Pulling our weight? Did the ‘New Man’ ever exist?

A couple of weeks ago our attention was drawn to this article in The Guardian, set out as a comic strip but with a serious message at its heart: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/may/26/gender-wars-household-chores-comic?CMP=share_btn_tw alongside the question ‘How would you make this work?’ It may be appropriate to consider this topic on Fathers’ Day.

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In the UK equality legislation was enacted within the Equal Pay Act 1970, the Sex Discrimination Act 1975, the Race Relations Act 1976, the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 and most recently the Equality Act 2010. Common sense would dictate however that the true impact of equality comes not for the power of the law but from personal and societal attitudes and values. Nowhere is this more powerfully demonstrated than in the home and in a family environment.

Two weeks after the birth of the youngest child of one of the Healthy Toolkit team he was introduced to a new member of staff as ‘our token New Man’. This was in the late 1990s for those unfamiliar with the phrase. It was a term he was entirely comfortable with, our colleague asked the DHT why she had described him so. ‘You’re a man who knows his way round a kitchen, you read, watch sub-titled films, wear pink without being self-conscious, don’t flirt with your female colleagues and you cry. But most of all you’re a great dad.

Though anecdotal, this does reflect upon the place that living by decent values has. Fairness and equality would feature in the values spectrum of any man, particularly one who has become a father. Fatherhood isn’t a status symbol; is a role with great responsibility.

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Responsibility doesn’t stop at conception! Though men will never know the discomfort of morning sickness and the pain of childbirth, but they should be there to support in much more than a tokenistic manner.

It is after your baby has arrived that you really show your mettle. Gentlemen reading this may have taken their fair share of night feeds, nappy changing, washing soiled clothes at unearthly hours. Equally there will be plenty who don’t. Have you sat up all night cradling your unsettled offspring to allow your wife or partner to rest? Have you taken the car out at 3am and driven up and down the bypass until the little one drops off?

Or do you come home and expect your dinner to be ready and the house spotless with the children already tucked up in bed? Do you play the ‘I can’t work the hoover’ card? Or play the ‘kitchen buffoon’ gambit? Even if you are no Jamie Oliver, any fool can fry an egg, make an omelette or even cook a ready meal or a tray of oven chips.

Parenthood is an emotionally and physically draining experience, but it is one which needs to be shared as equitably as possible. Both partners have lives, both have careers, both have responsibilities. Are the men making sure the balance of life, career and responsibility is equal? Aforementioned offspring barely slept the night for 18 months. She has grown to be a cultured, sensitive, intelligent, creative and progressive young adult, because we got the balance right.

Rights to paternity leave have changed in recent years. Gone are the two day limits. https://www.gov.uk/paternity-pay-leave/overview provides more information and parental leave can be shared https://www.gov.uk/shared-parental-leave-and-pay/overview though we still have a long way to catch up with the Swedes who have 40 days of paid parental leave to share.

We know in our profession that many of our children do not have a stable male role model in the home. Many of them will have a father that indulges in macho posturing at Parents’ Evenings, at the school gate or on the sidelines at Sports Day. Some of our children have absent fathers, through marital breakdown, domestic violence, substance misuse or simply through a denial of responsibility. Many of us will know of at least one child who has never met their father and others who don’t have the father’s name on their birth certificate.

Male teachers aren’t substitute fathers, but they do for many children represent the only stable, reliable, consistent and responsible male presence in their lives. Our conduct sets an example to them: in not fulfilling macho stereotypes; in the respectful way to treat women and girls; in settling conflict with words not fists; in our responsible conduct online and on social media.

Any fool can make a baby. Responsibility is much more than blood type and DNA. You have created a life. You have created that life with someone you love, and that life needs to embody the values, culture and responsibility that both parents hold dear. To be a father takes time; takes dedication; embraces a mindset to share the role and to take on more than a fair share of responsibility.

It takes heart, it takes soul, it takes spirit, it takes a real man to be a daddy!

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Happy Fathers’ Day  to all fathers, near or far, gone but not forgotten.

