Effective Leadership for Change

Image result for leading change

Effective leadership for change has an empowering effect on school. With a clear vision and sustained communication, underpinned by strong guidance, leaders can bring about positive outcomes.

Change is one of the inevitable aspects of school and life in general. Some people find it difficult to deal with change, and their attitude towards it can limits their growth. Others embrace change and deal with it in positive ways. It’s only natural for people to feel the challenges and concerns that come with times of change.

All change is best when communicated. Communication is so important. It’s as important as ever to make time to talk to your staff about how they are feeling. Helping everyone involved stay focused on the same outcomes can make a big difference.

As a leader it’s important to; empower others, lead by example, make a difference, generate enthusiasm, be compassionate and listen, while taking others on an inspiring journey.

Researching different types of Mental Health and Wellbeing initiatives, legislation and guidance has helped me to understand the individual needs of the children and young people I teach and to support them better and led to me making changes in how I lead my team.

Here are some powerful ways as a leader we deal with change effectively.

Be flexible and positive. Don’t get set in your ways. Know ahead of time that things are going to change, and when they do, embrace and move forward. If you’re rigid and inflexible, changes will still come.

Trust: mutual trust in each other’s underlying beliefs and abilities builds and strengthens any relationship. Without trust, personal and professional relationships have no foundation.

Be accountable: When situations change, take charge. Take responsibility for what is happening and work to help others deal with the changes. Lead out in facing the moment and dealing with it head-on. Others will follow and they will appreciate you for your efforts.

Respect: have mutual respect for the range of each other’s talents and skills. Respect each other’s opinions and share any differences openly, fairly and without being judgemental.

Honesty: like trust, a foundation of any relationship.

Presence: being there and sometimes knowing when not being there can help too.

Compromise: because nobody can be right all of the time.

Teamwork: the longest relationships don’t rely on finishing each others sentences, but they do need us to know what makes each other tick.

Perseverance: a partnership is a marathon, not a sprint, and the good times far outweigh the less good ones.

Celebration: mark the big things (anniversaries and birthdays) but acknowledge the little successes too.

Look to the future: Your attitude towards change will determine how it influences you. If you worry and fret about what is happening, it will have a negative affect. If you look for the positives in the situation, and move forward with confidence, everything that changes in your life will have a positive outcome, and your attitude will help others.

We are in a profession that relies almost in its entirety upon personal relationships to drive our ‘end product’ and it is those personal relationships in our schools, between our staff and between teachers and SLT that ultimately determine our wellbeing.

A few simple guidelines will help to cement goodwill.

  • Communication; keep it to a minimum. Diaries and dates, data analyses, reminders; yes they are important but keep it all in one email.
  • Avoid the most pervasive feature of email: the read receipt! It is intrusive and adds unnecessary pressure.
  • Respect the fact that your staff have families and loved ones, or may have lost loved ones.
  • Respect the fact that some don’t or may face as challenging a time as some of our families.
  • Any communication with staff you do have needs to feature the simplest and most uplifting words in the wellbeing lexicon.

Working in a team has its challenges, with a diversity of skills, ages, experiences, opinions and attitudes. Interpersonal skills used effectively can enable the staff to forge effective relationships and work together as a team.

To motivate the team you need to start seeing yourself as a role model. As a good example to others. A good leadership role model sets high standards of accountability for themselves and their behaviours. Before motivating your team be sure to motivate yourself. Be the sort of person others can get behind and support. Be a good role model.

A good leadership role model:

  • Practices self-reflection – They set exacting standards for themselves and others.
  • Is self-aware – They are open to learning and new ideas.
  • Shows empathy – They think carefully about the impact they have on others.
  • Has vision, courage and integrity – They communicate their vision and expectations clearly so people know where they’re heading.
  • Is ready to lead – They lead by example. They are honest, sincere and practice what they preach.

Productive Relationships

We are in a profession that relies almost in its entirety upon personal relationships to drive our ‘end product’ and it is those personal relationships in our schools, between our staff and between teachers and SLT that ultimately determine our wellbeing.

Trust: mutual trust in each other’s underlying beliefs and abilities builds and strengthens any relationship. Without trust, personal and professional relationships have no foundation.

