Revolution or Evolution? Ways forward for Wellbeing

Amongst the debate about the reduction and management of workload and the place of wellbeing in our schools we sometimes hear a call for wholesale system change; reduce the workload by reducing the work. How likely is this to happen? As much as a class of twenty-four, all the resources we could wish for and a whole day out of class a week would be ideal, the health and social care sectors of public services would want to see the same level of investment.

Regardless of the outcome of 8th June, we aren’t going to see this. This is Britain 2017, not Tsarist Russia 1917. There isn’t a balding, bearded man in a crumpled suit about to disembark at Waterloo station to lead the revolution. We are far too polite; even the most momentous national decision of recent years was down to some 33 million or so people marking a cross on a piece of paper.

So we won’t have a political revolution, nor a revolution in our profession. Yet we have a crisis in retention and recruitment that requires urgent attention, and it is workload and wellbeing that seems to lie at its heart. Teachers leaving within five years of qualification, more experienced and hence more expensive staff ‘encouraged’ on their way and three reports on workload of which a number of schools and teachers are not aware; was this envisioned in the call ‘Education, Education, Education.’ twenty years ago?

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Change needs to be made. Not by revolution but through evolution. As we have blogged before, development needs to be driven through an alteration in culture. Whilst wellbeing is for everyone, and needs to embraced by everyone, leadership needs to be the driving force that moves wellbeing forward.

Without repeating what we have said before, we believe wellbeing needs to be principled https://healthyteachertoolkit.wordpress.com/2016/12/18/putting-wellbeing-and-workload-into-practice  and driven by solid core values https://healthyteachertoolkit.wordpress.com/2016/11/27/healthy-values-what-drives-our-team and should never be viewed as a bolt-on attachment or a tick-box exercise https://healthyteachertoolkit.wordpress.com/2016/11/06/wellbeing-it-isnt-a-tick-box-exercise

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What this culture will look like cannot be dictated, as every school context will differ. The small village primary is a different beast from a large inner city secondary. It will be intriguing to hear how a shared culture develops within MATs, especially those which are cross-phase and others with a wide geographical spread. Principles and values however can be shared.

Wellbeing needs to grow within the context of the school and needs to be considered holistically as ultimately it will benefit the whole school community. Happy, healthy teachers should mean happy, healthy and successful learners.

Tonight we at @HealthyToolkit host #SLTChat and we are looking forward to hearing how this culture is growing and developing in UK schools. See you at 8pm!

#AwarenessAprilHT

Depending upon where you are in the country, we have a week or two until the Easter break and one thing is for certain: every teacher will have half of April as a well earned break. With lengthening days, rising temperatures, blooming daffodils and delicate cherry blossoms, the emergence of Spring can be energising but it may also be enlightening and give us the opportunity to reflect.

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So to support our theme this April, why not take the chance to be reflective and make yourself more aware of others, their needs and their motivation. Use this opportunity to consider what happens in your classroom, your staffroom and in your life outside school. Take the time also to be more self-aware and to think about what you read, what you say and what you post because this will promote our own and other’s wellbeing.

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.

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In labelling someone in this way, just consider this. They may have a diagnosis and they may be living with it and coping with it within their own support network. Inconsiderate words and actions might just trigger a crisis or undo weeks or months of progress. Likewise, the recipient may just have an undiagnosed issue and such criticism may tip the balance of an already fragile state of mind. Lastly, such terminology is very much a ‘playground insult’ and not a sign of an enlightened mind.

Stress is a major factor in our mental health. There is probably no escaping the stress of the role of teaching; data and deadlines won’t go away. What we can do is lead and manage in ways that alleviate stress for our colleagues, think about the workload initiative, be aware of the times of the term where there is more to do (parents’ evenings, Nativity plays) and to help our workmates manage time so they don’t make themselves unwell. Self awareness is crucial here too and is probably something comes with experience. Knowing what to drop, what can wait and what isn’t essential can allow us to manage our own stress and wellbeing.

As a modern digitally aware society with such instant access to media we tend to use ‘labels’ a great deal, particularly in a reactive way. Some responses on social media to the events in Westminster this week are an indicator of such labelling or stereotyping. Being so instant, such responses are not always considered and thought through.