 

 

Arrogance and Insolence or Authenticity and Integrity?

Egg on face? On the 18th of April the election was announced with a reported twenty point lead in the polls, with the intention of delivering a mandate for Brexit. Seven weeks later there is no clear mandate and a chaotic and uncertain situation in Westminster.

For the second time in twelve months a British Prime Minister has had the arrogance to assume that the British people would do as they were expected. For the second time we have been left with uncertainty, instability and a lack of clarity. ‘Strong and Stable’? ‘Pale and Pasty’ would be more pertinent.

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As the Prime Minister returned from the Palace on Friday, her words to the press barely acknowledged the result. The fact that a projected hundred seat majority had overnight returned a minority administration, dependent on a minority party in a part of the UK that the ruling party has paid lip service to in recent times, barely seemed to register in the facial expression or tone of voice of the Prime Minister.

Of course as the largest party, the Conservatives have the right to the first attempt at forming an administration. If you aren’t aware, the first Labour Government in 1924, resulted from an election where the Conservatives were unable to form a ministry and Ramsay MacDonald as leader of the second largest party was invited to step up. Reliant on the support of the Liberals, the Scotsman was ultimately undone by fatigue, by having only 191 MPs, and by fears of the ‘Red’ threat culminating in the forged Zinoviev letter. A further election was called, ten months after the previous one. Political arrogance and sly trickery are nothing new.

As teachers we are required to teach British Values. Of course they are not uniquely British. If they were they would also include queuing politely and grumbling about the weather. They are fundamentally universal human values, applicable in a range of contexts. Here at Healthy Toolkit HQ we strongly advocate values and authenticity in education, especially in leadership. The five British Values are good values at heart. These were contained within a government publication published in November 2014 https://www.gov.uk/government/news/guidance-on-promoting-british-values-in-schools-published . Schools live by them; so should the politicians!

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Democracy

Whatever the issues with first past the post, this was a democratic election with the people able to make their choice and express their opinion. However  we heard Crispin Blunt saying “Like everyone else I was astonished. Some people say the electorate never get it wrong, clearly they have got it wrong. They’ve made it clearly tough for any party to form a government.” http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/election-results-hung-parliament-tory-mp-voters-got-it-wrong-crispin-blunt-conservatives-exit-poll-a7781216.html

Well excuse us Mr Blunt for our sheer impertinence as an electorate but we will not be told how to vote and if we choose a hung parliament that is what you are going to have to deal with. We teach our children about ‘one person, one vote’ and how we respect each others opinions.

Calls for a second referendum, be it for Scottish Independence or over Brexit, likewise impacted upon the SNP and the Lib Dems. The electorate spoke once. We don’t need to be asked ‘Are you sure?’ whether as individuals we agreed with the outcome or not.

The Rule of Law

The Fixed Term Parliament Act was designed to firstly ensure some stability for the Coalition, but also to prevent the game playing about calling elections that the Thatcher and Blair administrations played. This election need not have happened until May 2020. Although the letter of the law was applied, the spirit was not. The game playing has backfired.

Individual Liberty

We teach the children that they can’t do whatever they want, but they can do what is right. Is it right to allow advisers more say in policy than ministers? Is it right for these advisers to reportedly abuse and bully cabinet ministers, democratically elected ministers? Perhaps this value should include an element of accountability.

Mutual Respect and Tolerance

Will these two erode under the proposed arrangements to keep a lame duck ministry in office? The days and weeks ahead will be intriguing.

If you lived through the 1980s you might concur that the prevailing political mood impacted on attitudes in society. It was the decade of self above society, individual advancement ahead of the collective good. The period from 1997 to 2008 was broadly similar in tone. Politicians have it within their influence to impact upon societal attitudes.

The last few weeks and days however would indicate that the electorate cannot be swayed by marketing and that the use of the printed, visual and digital media to promote or to demonise is not as convincing as might be thought.

What was supposed to be a single issue election was far from that. Education fell high on the agenda as the reality of spending plans became starkly apparent.