Establishing the most positive, constructive and mutually respectful relationships is key, I think.  Those you lead need to feel that they are listened to, that their contribution is valued, and that you take them seriously.  You have to be able to see the best in people in order to get the best from them, so recognising your colleagues’ strengths, ensuring they feel their abilities are appreciated and utilised, is just as important as having the highest aspirations and encouraging them to address those areas in which there is room for development.  If relationships are healthy, and all staff are treated with humanity and warmth, they are more likely to be able to accept constructive criticism and guidance.

Building a sense of community so that those in schools feel they are pulling together, giving and benefiting from mutual support in a common endeavour, is hugely important.  Goodwill is precious and powerful.  In my experience, if you show understanding and generosity when staff are in need of it, they will repay you with significant discretionary effort in the future.  So giving someone time when they need it may well mean that they go above and beyond in the future, in return.  Finding ways of connecting and communicating as a staff, sharing challenges and causes for celebration, underlining that you are all on the same side – which is, of course, the children’s side – can build a community which is mutually supportive, aware of the needs of others and prepared to go the extra mile for one another.

 

Advertisements

A Wellbeing Christmas Carol

Marley was dead,to begin with. In fact he had been gone this last seven years and the Scrooge and Marley Academy Trust no longer bore his name after he had failed to attend his return to work interview.  “A humbug of an excuse,” muttered Scrooge, working on his development plan by the light of a single candle.

Image result for a christmas carol

“Mr Scrooge,” came a plaintive cry from the booth opposite. Bob Cratchit, the mild mannered History teacher could not be observed, hidden as he was under a vast pile of quadruply marked manuscripts. Taking care not to spill the precious supply of purple ink for the fifth stage of his feedback, Bob slipped from his isolation and timidly approached the desk. “I wished to beg, if it wasn’t too much trouble for you Mr Scrooge, for tomorrow off.”

“A day off! What a humbug!”

“It is Christmas Day sir. And what with Tiny Tim being so unwell sir. And what with your nephew’s free school guaranteeing staff time for family medical emergencies I thought that….”

“You’ll be expecting the whole day then. I’ll dock you the half-crown of your wages. And that data won’t input itself you know.”

Wishing to avoid an evil stare, crossed arms or an unannounced learning walk, Cratchit grabbed his scarf and hat and hurried out of the door. Scrooge meanwhile finished his business and took the candle with him to his chambers.

Image result for a christmas carol

That evening, a phantom appeared. “Will you not ask who I am?” asked the visitor. Scrooge cowered. “I am the ghost of Jacob Marley, gone these last seven years. My wellbeing was naturally compromised by my untimely death and the thirty-seven reports I was expected to complete on a Sunday evening. Scrooge: you will be visited this very evening by three spirits. Expect the first as the clock tolls one.”

True to Marley’s word, at 1am a kindly looking man, wearing a dark suit and bearing a clipboard appeared. “I am the Spirit of Wellbeing Past. Come with me.”

They arrived soon enough in a classroom, desk at the front with the teacher sat behind, intoning from the volume before him; children in rows, observant and sitting straight. Incorrect answers met with derision, correct answers with a curt “yes” before the teacher directed the smallest boy to “fetch the art books from Mrs D next door so I may monitor unannounced the progress towards her target grades.”

“That is me, in my younger years. But Spirit; you said you are the Spirit of Wellbeing Past. There is no wellbeing here.”

“Precisely. My fellow spirit will direct you further to the consequences.”

Scrooge slept fitfully, woken at the next hour.

Image result for a christmas carol

“I am the Spirit of Wellbeing Present,” uttered the ghost, still in a dark suit and with the same clipboard but with a careworn expression and bags under the eyes.

Scrooge was taken by the Spirit to a staffroom, on the last staff meeting of the term. Equally careworn staff lay strewn over the threadbare chairs, late arrivals perched nervously by the tea urn or leaning on the filing cabinet.

“I recognise this place,” announced Scrooge. “It is the failing school I took into the Scrooge Academy Trust last summer.”

The meeting was in full flow, or at least the interim Head of School was, listing the progress seen in the last twenty minutes, feeding back his monitoring of the shades of blue on the displays and the acceptable level of diversion from the vertical he would accept, which was a very round zero.

One brave soul, due to retire at Easter, piped up. “Where is the wellbeing you promised us?”