Are we too quick to label children as autistic or demonstrating ASD? Is ADHD too easily applied as a term to explain negative behaviour, or are there deeper underlying factors that we don’t always consider? Diagnoses of these conditions are difficult to make and as autism is on a spectrum it is impossible to stereotype. There will be a lot of adults who have grown up without a diagnosis. Their words, actions and attitudes should not be subject to a judgemental response. Instead we need to be aware of how such minds work. There is a plethora of blogs and academic work on the subject, but there are two wonderful works of fiction which illustrate autism and promote it positively. ‘The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time’ and ‘The London Eye Mystery’ are both great reads, the latter especially suitable for Upper Key Stage 2.

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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.

As part of #AwarenessAprilHT we would urge you to read and share your findings about such ‘invisible’ disabilities, but also be aware of ‘visible’ matters too. Much of society can be judgemental or ignorant of physical disabilities and of the abilities and intelligence of those being judged.

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.

Be mindful of your words and actions. Be in control of your life rather than controlled by the events that happen. Be aware of your attitude, your motivation, your ability to bounce back and to persevere. Be aware of your personal values. Do you act in line with them? Or is your response always reactive?

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Lots to think about this coming month, but we have a good two weeks to reflect,rebuild and re-energise. Please join us in #AwarenessAprilHT and add the hashtag to blogs, articles and quotes that promote our theme.

Professionalism: ‘It’s knowing how to do it, when to do it, then doing it’

There was a flurry of Twitter activity this week with the inaugural conference of the Chartered College of Teaching. Much of the traffic came from within the QEII Conference Centre and some came from those not in attendance.

Predictably however many of these tweets from non-attendees, including some from the other side of the globe, were cynical, negative and sneering in tone. The point of contention here? That #collectivevoice began with some community singing.

Pure marketing genius!

Community singing is something that will be familiar to most teachers, particularly in the primary phase. Anyone who has mumbled their way through ‘All things Bright and Beautiful‘ or ‘Go tell it on the Mountain‘may have felt a little self-conscious at their flat, low and tuneless efforts. However many of us are fans of the beautiful game who have unashamedly belted out ‘I’m forever blowing bubbles‘, ‘You’ll never walk alone‘ or ‘Niall Quinn’s Disco Pants‘. Community singing is all about togetherness, belonging and ‘taking ownership’ of the situation.

However cringeworthy it may have seemed to some participants, the singing was aimed at bringing everyone together at the start of the conference. Furthermore it drew attention to the Chartered College through the social media platform as it began its role as a body to promote the professionalism of teaching professionals.

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We all leave our teacher training institution with a level of skill and knowledge that enables us to teach. CPD, subject leader conferences, leadership courses and further academic study promote and develop our skills and knowledge. Do they however promote that third vital element of professionalism?

Does professional behaviour receive any more than a passing mention in initial teacher training? We can recall a mention of ‘be aware of the policies of the school’ before a teaching practice began but little else beyond that.

Are we familiar with eye-rolling during staff meetings? With  smirks and sniggers during INSET being delivered by a visiting speaker? With the voice that rudely interrupts the person leading the session- thirteen times in an hour, the longest interjection being over eleven minutes- is one we have heard.

Discussions that can be overheard because the door is open? Staffroom cliques? Inappropriate language in emails? Berating colleagues in public?

How about the termly meeting organised by the LA where the delegate from one particular school would arrive ten minutes late every time, and instead of offering his apologies would shower the tables with chocolates and sweets to the clear annoyance of the person leading. ‘Oh isn’t he a character!’ announced one attendee. ‘No, he’s an egotistical …..’ muttered another after three years of this each term, loud enough for the table to hear, followed by barely suppressed giggles.

Rudeness is clearly unprofessional. Egotistical and attention seeking behaviour isn’t either. Though the above incidents may be isolated, they will be in the experience of many.

Use of social media by teachers as we have discussed before is useful for professional contacts, advice and support. There is often healthy debate and discussion but also there can be a very negative side.

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Is it professional to berate another teacher for their opinion? Is it appropriate to criticise someone for being ‘progressive’, or ‘traditional’? Is it professional to block someone then announcing it for all to see? Is the act of blocking, other than for obvious abuse, professional in itself, censoring and silencing a voice in your timeline?

Is it professional to be critical of the conduct of a meeting which you haven’t attended?

The voice of the late, great Steve Jobs speaks volumes.

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The Chartered College of Teaching is there to promote professionalism and the profession.

And Dame Alison, if you are reading this, if you really want a social media reaction to your next meeting, rather than have everyone singing, make them do Country Dancing!