There is a funding crisis in schools. There is a staffing crisis in recruitment and retention of teachers and in finding effective school leaders. However many millions of pounds were spent on this election, and however much is supposedly being spent on education, it does not address the issue of schools with leaking roofs, with worn out resources, with decisions about staff deployment to deal with over the next few years. There are children in infant classes who should have the support of a teaching assistant as well as a teacher, but whose schools have had to restructure to balance budgets. There are schools with children who need EHCs but are unable to provide the support needed because funding, expertise and local support is no longer available. Schools are having to pay for services from their authority, previously available within support packages, and authorities are top slicing greater percentages of budget shares from their schools which haven’t yet decamped to academy status.

This is an unusual post for Healthy Toolkit. We are here to promote wellbeing in schools but in truth, and politicians of all parties need to listen to this, we will not deliver wellbeing alongside the best quality education without the appropriate funding to do so.

Do we want to see leaders of our country and of our schools who are Arrogant and Insolent, or those who have Authenticity and Integrity?

#SayYes2Wellbeing

Since our foundation, the team at Healthy Toolkit HQ has promoted the importance of wellbeing in education. Wellbeing is high on the education agenda and, as we have identified before, it is on the development plan of many schools across the UK. As the Summer Term began, the Times Educational Supplement dedicated an edition to the subject, to which we made a contribution. We believe that wellbeing needs to remain in this prime position as its importance cannot be underestimated. It is from this premise that we announce our new hashtag #SayYes2Wellbeing.

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There is a significant issue, some call it a ‘crisis’, with retention and recruitment in the profession. Whilst recruitment is one particular challenge (persuading NQTs to relocate to the capital with high housing costs or to some coastal locations) retention is another matter. With some sources suggesting 30% of teachers are leaving the profession within five years of qualification https://www.teachers.org.uk/news-events/press-releases-england/teachers-leaving-profession and others identifying which subjects will be left wanting for staff http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/teachers-crisis-education-leaving-profession-jobs-market-droves-who-would-be-one-a7591821.html retaining our teachers has to be a priority for all schools.

And how do we retain them? By looking after them and by helping them to look after themselves. That is why schools, leaders, governors and especially teachers, driven by shared healthy values teaching assistants and other staff need to #SayYes2Wellbeing .

Culture and Principles

Do we want to see Hard Wellbeing or Soft Wellbeing?

Wellbeing is best promoted in schools where there is a positive culture, one in which everyone in the school, children and adults alike, can thrive, perform at their best and be happy. Happy. Key word that one. For many of our children, school offers the most stable part of their lives. They are going to be best served by teachers who are satisfied in their own environment, not by those who are grim-faced, snappy and stressed. Only this week children in the UK were categorised as ‘some of the unhappiest’ https://www.tes.com/news/school-news/breaking-news/uk-pupils-among-worlds-unhappiest

A positive and energising culture in a school has to be a starting point for any wellbeing process. Wellbeing can’t be ‘done to’ staff. It is a shared and egalitarian process which has to be there to benefit the whole school community equally. Generating this culture cannot be a top-down process, though leaders do need to set the example and take the lead in planning. A model of ‘sideways-in’ to which everyone can contribute is a way forward in developing and maintaining the appropriate culture.

Wellbeing also needs to be principled, which we have blogged about before https://healthyteachertoolkit.wordpress.com/2016/12/18/putting-wellbeing-and-workload-into-practice/. Alongside developing an energising culture, principled wellbeing can actually determine direction and processes. Core principles and deeply held values can really demonstrate how committed the school is to the concept of wellbeing.

Culture needs to be driven by everyone; principles need to be bought into by everyone.

Hard wellbeing is driven by principles, by culture, by values and by planned actions and interventions. Soft wellbeing is characterised by gimmicks, fads and a tick-box approach to the care of staff.

Leadership

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The most committed leaders will know that wellbeing isn’t a simple concept to lead or manage as the graphic demonstrates. However modelling a sincere commitment to it demonstrates an empathy to our colleagues. Knowing what makes them tick, what their strengths and areas to support are, alongside showing that we wish to support our staff in their career path; these demarcate leaders with deeply held values and an ethical approach to their role. School leaders should be there to nurture their staff and children and to act in alignment with their healthy values so they can #SayYes2Wellbeing.