“You had half an hour of mindfulness on the training day in September,an Indian head massage the day before half term and a box of oranges from the PTA a fortnight ago. What more do you expect?”

“Workload reforms! Did you not read what the Department sent out?”

“Never heard of them! Probably in my spam emails. You know I never read anything that comes at the weekend or in the holidays.”

At this point the staff collectively sighed as the meeting entered a third hour.

“Your third visitor will come for you soon Scrooge. Be ready.”

Image result for a christmas carol

Expecting an empty hooded Spirit, Scrooge was relieved that this one did not reply to his question “You must be the Spirit of Wellbeing Yet to Come, are you not?”

A single bony finger emerged from a gown, pointed at Scrooge and then to Cratchit’s house.

“What am I to see here Spirit? Tiny Tim lying in his coffin whilst his father completes the assessment due tomorrow, barely having time to comfort his wife?”

But no! Before him lay a table, groaning with Christmas fare and the finest prize turkey in pride of place.

“I do believe Mr Scrooge himself was my Secret Santa,” announced Bob, “as the turkey barely fitted onto my desk. The assessments had all been completed overnight and the data entered into the ledger in a hand different to my own.”

Image result for a christmas carol cratchit family

“Mr Scrooge really is a man of integrity, values and principles, with the wellbeing of all his staff at his very heart,” replied Mrs Cratchit. “He gave you time to take Tiny Tim to his appointments, guaranteed your release time and done away with that ghastly purple quill of quality. It is almost as if he has found a toolkit of wellbeing strategies.”

“A Wellbeing Toolkit,” thought Scrooge to himself, now there’s a thought.”

Scrooge had no further unannounced learning walks with Spirits. He lived by the Total Wellbeing Principle ever afterwards. And so as Tiny Tim observed, “God Bless Us, Every One!”

 

 

 

The Healthy Toolkit Reverse Advent Calendar: #DetoxDecemberHT #ActsOfKindness

Image result for advent calendar

The #DetoxDecemberHT theme is something Healthy Toolkit has embraced over the last two years. Detoxing isn’t simply a matter of ditching the mince pies, upping the water intake and shaking off a pound or two.

” ‘Detox’ is one of those words which through slang and ‘text speak’ has been abbreviated from its original spelling. As a noun, detoxification is a process or period of time in which one abstains from or rids the body of toxic or unhealthy substances. As a verb, to detoxify means to be actively involved in abstinence or expulsion of toxins. We normally associate detoxification with diet, alcohol or medication, but as we shall explore further, there are other aspects to our professional and personal lives to which the principles of detoxification can apply.”

This year we would like all of our followers to embrace the principles of Detox:

“The spirit of #DetoxDecemberHT lies in more than simply a change in dietary habits for teachers. If we examine our lifestyles as a whole we can identify other means to bring a more positive tone to our lives at a challenging time of the school year.”

Can we go a little further? Through December we will be tweeting our Reverse Advent Calendar, suggesting acts of kindness. Not random acts of kindness, but deliberate,considered, thoughtful and impactful acts of kindness and generosity which will genuinely reflect our standing as a caring profession.

1st December: Curate your Twitter block and mute list. You will never remember why you put this person there.

2nd December: Choose one additional item on your weekly shop and leave in the Food Bank box. The Trussell Trust will support so many of our vulnerable families this Christmas. Maybe some from your school.

3rd December: Leave cookies,chocolate or a lottery scratchcard in the pigeonhole of a colleague who has looked a little stressed.

4th December: Cover the playground duty of a colleague. Not for a swap but because it is the decent thing to do.

5th December: You know that child you only seem to be negative about. Call their parent/carer with news about the great work they have done. Positive interaction.

6th December: Bring a bag of fruit to the staffroom for your colleagues to share.

7th December: Hot Chocolate Friday: Make a Hot Chocolate for a deserving colleague who has had a challenging week.

8th December: Donate to your local charity shop. Toys, clothes, books: give a new home to something well loved.

9th December: Wish everyone a great week ahead on your group WhatsApp.

10th December: Make a pot of tea for your colleagues and indulge in some #TeaAndTalk

11th December: Strike up a conversation with that one colleague you never quite get around to talking to.

12th December: Mark some books for a colleague who may be getting behind.

