Wipeout!

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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.

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#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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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Wasted investment? Why do so many teachers leave the profession in the first 5 years?

Published originally by one of our team in March 2013, some three and a half years before Healthy Toolkit was forged and before workload and wellbeing were in our regular lexicon. Revisiting this piece has revealed that the concerns of five years ago haven’t  been addressed.

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The BBC recently reported that there are a growing number of teachers leaving the profession.  http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-20585457  Likewise The Guardian added that half of newly qualified teachers leave teaching within the first five years.  

Clearly this is a matter of great concern: to schools; to the teaching profession as a whole; indeed to the nation too, because if we can’t staff our schools with good, qualified teachers, what hope do we offer our children.

Why do so many teachers leave the profession so quickly? There is no single obvious answer to this question, but there are a range of aspects to consider.

Let’s take the obvious one first. The current Secretary of State for Education is likely to be judged historically as the most destructive force ever in the state educational sector, particularly if the Government is unseated in 2015 and if we have an extended period of non-Conservative administrations following that. Even simply undoing what has happened so far will reach far into the life of any new Government. His PR standing among the teaching profession is not terribly high, but anyone who witnessed his recent appearance on Question Time would be put off entering the profession. Here he said that he did listen carefully to teachers, but if you analyse his words closely, he actually meant that he listened only to those who agreed with him. It is true that selective soundbites from Michael Gove and other ministers, could be used to their detriment, but the overall message emanating from both is highly negative towards teachers as a whole. 

It is too simplistic to simply lay the blame at the doors of Gove; he has after all been in office for less than three years, and the exit of teachers predates the 2010 election, albeit a recently accelerated process. Constantly shifting ‘goalposts’, diktats about what is ‘good teaching’, changes to curriculum and the National Strategies, and a small rainforest of files, papers, guidance and suggestions poured forth from the Department under Labour, producing a range of mixed messages particularly for new teachers: was it compulsory or a good idea, or something that brought derision from others when it was brought back to school. I have seen many a young teacher confused by this volume of material. It is the younger minds in teaching that often bring the more progressive and creative thinking to the profession. For them to be turned off, and turned out, is going to leave a gap in the balance of professionals in schools.

Many complain of a culture of bullying in schools. This can take a variety of forms but it seems to be a current issue,certainly looking at the Twitter traffic, in making judgements on teaching for Performance Management . These judgements are not easy to make, and many teachers find they are down a grade from previously. How, I do not know, because surely with feedback from an observation a reasonable teacher would at least consolidate if not improve. I do know that a number of ‘tweachers’ feel they have been very harshly judged, and with futures and salaries potentially in the balance, some people will surely wonder why they should put up with such pressures. This does of course depend on the culture within a school. Isolated incidents can be referred elsewhere in schools with good support networks. If the culture emanates from aggressive management however, there would be genuine fear.

I have heard an apocryphal  tale of a male NQT who lived close to his school being pressurised to take on caretaking duties when the site manager took long term sick. The time pressures of this soon spelled the end of a promising career.
Bullying can take different forms, even in matters that some might consider petty. I have heard of schools with a highly specific dress code, with disciplinary action if staff broke this. Most schools have a dress code, but this was an example of sartorial fascism! Petty it may seem, but if Senior Leaders are on the backs of staff for matters not related to teaching, it builds on the pressure of a job where levels of anxiety are heightened as a matter of course.

Bullying exists in all workplaces, and often appears on the social media too. Tweachers enjoy a healthy debate on professional matters on Twitter, but dissent can be quick to descend. Any new or inexperienced teacher facing this may feel intimidated under this barrage. We can’t agree on everything, but Twitter is an effective communal voice for the teaching profession. 

Good induction in schools, and a support network for NQTs, can aid the process of professional development, but some young graduates come to the employment market and to teacher training believing the world owes them a living. Without reverting to a cry of ‘Thatcher’s Children!’ or ‘Blair’s Britain’ it can be said that the change in the political climate since the 1980s towards an emphasis on the individual prioritising working for her/himself as opposed to the greater good of society has impacted on the expectations of the younger generation, in an almost mirror image of JFK’s inauguration speech. A good student teacher is worth their weight in gold, a poor one is a burden on the school they are in. I have sadly seen students drop out during a placement because they didn’t really appreciate the pressures of their task.
Finally, teachers drop out because they don’t always feel appreciated. ‘Thank you’ costs nothing and whether it comes in assembly, in a staff meeting or in passing in the corridor, it means a lot. A lack of recognition, or seizing on the negative despite a wealth of positives, can be a real downer for teachers. For hardened old hacks this might be water off a ducks back, but for less experienced teachers this could tip the balance to them taking another direction in their working life. A plate of cakes at the end of term or after an inspection may not seem much, but every little counts!
I am sure there are many more reasons for the teacher drop out rate, and fellow bloggers no doubt go into more coherently argued cases, but given that it takes three or four years of training and tens of thousands of pounds of public investment for each individual, serious attention needs to be paid to this issue to stem the tide.