Farewell then, Mr President

American Presidents often disappoint whilst in office. George Washington is an obvious exception, but then he had the dual advantages of being first and kicking the Brits out. Lincoln pulled the country back together, was a gifted and talented wordsmith and embodied the notion of ‘keep your enemies close’ with his rivals for the nomination holding high office in his administration. However he was cut down by an assassin’s bullet before he could complete his vision as was John F. Kennedy, whose reputation has been somewhat glossed over. Kennedy did after all authorised a disastrous invasion of Cuba, sent the first military advisors to Vietnam and was a serial womaniser. He was the first president to embrace the power of the visual image and of the soundbite, though ‘Ich bin ein Berliner’ still amuses those in the German capital as they tuck into a jam filled doughnut.

The real impact of past presidents comes in their legacy and their post-presidential life. For every Harding and Coolidge, there is a Hoover and Truman, two men who brought their talents to bear in other fields in their time out of office. The Iran Hostage Crisis haunted the last 444 days of Jimmy Carter’s administration, but he has rebuilt his reputation as a great humanitarian in his later years.

So what then of the now departed Barack Obama?

In his final days he was reflective about his eight years. He recognised his achievements alongside his failures. He was a President who did focus primarily upon domestic affairs having been left a huge financial mess by the Bush administration.

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If we look not at Obama the politician, but at Obama the person, we see a man with values and integrity. He is a genuinely loving father and husband. In paying tribute to Michelle in his final speech in Chicago the tear in his eye was a true indication of the feelings for his wife. He is a man of humility, integrity and respect. Obama was very much a team player. He moved his Vice-President to tears with his words in presenting Joe Biden with the Medal of Freedom, honouring a man who brought life to a role which to those of us in the UK often seems anonymous and empty. Biden’s letter to his staff, though two years out of date, indicates the values of leadership and decency were shared.

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A President bursting into song may appear cheesy or contrived, but look again at his performance of ‘Amazing Grace’ at the funeral for the victims of the Charleston shooting.

He composes himself. This is genuine and heartfelt. Obama will be remembered as a man able to express his emotions. Real men do indeed cry.

He could play the soundbites, he could provide the inspirational quotes, he could use social media to his advantage and he knew the power of image. He used each though in a positive manner.

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Barack Obama is still a young man at 55. He will build on his legacy in the coming years and we will see plenty of him in other roles.

His legacy as it stands now is one we in education can draw much from. His values are integral to his every action. His honour, fidelity, sense of humour and honesty are what we would like to see in anyone we encounter, child or adult. His words will inspire many a PSHE lesson and assembly. The Obama team spirit embodies what leadership really needs to look like. The transition period was not a ‘lame duck’ ten weeks, but a time to demonstrate and share why he was in the trusted position he held. One of his last actions as President, as he escorted his successor, was to take Michelle’s hand and kiss it . This wasn’t for the cameras; it genuinely reflects the qualities of Barack Obama the man.

Contrast the above though with his successor. A man unafraid to express opinion that many consider offensive and discriminatory. His misogynistic attitude to women in general shown through the comments made about his opponent in the election and towards female journalists, are disturbing in the least. The allegations made against him of groping are appalling, but what is worse is the casual dismissal of these. During the election campaign this man offended the families of fallen American soldiers. He was also dismissive of PSTD sufferers in the military accusing them of not being ‘strong‘ and that they ‘can’t handle it‘.

GOP 2016 Debate

This is a man who has the smug arrogance to take to Twitter to aggressively support and defend his actions, adding a ‘shouty’ tone in this communication to his words behind a microphone. He will hold a grudge and keep on for days and not see his errors. We are possibly going to see the grudge against journalists and intelligence services rear their head at the slightest opportunity as a diversionary tactic to the real truth.

Shouting down with ‘You’re Fake News!’ may become a regular call out in the next term. Many cannot abide him as the protests show, but we have seen no acknowledgement that he recognises this. As his press secretary accused the television networks and journalists of dishonestly reporting the numbers present at the inauguration. Anyone who makes such controversial comments is going to have a few cheerleaders defending him, seemingly blinded to the opinions and feelings of others.

‘History will absolve me’ said Fidel Castro years before he came to power. Although he claims to speak for the people, history may judge the new American president as only thinking of himself.

Good sound moral values are at the core of good schools. Barack Obama has provided values that we can draw upon for many years to come, regardless of how successful history regards his presidency. His successor may provide less useful sources of inspiration.