If the culture is one of ‘buy them in, burn them out, replace and repeat‘ such a cyclical approach does not allow for continuity, consistency or stability. Again from the press this week this piece https://www.tes.com/news/school-news/breaking-news/older-teachers-careers-destroyed-sake-saving-a-few-bucks is a concern. We face financial cutbacks, but playing games with experienced teachers careers also pays games with their mental health, with their financial wellbeing, with their mortgages, with their families and their relationships.

Another link on Twitter and Facebook this week brought up one school where plans had to be emailed to SLT by 5pm on Saturday and were returned by 7pm on Sunday with suggestions for improvement. This is too much. Weekends should be email free times. Teachers are not lazy. Each and every teacher will do what is best for the children in their class and that will involve a number of different strategies. To fret over an entire weekend will bring stress, burnout, anxiety and probably absence.

If as a leader you haven’t yet done so, we urge you to read and act upon the recommendations about workload. Planning, marking and assessment are addressed, and though far from perfect they do provide an excellent starting point for a professional conversation in school about the necessity and impact of some of the tasks we have to do.

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The best schools work on a good team culture. Staff support each other, step up when there are problems and leaders support them. If you are in such a school, celebrate it. Perfection does not exist. There will always be cause to evaluate, improve and to recognise mistakes.

Whether you are in such a setting or not, this graphic clearly demonstrates how positive thinking can help us as individuals to #SayYes2Wellbeing.

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Look after yourself. Seek support if you find things a challenge. The best colleagues and most supportive leaders won’t be judgemental and they will listen.

Take time for yourself, look after yourself.

Promote Healthy Values in your thoughts, words and actions, in the real world and on digital platforms.

Sleep well. Eat well. Teach well.

Show yourself, and your colleagues, some love.

#SayYes2Welleing

 

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WomenEd: #HeForShe

Yesterday it was our privilege and pleasure to present at the WomenEd West Midlands Regional event in Coventry. Massive thanks are due to @DaringOptimist and @TheHopefulHT for organising, hosting and directing an event which was inspiring, engaging and informative.

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For any readers unaware of WomenEd, where have you been? Over 10,000 Twitter followers gained in less than two years and a network of regional leaders and events is testament to the dedication of the founding team and to the chord struck by their message.

“#WomenEd is a grassroots movement which connects existing and aspiring leaders in education. Even though women dominate the workforce across all sectors of education there still remain gender inequalities, particularly at senior leadership level. The situation regarding BME leadership is even more dire considering the fact that the student population is becoming increasingly diverse. This situation is clearly unacceptable and rapid change is needed.  #WomenEd will therefore campaign and use its collective power to make improvements, so that there is a more equitable balance in terms of gender and ethnicity at leadership level across all sectors of education.” http://www.womened.org/

As it says on the tin, #WomenEd is pro-women, women leaders in particular. The movement is most definitely not anti-men. We provided two of the male attendees at the ‘unconference’ and we were made to feel most welcome and valued.

Any negative attention that #WomenEd has attracted has focused upon statistics about percentages of women reaching headship in the primary and secondary sectors. Whilst we can all quote statistics, the oft misused quote attributed either to Mark Twain or Benjamin Disraeli raises the point that to actually impact upon those statistics what really needs to change is attitude and culture, in a large part that means male attitude and culture.

Much of British society is still inherently sexist, and in some cases misogynistic,  with a combination of long-held and unchallenged tradition, a ‘lad’ culture, assumptions about childcare and an element of gender stereotyping. As Jill Berry told us yesterday, in her experience a fellow candidate  boasted that he had never failed to be appointed to a post for which he had been interviewed. This is indicative of a shocking level of arrogance and entitlement. Even though the reasons for the barriers and challenges that hold women and men back are complex, in a profession staffed in the majority by women, there are a lot of alpha males out there with attitudes that need to change.