Five years on little has changed. Gove has gone from Education but the prediction of the fall of the Conservatives never materialised.

Some thoughts on SATS

Is it coincidental or ironic that Key Stage 2 SATS this week coincides with Mental Health Awareness Week? With concerns for the impact of high stakes testing being raised in 2016 but also last year and again in this assessment cycle with parents expressing their worries so much as to suggest a boycott of this year’s tests.

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Take a scroll through Twitter or Facebook today: search Key Stage 2 SATS and/or Mental Health. Though social media provides a vent for frustrations it is also a powerful tool for the expression of genuine concern. Just this morning we have seen ‘homework’ for Year 6 children being set along the lines of ‘eat an ice-cream/go trampolining/swim half a dozen lengths/don’t injure your writing hand’; which begs the question of what the content of the other homework every weekend since Christmas have consisted of.

We heard last week of schools where the Year 6 children, possibly with parental support or maybe without, protesting to their Headteachers about the pressure of SATS preparation and the failure to have a broad curriculum, missing the opportunities for art, music and design that for many of our children will be their area of strength. We should be providing breadth and balance as a legal requirement and because it will hopefully lead to children with a broad range of interests and talents. Whether you believe in a knowledge led or a skills led curriculum, neither are best served by a regime dependent upon sitting test after test as preparation for ‘the real thing’. Mathematics and reading are life skills, something in danger of disappearing in the reams of paper copies of past papers spilling from the photocopiers of our primary schools.

Let us not forget we are addressing our comments and teaching a curriculum (or not teaching some of it until June) to children in their final year of primary school, nearly one-third of whom will still be 10 years old when they take SATS. Many of them will have had the talk that ‘these tests are important’. Some Heads and Year 6 staff may be transparent enough to admit that the results are important for the school and how it is judged. The children may also have been told that their results will be used by their secondaries to group them and predict targets for GCSE. When we were 10 and 11, the age 16 seemed long distance and the implications for our futures  of confusing area and perimeter and not identifying a relative pronoun passed us by.

To label a child as a success or otherwise at the age of only 10 is surely going to impact upon the mental health of their young minds, regardless of the degree of resilience and self-confidence they may have. High stakes testing is exacting for both children and teachers. The picture under ‘life without levels’ has barely been a focused one, particularly given the perpetual confusion and mixed messages surrounding the frameworks for writing. Schools being honest or cautious are prone to being identified as under performing, schools with a more liberal interpretation of the frameworks, free of the yoke of moderation,  may find their writing scores considerably higher than their reading test scores.

In the week where a further £50 million has been found for grammar school places, at a time where some schools are cutting paper budgets and make glue sticks last a term, it is worth remembering that many of these additional places will be filled, if they materialise, by children who have been afforded the luxury of a private tutor or a tutoring business to guide them through the 11+. Grammar schools in the days of levels were suddenly finding they had children reaching them will Level 3, where realistically they needed to be admitting children with Level 5 or higher. Under our current regime ideally the grammars should be full of ‘Greater Depth’ children but we know that there will be many ‘Working Towards’ children arriving in September. SENDCOs in grammar schools may be finding their registers more full and with a more diverse range of general learning needs to address than previously.

We don’t want to suggest that measures of accountability be removed for Primary Schools, but here is a suggestion. Sit the SATS in November/December of Year 6. Don’t permit cramming, test overload or the stripping back of the curriculum. This will require some careful monitoring by schools and local leadership, particularly through Year 5 and the early Autumn of Year 6. Tie the whole process in to the secondary school application cycle so the secondaries know the scaled scores when places are offered to their new intake. Of greater importance though is taking the pressure from Year 6 and their teachers. Let them have that time from Christmas onwards to develop a really deep and meaningful curriculum experience and to be really prepared mentally for that transition.

The care mental health of our children and of our teachers needs such radical thinking.

#MindfulMayHT: Rebooted and Refreshed.

Is May the most pressured time in UK schools?

Deadlines, assessments, reports and of course the high stakes test of SATS, GCSE and A-Level. Who is more stressed? Teachers or pupils?