 

 

 

Putting Wellbeing and Workload Into Practice

Since Healthy Toolkit HQ set up operations we have blogged and tweeted extensively about wellbeing in schools. We have however also been working behind the scenes in our real jobs at making wellbeing a workplace priority and been examining ways of addressing the issue of workload through a practical model which recognises the pressures schools face in an era of cutbacks. Today we present how one small primary school has seized the initiative and addressed the issue so far.

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Principles

Wellbeing is not a tick box exercise. Nor is it a bolt-on attachment to the running of the school, a feature of the School Development Plan merely to address a perceived need, only to be forgotten about after a token ‘Wellbeing Day’ and  some half-hearted INSET. It cannot be treated as a mere hashtag, nor can it be allocated to a less experienced team member ‘to give them some experience’ and then expect them to know all the answers.

Wellbeing needs to be in the very fabric of the school. It has to be lived and breathed by all stakeholders. Wellbeing may well be an abstract concept, but to deliver it effectively it cannot be woolly and ill-defined. It needs to be hard, realistic and practical. Wellbeing is not a ‘top down’ or ‘bottom up’ process; rather it should be ‘sideways in’ with every person contributing. With this in mind we have six core principles at the heart of our Wellbeing program, defined below with examples of initiatives in place: initiatives not

1. A Culture of Positivity

Good schools have a culture where there is respect and trust, shared purpose and clear channels of communication. This culture is driven and shaped by senior leaders who recognise that good mental, physical and emotional wellbeing is central to the best performance. If everyone is appreciated and valued, engagement and commitment  should follow.

  • All communication is clear with a weekly email containing staff newsletter and diary, a quick diary briefing once a week and personal communication of individual matters.
  • A positive atmosphere in the staffroom. Negativity and gossip is absent because of a team culture. If staff members have issues they approach SLT and matters are discussed in an open and non-critical forum.
  • Ten thousand things or more need to happen in a school each day. If one thing doesn’t, then it isn’t a crisis because one or more will always step up to the mark.
  • There is no culture of ‘I..I..I’ or ‘me..me..me’, nor do we allow the loudest people to always get their way, because if this did exist, this would undermine trust and respect.

2. An Environment to Energise Everyone

The environment in which we work contributes to how we feel supporting us to be relaxed, focused and at ease or alternatively irritated, lethargic and disengaged. This includes everything from the classroom and office space we work in, formal and informal networks of support and efficient resourcing under a tight budget.

  • A ‘team lunch’ to which everyone can contribute extended from an end of term buffet to a simpler weekly event. ‘Team salad’ on a Friday, with each participant bringing one ingredient transformed into ‘Team baked potato’ as the weather cooled with turn taking for the spuds and a variety of fillings provided. Great to bring everyone together.
  • A Friday ‘Team Breakfast’ initiated by our younger staff. Croissants, fruit and bacon rolls add to our diary briefing.
  • Clutter is minimised, be it a surfeit of classroom furniture or unwashed cups on the stafroom draining board. Clear spaces enable clearer thinking.

3. Highly Effective Leaders and Managers

The best leaders know their team well and recognise when they need help and support. They also model healthy working habits, feedback to their staff effectively  and appreciate the strengths within their team. They genuinely care for the wellbeing of those that work for them as well as themselves.

  • Appraisal is a supportive process designed to enhance career development , not something that is ‘done to’ staff nor, as we have witnessed in previous experience, should it be used as a stick to beat staff who actually need support.
  • Behaviour issues are addressed and supported efficiently and consistently. Behaviour management strategies are modelled and support given to less experienced staff in a non-critical and supportive manner.
  • All communication is clear and deadlines are given with plenty of notice. Key deadlines such as data, reports, parent evenings and major events are known at the outset of the year and no meeting or event comes as a surprise.
  • Leaders shouldn’t appear in class just for observation and discipline. Using Mary Myatt’s model of ‘Management by wandering around’ means leaders can be found in classes as much as their office.
  • PPA is guaranteed. This should be a given principle but if you have worked in a school where the attitude is flippant  and this precious time is lost because of an absence then we share your frustration.
  • The most approachable leaders are trusted, and respected. They can take being the butt of a joke and know they can be a non-judgmental shoulder to cry on.

4, Excellent Working Relationships

Central to wellbeing and resilience, strong working relationships build trust and respect. The strongest relationships thrive on a healthy mix of support and challenge, they celebrate success,  resolve conflict quickly and allow colleagues the  responsibility to look out for one another during pressurising and demanding times.