Though representing a minority in education, particularly in the primary sector, our male teachers need to be positive role models, challenging gender stereotyping, promoting positive and appropriate conduct and demonstrating the value of respect. Our male leaders and governors in turn also need to be aware of the values they project and the culture they promote.

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As Claire Cuthbert told us yesterday, she learned to be 10% braver in applying for her roles. Claire and Jill, together with the other keynote contributions from Christine Quinn and Dame Alison Peacock gave everyone inspiration, hope and a few good laughs too as they recounted their personal journeys to leadership.   Sue Cowley’s message is embedded as a clarion call for #WomenEd.

So come on chaps! Be 10% braver to change too!

World Book Day: “Think before you speak. Read before you think.”

“A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies, said Jojen. The man who never reads lives only one.”
― George R.R. Martin, A Dance with Dragons

It is strange how an event aimed at promoting one of life’s simple pleasures seems to stimulate argument and World Book Day 2017 featured on social media and heavily this week, to a range of responses.

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The most common line of discussion is on dressing up as a book character and the impact that it has on the appreciation of books. The intrinsic value of dressing up is probably little; children will not become more skilled or knowledgeable readers by dressing as Willy Wonka, Matilda or The Cat in the Hat. Nor will decorating a potato as Little Miss Messy, Wally or Thing 1&2  necessarily motivate a child to pick up an unfamiliar text.

The fundamental point is that World Book Day is a celebration of reading, of authors, of the lives and settings they create and of the pathways to the imagination that they generate. Walk into any good primary school on any given day and the importance of reading will be evident through book corners, displays and, most crucially, children engaging in reading. On their own, completing online book quizzes, in pairs or groups, with the adults, with parent and volunteer readers; it is in the very fabric of the school day. World Book Day is just one day a year to mark reading in a slightly different manner.

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The costume aspect of World Book Day can of course be a challenge to parents, financially as well as creatively. For every parent with the time and resources to create sparkly red slippers for their little Dorothy or a tail and ears for Fantastic Mr Fox, there will be some for whom a purchased costume will be necessary. This has become a commercial opportunity particularly for the supermarkets, and in the vacuum between Valentine’s Day and Mothers’ Day the racks were filled with dressing up items. Just one look last weekend revealed that alongside Horrid Henry and The Gruffalo sat Batman, Spiderman, Hulk, Woody and Buzz Lightyear, several Imperial Stormtroopers and a sizable force of Disney Princesses. If anyone from the main supermarkets is reading this please think of the impact financially on parents, but also think about the difference between a film and a book.

World Book Day has become part of the cyclical routine which is at the heart of the familiar pattern of the year; Harvest, Nativity, Carol Service, the Easter Egg Hunt, Sports Day. Parents and children like this routine; it is safe, comforting and expected because primary schools have at their heart a sense of community, belonging and teamwork. And of fun… don’t forget that; that’s why teachers dress up too! At their heart though, schools and teachers are promoting the love of reading in itself as well as a means to future progress. Do you share your favourite books with your classes?

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Books aren’t just for World Book Day, they are for life. They are a healthy habit, and here at Healthy Toolkit HQ we believe that escaping into a good book is just as important to our wellbeing as exercise, good food and sleep.

Whether you like World Book Day or not, the best activity to promote reading is to read a book. Why not share your current and favourite reads or inspirational book quotes as part of #MagnifyMarchHT?

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“I find television very educating. Every time somebody turns on the set, I go into the other room and read a book.” Groucho Marx

#MagnifyMarchHT

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

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

Here at Healthy Toolkit HQ we like to accentuate the positive and in our latest themed month we urge everyone out there to be aware of what you and what others do well. Welcome to #MagnifyMarchHT.

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As we have outlined in previous posts, positive thoughts and comments can impact the mood of a whole staff in a way that can genuinely make someone feel good about themselves. However this does need to be authentic and reflect the integrity of the person delivering it. We all recognise the stilted communal praise that might come at the end of a term largely punctuated with criticism and may question the authenticity of it. Consider the difference that an aside, a note, card or even a simple gift can make. It becomes personal, real and memorable.