13th December: Tidy a colleague’s book corner or desk, without them knowing it is you.

14th December: Hot Chocolate Friday: Make a Hot Chocolate for a deserving pupil.

15th December: That elderly neighbour of yours. Invite them for tea. Help with their shopping. Ask them about their Christmas.

16th December: Walk a neighbour’s dog.

17th December: Leave a Secret Santa gift for a colleague.

18th December: Smile at everyone you meet today.

19th December: Leave an anonymous note of thanks to someone who may be underappreciated.

20th December: Thank every child in your class individually for their great work.

21st December: The last day of term. Find that person you haven’t spoken to since October. Maybe you fell out. Make it up. Wish them the best for the season.

22nd December: Tape loose change to the car park ticket machine.

23rd December: Thank the person who has made the difference for you this year. Let them know just how much impact they have had.

24th December: Jólabókaflóð: The Yule Book Flood. Take the Icelandic tradition and gift a book to a neighbour or friend. Or just leave one in the pub, cafe or on the bus for an unknown person to encounter and enjoy.

One simple act. That is all it takes to show some positivity, love and respect at a challenging time.

Look out for our tweets through December. Use the hashtags #DetoxDecemberHT #ReverseAdventCalendar or #ActsOfKindness.

Image result for advent

The Power of Positive

Image result for positive words

Last week on Twitter one of our Headteacher followers posted a picture detailing the ‘New, Improved Staffroom’ containing a list of initiatives and actions aimed at the wellbeing of the whole staff. Fruit teas, a breakfast bar, tidy spaces, photocopier and laminator moved out: all actions which will have a direct impact upon the wellbeing of the staff.

One bullet point raised some discussion on Twitter: the staffroom was to be a ‘no moan zone’ with no complaining about pupils, parents and other staff. Some responses were along the lines of staff having a safe place to let off steam or that having such a zone would be hard to achieve. A single tweet does not of course give the complete context of a school and in this case the context was the staffroom was also used by visitors, including parents.

This tweet got us thinking about the power of positive language: in this case the school is actively promoting staff wellbeing and the stated aim of the Head is to make the staffroom a positive place. Those who discussed and debated the original point were not being negative; rather they may have been reflecting upon their own experiences.

In an ideal world we will have no negativity but of course the world is far from ideal and the very nature of social media makes negativity an easy and instant option.When this negativity begins to invade our staffrooms, we then need to be concerned for the wellbeing of our staff.

Staff may need a safe place to sound off. For some people, their wellbeing is served by the ability to have a grumble. They may not agree with every decision made by SLT and they have the right to express this disagreement. How, when and where this is expressed comes down to school culture. A positive school culture will allow for constructive criticism to be given in a non-judgmental and blame free environment. Senior leaders in such an environment will accept reasoned and polite challenge to their decisions.

A toxic environment, where leaders aren’t willing to listen or where it is staff  ‘sound off’ in the staffroom so others can overhear sometimes personal criticism, does not serve anybody’s wellbeing in any way. Leaders need to listen as our good friend Simon Smith tells us here with his usual eloquence. Listening is important; acting upon this, even if it only comes to ‘thank you for your contribution’ is more so.

If we encourage our staff to speak positively to each other then we instantly set the tone, the ethos, that we want wellbeing to be promoted and that if there is be be any criticism, it is valid, polite, non-judgmental and will not undermine the mental wellbeing of our colleagues. Negativity is a drain. Repetitive and constant negativity will undermine confidence. As another friend of ours, Adrian Bethune, clearly states in his new book, available here for every negative interaction with a child there should be at least eight positive ones. Why don’t we repeat the same balance with our colleagues.

Staffrooms can be horrid places in toxic schools; dominated by a small group, ruled by one department, space occupied by the lunchtime markers who are all over the table or with someone repeating conversations ‘upstairs’ so staff are wary of their conduct and in the worst cases teachers scared away from their communal space because of the words and deedsof others.

All staff should be welcome in the staffroom. The positive language you promote will encourage them. If individual staff don’t appear, or if the staffroom is empty, ask yourself why.

It is easy to be negative in our words.Negative words can hurt, can upset and we just can’t see it. They impact upon the mental health in ways that some people don’t understand or appreciate.