  • Wellbeing buddies. These are secret, supposedly. They are not expected  to give a gift each week, but to be there with a kind word, a supportive comment and to look out for their buddy.
  • Staffroom banter is jovial and part of a good team but it is recognised that it doesn’t suit everyone. If someone oversteps the mark, a quiet word is usually sufficient to deal with it.
  • Everyone knows their role, supports each other and steps up where needed.

5. Career Satisfaction

Being in education is a calling as well as what pays the bills. Having the right stretch and challenge, training and support  to develop  skills and fair reward for the job are crucial. Feeling overwhelmed by the demands and pressures  breeds stress and erodes resilience.
Staff who are content with the pace they have to work and feel confident in their ability to get the job done they are more likely to be engaged and performing at their highest level.

  • CPD opportunities are available equitably across the school regardless of experience.
  • Appraisal meetings allow staff to consider their future career paths and how they can gain experience, qualifications and confidence.
  • Leadership opportunities are available to all staff, including support staff, be it a school wide initiative, a special curriculum day or otherwise. Everyone is valued equally.

6. Healthy Lifestyle

We cannot dictate what ‘healthy’ looks like  but we do know that  healthy lifestyle is a can determine our physical, emotional and mental wellbeing, both inside and
outside work. Poor sleep patterns and bad eating habits can arise during challenging times it is often evident that people work long hours and have little time for any physical exercise, time for family and friends, and even less time supporting themselves. This risks burnout.

  • Encourage staff to have no more than two hours non contact time in school, and senior leaders no more than three.
  • Email switch off in evenings and at weekends other than to read weekly communication. If something is vital, then a phone call or text will suffice: how much however, medical emergencies aside,  is that vital that someone needs to be contacted out of school hours.
  • Modelling of time management strategies.

Workload

Alongside the principles above, the school has addressed the workload challenge, and have read, interpreted and implemented the three reports. Though there are no precise figures informal questioning including two surveys run on the  @HealthyToolkit Twitter account suggests that many schools have not implemented these reports and the majority of teachers and also senior leaders are unaware of their existence.

Planning and resourcing

Subject to OFSTED myth and detailed examination in observation, planning need not be the bane of a teachers life.  Who is the plan for? Not the Head, not a subject leader, certainly not OFSTED; it is for the teacher and the class. We have experience in the past of plans being criticised for ‘not differentiating the questions’, ‘not making assessment opportunities clear’ and ‘not being detailed enough’ and of lessons being judged according to the plan and not the lesson content. Detailed evaluations: are they really needed? Good teachers know their children and know what went well or otherwise in their lessons.'Error Lesson plan needs clever retorts for class hecklers,'

Detailed planning and detailed resourcing, these days largely in the form of flipcharts on the interactive whiteboard take time. The report suggests use of published materials which can be annotated and adapted. As a school we make use of a range of sources that we have bought into or are freely available. Time on planning is reduced allowing focus on the resourcing and activities which promote learning.

https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/511257/Eliminating-unnecessary-workload-around-planning-and-teaching-resources.pdf

Marking

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There is no real getting away from marking. It needs to be done and is an expectation of the role. Developments in recent years though with triple marking, extensive comments, multiple pen colours, stamps and stickers might mean three hours or so to mark one set of books. What is the use in writing ten lines of comments only for the child to ignore it, not be able to read it or take another five minutes for the teacher to explain it?

https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/511256/Eliminating-unnecessary-workload-around-marking.pdf

In our interpretation we have decided that marking is only really effective in the form of feedback. We follow-up in Maths with Task 1, Task 2 and Task 3 on the board at the outset of the lesson which reflect whether a child needs support, consolidation or challenge. Marking in writing may sometimes need other approaches, but the use of simple symbols indicates spelling, grammar and areas for improvement. We still employ the pink and green highlighters as the children fed back that they found this useful . Self marking, peer marking and simple self assessment also form part of our strategy.

Assessment and Data Management

Once upon a time there were levels. Levels that should only have been used for Key Stage 1 and 2 assessment. Then levels became fixtures in each year group. Levels begat sub-levels and sub-levels begat APS. APP emerged as the illegitimate offspring of levels. The report recognises this confused picture which grew from rumour and misinterpretation as much as from the plethora of materials. Too much data was produced and crucially it wasn’t used effectively for the benefit of the children and their progress.

https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/511258/Eliminating-unnecessary-workload-associated-with-data-management.pdf

We have cast aside our complex web hosted recording system in favour of term by term testing of reading and maths using a long-established and reliable set of test material. Using standardised scores is a trackable system that does not differ too greatly from scaled scores used in new statutory assessment. Teacher assessment alone would not provide this reliability and also burdens the teacher in tracking down evidence or designing activities which provide evidence rather than promote learning.