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

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

So this month we would love to see you sharing your successes: great displays; individual examples of progress; wonderful shared experiences like performances or school trips; the child you’ve helped all year suddenly showing independence. Share what you do outside too: climbing; baking; fitness. If it’s important to you, make it count and be proud of it.

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

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

Just be…..

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We find our inspiration from normal people who go out of our their way to help other people and make a positive difference and who promote positive thinking. If you are an active user of social media, why not #FF your positive influences this month?

Negativity is lazy, instant and gratifying only to the perpetrator. It’s like a sugar rush leading to craving for more. Positive thinking is the complex carbohydrate of wellbeing; slowburning and ultimately more satisfying. Negativity is a drain on wellbeing but positivity promotes it.

The positive thinker sees the invisible, feels the intangible and achieves the impossible.‘- Winston Churchill

So in #MagnifyMarchHT why not dare to be optimistic?

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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!

Qu’est-ce que l’amour?

In the words of Burt Bacharach and Hal David ‘What the world needs now is love sweet love‘ and from another philosophical piece ‘What do you get when you fall in love; a boy with a pin to burst your bubble.

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On this Valentine’s Day, if we were to look beyond the commercial aspects of the occasion but consider instead the nature of love itself, we would discover there is no ‘toolkit’ for love, no manual nor guru to show the way. It lies in our experience, our culture, our mindset as much as in the minds and deeds of those we encounter.

Can we teach ‘love’?

If we can teach ‘happiness’, then we can teach ‘love’. Through moral values, through modelling decency and responsibility and through a positive culture, we can hopefully guide our young people towards a path of respectful behaviour. We know that many of our children do not come from an environment where loving relationships are not the same as our own, that they witness and experience things that would cause us concern for their wellbeing.

Ask any primary age child about love and the first reaction will be an attack of the giggles. Dig a little deeper though, and their philosophy is enlightening.

‘Being loved can make you happy.’

‘Sharing love is like having a big bubble inside that never bursts.’

‘Love is one of the things we need to survive: like food, air and water.’

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Must we love ourselves first?

We must love ourselves and be kind to ourselves. In our digital and high pressured world world, self-doubt can easily erode our confidence, undermine our abilities and prevent us performing as we should. We are all talented, dedicated and resourceful.

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Do we need the approval of others, particularly the confidence drainers of social media?

If you are in any doubt, the answer is a resounding ‘NO!!!!’

Who needs our love?

Love is a great theme for assembly. If you are in a values based school, the opportunity to model, promote and share loving values brings appropriate language and considered actions onto the agenda and into discussion. In our experience the use of such language is positive in approaching issues such as bullying and understanding the behaviour of others.

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Love isn’t just for Valentine’s Day: it’s for life! Take your time with your special ones today but remember, love is a life skill. If you can genuinely show love it is demonstrated in all your behaviours, in real life and through social media.

Love is a strength, one that we are celebrating through #ForteFebruaryHT.

We can be Heroes….

A few days ago our inbox contained an invitation to consider nominations for the TES awards. One of the most intriguing was the Lifetime Achievement award.

The entry form can be found here. http://www.tesawards.co.uk/tessawards2017/en/page/entry-form

‘This award will reward someone who has made a significant contribution to education. It could be a well-known figure or a local hero. In your submission, explain exactly what the individual has achieved in their career and why you feel they deserve the trophy.’

‘… significant contribution …’

‘… well-known figure …’

‘… local hero …’

‘…exactly what the individual has achieved …’

Picking out the key phrases provides much food for thought. Few teachers are given the honour of being a dame or a knight outside a small group of leaders. Some are awarded other gongs, but of the tens of thousands of teachers in the UK, most will go unrecognised beyond the confines of their own school or setting.

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So who may deserve the lifetime achievement award? ‘Lifetime’ being the key word in this title.

The secretary of the local sports council who has held the post since 1972, run district teams every Saturday in the football season, single handedly ran cricket in the summer and who still organises everything despite retirement?

The school crossing patrol who has turned up in wind, snow, hail and blazing sunshine for thirty years and then pitches up in school to support readers?