That is why we need to keep our language positive, and realistic, to support each other and our whole team in their wellbeing. Accept the odd grumble or too,but let your staff feel safe in doing so. If your ethos is positive, your teachers will be too.

Image result for gandhi quotes words

Start As You Mean To Go On: Sixteen Ways With Wellbeing

Two years have passed since we founded Healthy Toolkit. If you haven’t found us before, we formed to promote values and principles led whole school wellbeing; let’s face it, if the school isn’t committed to wellbeing, teachers are going to be challenged to manage their own wellbeing.

Over the last part of the holiday we ran #WellbeingWorldCup on Twitter, asking for the initiatives that you have seen, or would like to see, in school this year. As schools in England return this week, these top sixteen ways  with wellbeing should be an essential read for everyone in school.

Sensible marking policy

Our runaway leader by a long way. Workload is only part of wellbeing, but it is the most time-consuming intrusion into it. Has the school read the workload reports from the DfE and the blogs promoting the impact of whole class marking? Or are we still on triple marking, multiple pens, responses from the children and replies back from teacher. Are your teachers staying until 6pm and taking marking home? Is the marking making a difference to learning? Probably not; so if it isn’t, why carry on with it? Because ‘OFSTED say so’ (they don’t), because it ‘promotes deeper learning’ (it probably doesn’t) or because ‘it works and we have always done it that way’ (this began around 2003 and built from there)?

A no-brainer; if it doesn’t benefit the children, then sort it so it does, and cut the time your teachers spend marking.

Whole school mental health training

Despite what some voices may say, there is a growing crisis in child mental health but also in teacher mental health. Recent years have seen a lifting of the stigma surrounding discussion of our own mental health and lessons to address this in school are becoming more widely taught. Organisations such as Place2Be and Young Minds offer professional training opportunities and if budget permits, this should be followed up for the benefit of the children and the staff.

Time to Talk

Know your staff. Not simply on passing terms. Not keeping your conversations to the professional only. Really talk, find out what makes them tick. Try our #TeaAndTalk initiative which can be found here and here which is a really simple way to generate conversation which might reveal a little more about your colleagues.

Wellbeing resources

A surprise finalist, the provision of wellbeing resources for teaching is one matter.There is much accessible online for free. Resources for staff are a matter for awareness and accountability.

What do you support your staff with? Do they have the chance to choose a session of mindfulness? Can they access support, such as the Education Support Partnership, where it is needed? Perhaps you provide a space where there is a chance to escape from education talk. Budgets are tight but if you can spare something to support staff wellbeing, then please do so. Retention of staff is as big a challenge as recruitment.

Our other finalists

Workload and marking was a clear leader in our poll. Wellbeing is more than workload as our forthcoming publication will outline in greater depth. Enough of our followers voted for mental health as a whole school issue, time to talk and the provision of resources to support wellbeing as of huge importance too. There were twelve other finalists, all of which are essentials to your entire wellbeing jigsaw.

Image result for wellbeing jigsaw

  • A Wellbeing Coordinator: if this is a member of staff who isn’t on SLT, it is important that they have a voice and that the voice is respected by SLT. Otherwise the role may simply be washed away as the one that organises social events and Secret Santa. If your lead is on SLT then they need to speak with passion and authority on the issue. Whoever has the role needs to be aware of budget. We would all like an extra person or two to allow for release, but without the funding it isn’t going to happen.
  • Focussed gratitude. School leaders; do you thank your staff enough and do you mean it? Or is it saved to the end of the term or year? Or maybe you don’t give thanks because you feel that someone shouldn’t be thanked for doing their job. Recognition and meaning it can have huge positive impact.
  • Empathy lessons. We are good at teaching this to children but do we show it to each other enough? Is there an understanding of your colleagues’ lives and the things that impact how they work? See ‘Time to Talk’ above.
  • Closer collaboration. Look at your school team. Who works in isolation and who works together? A shared goal shares the workload and the responsibility. Wellbeing is a group responsibility after all, but needs effective leaders to enable it.
  • Greater departmental time. Linked to above and a suggestion from our secondary colleagues. Again this is about collective goals, particularly if you are a department under high pressure with public examinations.
  • Wellbeing lessons. Do you teach your children mindfulness, healthy relationships etc. You probably do but is it wrapped in the PSHE banner or in a more holistic way embracing all of their learning, attitudes and behaviours.
  • A mindful space. Not the staffroom! It could be a garden space, a room with no books or reference to education at all. Mindfulness isn’t the entire answer to wellbeing and there are cynical voices about it but there are enough people who believe in the benefits of mindfulness to allow for a space to be free for it.
  • Staff community building. Staff teams aren’t built on cakes in the staffroom and Pilates every fortnight. Community is built on the mutual respect and celebration of each other person’s worth and efforts.
  • Team building activities. The bane of the INSET day organiser! Stilted and awkward doesn’t work. Some are potentially embarrassing, but well organised and thoughtful activities promoting talk and empathy are the way forward.
  • Wellbeing CPD. Use your staff survey to write your development plan. Do you include some aspect of wellbeing in each staff meeting or do you pepper them through the year? Whichever the option, please make sure it is addressed.
  • Coaching. The most effective impact in the use of coaching is on the language we use. Turning a challenge to a reflection allows for less confrontation and more effective discussion.