Our core assessment principles are: data needs to be useful and needs to be used to support outcomes; teachers  need to have autonomy and accountability; formative assessment does not have to be formally recorded and the teacher has autonomy in the use of their own data.

The Story so Far….

The above is the result of many months of work. It is not a perfect solution but it suits our school and the needs of our children and staff. Wellbeing and workload are not easy subjects to cover and manage and there will be challenges on the way. Evaluation and monitoring, particularly of the extent to which teachers are marking, needs to be in place and we need to be mindful of everyone in our team.Team spirit, standing by and standing up for colleagues, a positive culture and leaders who want to make this work provides the best foundation for a school where the wellbeing of the staff, and therefore of the children, is valued and prioritised.

Can you reduce your own stress levels?

You have nearly made it to Half Term! Congratulations!

Colleagues in Scotland are on their break already, having gone back in August, and our friends in Northern Ireland have another week to go, but whether you have one week or two, this is the first chance to rest, relax and reflect on the year so far.

So can you reduce your own stress levels as a teacher? How would you go about it?

Schools have hopefully by now set out how they are going to act upon the recommendations of the Workload Commission, but this is something we will explore in a later piece together with one or two other issues, but the focus for today is managing matters for yourself.

NQTs in particular may be feeling a certain level of stress. A level of personal organisation will help immensely. Our blog https://healthyteachertoolkit.wordpress.com/2016/09/25/starting-fresheating-healthily-in-your-nqt-year/ focused upon eating to keep fit and healthy, but no amount of fluids and fruits will protect your mental health and wellbeing.

This is your first real break of the academic year. The key to returning relaxed is to make this work for you. Don’t be tempted to spend the whole of this holiday catching up. If you do you either have too much work to do or you may need to consider your personal organisation. You have two days left this week, so use this for ensuring your marking and tracking is up to date. The temptation to carry things over into the holiday will leave you with burdens you would wish to avoid.

However even the most experienced of us know that this just isn’t possible, especially if you had two late nights with parent’s evenings, the final sports fixture before the hour goes back and with a staff training day to close out the week. If this is you; set yourself the target of doing what you need to early in the week. Saving it to Thursday will mean it is saved to Friday, then it’s the weekend with the Sunday evening guilty feelings again.

Other ways to destress at Half Term.

  • Plan something fun! Blackpool is nice at this time of the year, even if it may feel a little like Moscow in the wind.
  • Get out of the house! That cleaning can wait. We have the glorious British autumn to appreciate.
  • Read! That paperback gathering dust since 1st September is calling.
  • Have some phone free time! Leave Twitter, or at least EduTwitter to the diehards.
  • Go Christmas shopping, because doing it on the 23rd and 24th December is for the foolhardy only.

After we return however, really do be aware of your stress levels because these will impact upon your nearest and dearest as well as your young learners and your colleagues.Some simple pieces of advice include.

  • Identifying an issue and seeking help. We  have all been there and nobody will judge you if they are decent.
  • Look out for others; are they tetchy, missing deadlines or looking ill. You might be their confidant.
  • Start your day calm. Have things ready the night before: your outfit and your lessons. Have a calm start in your class too.
  • Be realistic with yourself and your own targets.
  • Think ahead to deadlines. Know what is coming and don’t be surprised.
  • Prioritise!
  • Say no! It is easier if you are more experienced. Don’t be blunt, but be polite. The truth reflects well on you.

This isn’t an exclusive list by any means, but please add to it in the comments below.

Now: enjoy the break. That’s an order!

Friend or Foe?

An honest, personal and deeply moving piece.

NicNac Lifelong Learner

I grew up having a great relationship with food – I loved it!!! I was a skinny child  and could pretty much eat whatever I wanted. I was very tall (ha! still am!) and had more issues with my height than my weight. I always wanted to be smaller and blend in more. When I reached about 15 years old, I started to get ‘chubby’. I still didn’t have too much of a problem with it – I loved food. As I got older, I started to notice I was ‘curvier’ than most of my mates – and while most days I was ok with how I looked, there was a niggle in the back of my mind that I should be thinner.

I was always a ‘people pleaser’  and when I became ill (started around 10 years ago) with depression, the idea of losing weight began to really appeal…

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