting or blogging.

Lack of activity, stress and the change in the seasons can all contribute to less well informed food habits, cravings, snacking and hence weight gain. You may be one of the lucky ones whose metabolism allows you to burn this off, but the fact is that most of us aren’t this fortunate. A little paunch is one thing, but we also need to consider the impact on our levels of cholesterol and the dangers of trans fats.

Fat is a health issue

Trans fat is considered by many doctors to be the worst type of fat you can eat. Unlike other dietary fats, trans fat — also called trans-fatty acids — both raises your LDL (“bad”) cholesterol and lowers your HDL (“good”) cholesterol. A high LDL cholesterol level in combination with a low HDL cholesterol level increases your risk of heart disease.

Some meat and dairy products contain small amounts of naturally occurring trans-fat. But most trans-fat is formed through an industrial process that adds hydrogen to vegetable oil, which causes the oil to become solid at room temperature. It is used to give longer shelf life to foods. Some restaurants use partially hydrogenated vegetable oil in their deep fryers, because it doesn’t have to be changed as often as do other oils.

The manufactured form of trans fat, is found in a variety of food products, including: Baked goods- cakes, cookies, pies and sausage rolls include partially hydrogenated vegetable oil in their ingredients; crisps and tortilla chips often contain trans-fat; foods that require deep frying can contain trans-fat from the oil used in the cooking process- doughnuts can be literally soaked in it; frozen pizza; some margarines.

Who you gonna call? Fatbusters!!

There are no foods that really reduce fat. The best way to burn fat is to build lean muscle through exercise.

However a number of foods are suggested by health professionals that can prevent fat build up and in combination with an exercise regime can boost fat reduction.

Some suggestions we have found include:

  • Almonds and other nuts
  • Turkey and other lean meats.
  • Fresh or dried.
  • Peanut butter.
  • Fatty fish (such as salmon, tuna, mackerel)
  • Whole grains including brown rice, cereals and quinoa.

 

Other ways we use to reduce our fat intake at Healthy Teacher Toolkit HQ include:

 

  • Considering polyunsaturated fat: nuts, seeds, fish, algae, leafy greens.
  • Swapping to semi-skimmed or skimmed milk.
  • Removing the skin from chicken pieces before cooking.
  • Changing our oils to rapeseed or olive oils and using a spray to reduce use.
  • Reducing our free radicals, often found in fried foods, by choosing foods high in vitamins A, C, E, and the minerals zinc, selenium, manganese.
  • Tomatoes are high in lypocene. In fact eating a range of colours each day means we consume more antioxidants. This does not mean consuming a well-known crispy sugar frosted chocolate bean.
  • Green tea and matcha tea is also believed to have the effect of reducing free radicals.
Green tea matcha in a cup on the brown mat

Green tea matcha in a white cup on the brown mat close-up

There is no real option though to reducing body fat other than adjusting our diet and by sufficient exercise. We hope some of this advice is useful and we welcome any useful comments for food groups and exercise that you have found helpful.

 

Just as a little test, here is a wordsearch featuring fifteen words included in today’s blog.

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Starting Fresh:Eating healthily in your NQT year

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As you embark upon your NQT year you will be faced with a barrage of advice, some more useful than others.

An internet search through the educational journals and education sections of leading national newspapers will unearth strategies, tips and experienced reflection on matters ranging from teaching styles to behaviour management.

One of the best pieces of advice we have received as new teachers is ‘Look after yourself.’ Your wellbeing is important for a number of reasons:

  • For your own professional development. If you aren’t well, you will not teach to the standard you wish and your students won’t get the impact from your teaching that they deserve.
  • For your professional standing. If you have regular absences or are simply under the weather and not able to work to your usual capacity, children and parents are harsh judges. So are some senior leaders.
  • For your school. If you are ill, particularly in Primary Schools, cover is expensive, often unreliable if from an outside source and if you are absent for any length of time the children will get out of the routines you have worked so hard to establish.
  • For your personal pride. We have never met a teacher who doesn’t want to give their complete commitment to the children in their care. A Google search for ‘Teacher Guilt’ will reveal genuine concerns in this regard.

You will want to be in school every day if you can. Your children, parents and leaders want you there too, but equally all parties want you healthy. This is why NQTs really need to consider how healthy their diet is.

Everyone is different and one person’s definition of healthy may differ widely from that of another, but we hope in this blog to build up a range of strategies, pieces of advice and lifestyle analysis that will support all teachers. You will also find some recipes too.