That is fifteen ways with wellbeing so far. Not tips for wellbeing, because tips are tokenistic and if you ‘cover’ wellbeing on your INSET days this week, be aware of this in December when flu, deadlines and Nativities strike. Wellbeing is for everyday, not just for INSET.

The last way for wellbeing is a simple one. Be kind. It ties with empathy, compassion and talking to your staff. It isn’t difficult to be kind, but it also isn’t difficult to be critical. Parts of EduTwitter have not been pleasant this summer, sometimes cynical, sometimes cruel. If similar attitudes and language, verbal or written, are shown to our colleagues, then wellbeing is going to be under the cosh. The simplest thing you and your school leaders can do is to put kindness at the top of your wellbeing agenda.

Image result for choose kind

Wipeout!

Image result for teacher worn out make a difference

We recently responded to a tweet from a journalist who called for a shortening of school holidays with these words.

Are you aware of:

1. Crisis in teacher recruitment and retention.

2. Issues regarding teacher workload and wellbeing, especially mental health.

3. Real terms budget cuts.

4. That UK summer school holidays are shorter than other countries.

In December we wrote three pieces on surviving until Christmason tetchiness and misinterpreting words and actions and finally on surviving the holidays.

The weeks before Christmas are tough but increasingly Summer 2 must now be the toughest of the terms; data, reports, OFSTED, inspection follow ups and action plans, excessive heat, grumpy children and maybe grumpy colleagues.

Whoever thought the final weeks of the school year were made up of DVDs, rounders and mindfulness colouring?

Yes we have Sports Day. Yes we do go on school trips. And yes we do take advantage of the sunshine to work outside more than we would in the depths of winter.

We are also still teaching, conducting parent evenings, staying after school for concerts, productions and leavers’ discos, dealing with challenging parents and children and handling safeguarding concerns.

Schools and teachers are a soft target for lazy journalism and stereotypes as we wrote last year. There is the usual assault on the six week break, from those with little understanding of the mental and emotional pressures that teaching in every sector and every age group brings. We are yet to hear from Mr King at Sky and somehow feel we won’t.

We are used as a profession to this lack of comprehension of what we do, but wouldn’t it be just amazing to be thanked for our work?

To every teacher and every teaching assistant, in every school and in every class: thank you. You are awesome.

Image result for teacher worn out make a difference

#JoyfulJulyHT: You are just awesome! Celebrate it!

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

* * * * *

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

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

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

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

wheel

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

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

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

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

Image result for journey with friends quotes

That’s our journey. What’s yours?

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

You are all awesome!

Image result for journey quotes

#AwarenessAprilHT: Rebooted, revised and refreshed.

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

Image result for awareness quotes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Image result for awareness quotes

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

Tea and Talk: The best CPD in life is free

Image result for best drink of the day

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

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

    *     *     *     *     *     *

When was the last time you talked to your colleagues?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hosting #TeaAndTalk is easy.

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

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

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

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

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

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

#MagnifyMarchHT: Redrafted, rebooted and refreshed

Image result for march

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

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

Image result for negativity quotes

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

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

Be aware of what you and what others do well.

Image result for magnify quotes

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

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

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

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

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

Just be…..

Image result for invisible sign quote