The SENDCO who was a SENDCO before they even existed, who has literally as well as metaphorically given blood, sweat and tears for their children.

We can all think of someone who is truly committed and deserving of recognition for their tireless devotion, selflessness and refreshing lack of ego.  It is worth taking the time recognising them, even if they don’t reach the final stages of the process.

Maybe there is someone in Special Education deserving of recognition. We are in awe of the patience and professionalism shown in this sector. Meeting such complex needs; facing the daily challenges that can include verbal and physical assault; planning for and achieving the tiniest but most significant of steps; managing and challenging behaviours that even the police would find demanding; keeping these children, happy, safe and nurtured. If anyone is deserving of unsung hero status, look no further than the staff who work with those children with the most severe needs, behavioural and mental health concerns.

Primary teachers often receive some unfair criticism through social media, usually from someone who hasn’t been in a primary school since the age of 11. The groundwork that the primary sector provides, in social skills, behaviour for learning, manners and values is invaluable, as we are often told by Year 7 transition teachers. Primary education is not all glitter, glue, finger painting and discovery learning. There is plenty of direct instruction, rigour and firmness of discipline. Ask any adult to choose their best teacher. Chances are the majority will choose someone from their primary days.

So if primary school teachers are some of the heroes of education, don’t forget the ‘shock troops’ of the sector; those in EYFS. In Nursery and Reception classes these wonderful people are dealing with tears and snot, pooh and wee, tantrums and traumas. When you are three, and the firefighter’s outfit isn’t there, this is of lifestyle challenging significance. If you are in primary, go and visit your Reception and Nursery classes. Those aren’t painted smiles; there are no gritted teeth; this is dedication to love of learning in its simplest and purest form.

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The real heroes of education will stand in front of a whiteboard, not sit behind a keyboard. The vast majority will never appear on an award nomination list, the New Year Honours board or even have a bench with their name on. They are there on the frontline every day and for this their best reward is recognition of their strengths and acknowledgement of their wellbeing.

Are you ready for #ForteFebruaryHT?

In English forte has two meanings, depending on the number of syllables used. With two syllables, forte is an adverb meaning ‘loudly’ or a synonym for ‘loud’ derived from the Italian adjective familiar to musicians. With one syllable forte means ‘strength’ or ’talent’, from the French fort meaning ‘strong’.

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It is the latter of these which is the theme for this month. #ForteFebruaryHT recognises talents and strengths, rather than volume and intensity, and is our opportunity to celebrate our own strengths and gifts as well as those of others.

Here at Healthy Toolkit HQ we are no great fans of ego. As we have discussed before, it is possible to be ‘loud’ through social media through tone, through semantics, by means of intimidatory language, by butting into threads and by sparking a response from a large following. If we take ‘loud’ in its traditional context, it is frequently the loudest people who are actually the least tolerant, most closed minded and less well informed and who use their volume as a defence mechanism.

Let us however put ego and the decibel count aside. This month is about strength.

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

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

Don’t forget that it is Valentine’s Day on the 14th. Use this to really recognise the strengths of your most special person. Think outside the staples of ‘card, chocolate, flowers and champagne’! We are however reliably informed that these items do help!

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This month we ask you to recognise and acknowledge strength and talent and to share it using our #ForteFebruaryHT hashtag. Bring this concept into your school through your ‘Shout Out’ boards and Positivity Jars.

Recognise others for their talents and tell them. Remember that talent might be on the sporting field or the stage, but equally that talent might be through a kind word, a welcome hug or simply through the confidence that this person is there for you.

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Showing off our own talents is tough, but please celebrate your inner strength. We don’t want to be demonstrating an inflated opinion of ourselves. However self-esteem, resilience, strength of character and a positive sense of self is something to promote and be proud of. By the end of the month let us all tweet just one great thing about ourselves, but use the first 27 days to build that character and recognise others.

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There is much more content to come this month and as in our previous themed months we are looking for you to share how you have been promoting strength and talent in your setting.

Don’t forget the hashtag #ForteFebruaryHT