In the meanwhile these are some of the best pieces of starter advice we can share through our own experience of being and supporting NQTs.

  • Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, whether you eat it at home or at school. In our profession think about the slow release of carbohydrates. Porridge or homemade muesli is ideal.
  • Keep hydrated. Our post https://healthyteachertoolkit.wordpress.com/2016/09/18/eau-naturelle-a-simple-guide-to-self-hydration/ addresses this in some depth.
  • Take your breaks, particularly your lunch break. Don’t rush your food either as an afternoon of indigestion or heartburn will lead to you feeling drained and frazzled.download
  • Keep a bowl of fruit to hand, in your classroom, cupboard or staffroom table. Fruit is a healthy snack, provides an energy boost, contains Vitamin C which may act as a preventative to colds and flu and is low in sugar.
  • Talking of which, try to avoid the sugar rush. Cakes are great on a birthday, or on a Friday to mark the end of a hectic week, but a sugar rush does what it says on the tin! A quick boost of energy followed by a very sudden slump.
  • Eat an evening meal at a reasonable time. Make this part of your evening routine. You wouldn’t expect to be answering work emails or planning at ridiculous o’clock, so do the same with your supper. If you are fresh out of university, you may be living with family still, so there may be others to cook for you. If you are on your own, or have family to support yourself, regular routines, menu planning and economy are all considerations. In coming weeks we hope to be adding more in the way of this kind of advice.
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  • Eating late piles on calories and impacts sleep patterns.
  • Get into good habits early and stick to them. Think ahead to key work deadlines and don’t let them hinder your diet, exercise or sleep regime.

This is far from an exclusive list but it gives you a start. Please add your comments below with further advice that you have found useful.

Enjoy your NQT year. You’ve come this far, so look after yourself and you are well on the way to being a wonderful teacher.

Eau naturelle: a simple guide to self hydration

pouring water into glass

set of water pouring into glass on white background

The water in this establishment has been passed by the management

In our school, in a 1980’s brownfield development, there was always a concern for the quality of the water supply. It was after a last day of term staff meeting, when our pot of tea left most of the staff in the bathroom for the first weekend of the Easter holiday, that we persuaded the Head to invest in a water cooler. Though it didn’t last, the reasons being cost and a flood which left the carpet sodden and the staffroom chairs water stained on the legs to this day, the difference in taste and quality improved the standard of our breaktime brew and gave the staff the confidence to drink water in school without any fear of further gastric catastrophe.

Many primary schools provide the children with drinking water bottles and promote regular sipping through the day but in today’s blog we would like to consider the benefits of hydration for teachers and the impact on their health.

Water is the driving force of all nature (Leonardo da Vinci)

We measure muscle mass and body fat percentages but body water percentage is an important measure of good health. Though age, gender and body composition all affect body water percentage, we should aim, according to health professionals, for a body water percentage slightly over 50 %. In addition to drinking more water, a great way to ensure that you stay within this healthy range is to eat more fruits and vegetables, which naturally contain large amounts of water.

Our brains require regular hydration too. Dehydration can impair short-term memory function and the recall of long-term memory. The ability to perform mental arithmetic, like calculating whether or not you’ll be late for work if you hit snooze for another ten minutes, is impacted when your fluids are low.

Realistically the longest our bodies can go without fluid intake is the six to eight hours we sleep. Though many of us benefit from our morning cup of tea and coffee, we should begin the day with a glass of water. If you’ve ever had a thumping headache it is mainly because your brain isn’t at its 75% water content level, whether that is down to a hot summer day or to overindulgence the night before.

The best drink of the day?

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Though we would argue with our patriotic hats on that tea fits this description, the caffeine in tea is a diuretic. Whilst diuretics do have a medical benefit, too much of it can lead to dehydration.

These fluids have diuretic or dehydrating impact on the body:

  • tea and coffee (except decaffeinated)
  • alcohol
  • fizzy drinks, cola drinks in particular
  • milk- surprisingly
  • some energy and sports drinks

Now we aren’t being killjoys. One glass of wine or a latte won’t dehydrate you. It’s all down to balance and moderation.

One drink certain not to dehydrate us is water.

Pure Water is the world’s first and foremost medicine (Slovakian proverb)

The European Food Safety Authority recommends a daily water intake of 2.5 litres for men and 2 litres for women via food and drink consumption, with 70-80% for fluid intake. this suggests then that we should be drinking 1.5 to 2 litres a day.

Too much water can however lead to water intoxication which lowers sodium levels and effectively drowns cells. In 2007 a mother of three in California died after drinking 7 litres of water in a radio contest to win a games console.

The traditional half time refreshment for footballers was always a cup of tea. One of the first professionals to challenge this was Sam Allardyce who took to sipping iced water at the break and whilst his playing style didn’t always suit fellow professionals, his hydration regime left him with raised levels of energy in an era where players weren’t as fit as today, and enabled him to continue his playing career to the age of 38.

The health benefits of water

  • It increases our energy levels.
  • It improves our metabolism which can promote weight loss.
  • Water helps to build and repair muscle.
  • It is great for the skin and keeps you looking young by pluming out the wrinkles.
  • Water flushes toxins.
  • It helps to reduce joint pain.
  • Water maintains a healthy pH level in the body.
  • It aids the process of healthy digestion and regularity.

Simple ways to maintain our intake

Healthy Teacher Toolkit is all about promotion of healthy food and drink habits in the profession. Hydrated teachers will be healthy teachers: healthy teachers will be happy teachers: happy teachers teach happy learners. Spreading our water intake through the day maintains levels of hydration and will boost your energy to the final bell.

Here are a few simple tips to maintain your water levels.

  • Begin each day with a glass of water. It needn’t be cold. Freshly boiled water with a slice of lemon is just as good.
  • Take a water bottle with you through the day and sip regularly. If you are based in one class it can sit on your desk. If your day is more mobile, robust and refillable water bottles are available in a range of sizes.
  • There is a trend for water infusers at the current time. There are benefits related to weight loss as well as to hydration. Sometimes the addition of flavour makes it more palatable for some people.
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  • Try to drink a glass of water with every meal.
  • If on a night out, alternating water with other drinks maintains a level of hydration and reduces the risk of hangover.
  • There are a number of foods which effectively allow us to eat our water.
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  • Always rehydrate after exercise. This includes PE lessons!

Simple guidance and a little hard science: keep yourself hydrated, healthy and happy.

Team Salad: Building teamwork, wellbeing and healthy eating habits.

This term, as part of our campaign to promote staff wellbeing, healthy eating and a sense of togetherness, we have launched our Team Salad.

The intention is that this will be a lunchtime event each Friday. Reactions on announcing the initiative were a little mixed at first, from unfettered enthusiasm to ‘what if … there’s too much/too little/nobody likes it?’

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One look at the images though will confirm that the first week produced a visual feast.

We set a few simple rules:

  • No obligation to participate, but you only eat if you contribute.
  • We would supply a salad bowl, olive oil and balsamic vinegar for dressing, as well as a salt and pepper mill.
  • Everyone brings one ingredient. To avoid repetition we signed up with what we would bring.
  • Vegetarians and vegans as well as those with food intolerances were to be accommodated by leaving those ingredients aside for others to add.
  • Jarred and canned ingredients are acceptable too, as were pre-prepared salad vegetables.
  • Warm ingredients were an option if so desired.
  • Bring a different ingredient each week.

With the end of the first week back, the warm September sunshine necessitated open doors in the staffroom. Nobody pursued the warm ingredient option. Some staff took a bowl of salad as their whole lunch, others had it as a side dish to chicken or pasta and nothing remained in the bowl. Just a few grapes, olives and cherry tomatoes together with half a bag of rocket that didn’t fit the bowl remained at the end of lunchtime.

This week’s salad consisted of iceberg lettuce, rocket, cherry tomatoes, green and black olives, feta cut into cubes, black and green olives, sweetcorn, cubed beetroot, roasted butternut squash and sliced cucumber.

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Any prior concerns were quite understandable, but a few non-participants were convinced. Conversation turned to possible warm ingredients: chicken, roasted new potatoes, couscous all receiving honourable mentions. Canned chick peas, sundried tomatoes and cannellini beans are possible additions in the future too.

Moving forward, we will buy a bag of couscous for the store cupboard. It represents good value, bulks out the salad and is easy to prepare. We may also bring in a salad recipe and invite everyone to contribute to that, but the joy of the first one lay in the invention.

The venture succeeded in the first week in bringing the team together in food and conversation on a Friday, was most certainly healthy and cost participants little in time or money.

Heads and senior leaders: this is a great way of promoting staff wellbeing and team spirit.

We look forward to seeing your team salads on the Facebook page and on our tweets. Please use the hashtags #teamsalad and #HealthyTeacherToolkit.