It is a year since we launched #MindfulMayHT and the original blog discussed the benefits of being mindful:

“The benefits of being mindful are many fold. In a role which by its very nature is pressured, stressful, increasingly target driven, it is easy to lose sight of our personal priorities and of those of our loved ones. Poor sleep patterns, irregular mealtimes, lack of exercise and failure to remain hydrated may all result from work-life imbalance. Being self-aware is a challenge and often we are more aware of the needs of others than we are of our personal needs.”

Fuller details can be found in the original post; however these include for self-care

  • Electronic shut down, digital detox, phone free Friday.
  • Mindful eating.
  • Other eating habits to consider include alcohol free times, avoiding caffeine after a particular watershed, avoiding processed foods and keeping hydrated.
  • Have you considered meditation?
  • Live for now!

A mindful attitude also supports a team ethos, particularly for School Leaders:

  • Trust your teachers.
  • Don’t spring any surprises!
  • Be aware of who isn’t coming to the staffroom at lunch and breaks.
  • Consider your email times. A Headteacher and an education journalist had an lively discussion on this topic this week. Also consider email etiquette; please and thank you, basic good manners, goes a long way.
  • Ultimately your staff need calm, safe and secure space to work. Your good intentions must be concrete not abstract.

For everyone:

  • Appreciate boundaries.
  • Appreciate the sensitivities of others.
  • Think before you post.
  • Have you ever tried a random act of kindness?

Small things: big difference. As that great philosopher says:

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One member of the Healthy Toolkit family speaks with great authority on mindfulness and the #MindfulMayChallenge Week 1 post can be found here.

If you haven’t read Tammie’s work, she is an authority on the use of mindfulness in school and she is in print: here is a handy Amazon link.

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Mindfulness isn’t for everyone, but for those who engage deeply, the impact is appreciable. Please share your experiences on Twitter with the hashtags #MindfulMayHT and #MindfulMayChallenge

 

#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.

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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.

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

Tea and Talk: The best CPD in life is free

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#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.

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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.

Oh The Weather Outside Is Frightful

The tabloid press churn out ‘The Beast from the East’ once more, gritting lorries are prepared for the 3am shift and through the length of the nation thousands of Headteachers look anxiously at the forecast and at the leaden skies and pray that the creaking boiler holds out at least until the end of the budget year. Meanwhile children await the ping on their parents’ phones that the school is closed and the mythical ‘Snow Day’ at last becomes a reality.

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However, where does that leave our teachers, teaching assistants and other staff? Whilst the idea of a snow day and an unexpected day out will be celebrated for many, for others it is a time of dread and anxiety.

During the last few mild winters closures have been rare in the South East of England, though earlier this winter closures hit the Midlands, the North of England and Scotland. A glance through teacher social media reveals a range of school responses; some close completely whilst others remain open for staff.

This is where stresses and anxieties can be heightened. Are you in a school where there is an expectation that staff must make every effort to arrive, regardless of weather conditions? Closures are usually there for the safety of the children, but how about the safety of the staff? In one of our former schools we once had two members of staff lose control of their cars on the same day on  same patch of black ice mere yards from the school. Both were written off. Both staff had been asked to come to school because they lived nearby, though not close enough to walk.

Then we have the ‘work from home’ expectation. In another case we have been made aware of, one member of staff had a day’s pay docked being snowed into the village where they lived, yet another on SLT escaped without penalty. In this case the snow was unexpected and the class teacher had not taken work home the previous day. We have seen more arguments over snow closures than many other school issues.

Freezing weather brings other concerns too. Chionophobia is the extreme dislike or fear of snow. The word originates from Greek chion meaning snow and phobos meaning fear, aversion or dread. It is a real fear, often with causes going back to childhood memories of being injured by an icy snowball or a hard fall on a slippery surface. Driving on untreated roads can heighten this anxiety.

Snow is a political ‘hot potato’ in school and something for school leaders to be aware of particularly in regard to the mental wellbeing of our staff. While a time of great joy, exploration and an opportunity to see if the skeleton bob is for you for others it is an occasion of fear, stress and anxiety, particularly with the pressure to come to school or work from home.

Good leadership will already have considered alternatives for this week, rearranging meetings, trips, plays or assemblies, for the safety and mental wellbeing of their staff. An unhindered week is not a realistic expectation.

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Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!

Culture is Everything: Where do we turn for Wellbeing solutions?

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In the week that saw the announcement of another new Secretary of State for Education, there has been the expected raft of articles with top priorities that Mr Hinds faces in the departmental in-tray. Whilst some pieces that we have encountered have made mention of recruitment and retention, we have yet to see the term ‘wellbeing’ appear to date.

When we read articles such as this revealing the numbers of teachers on long-term leave from stress we question why journalists haven’t given higher profile to the issue of teacher health.

  • One in every 83 teachers being absent for a month or more compared to one in 95 three years earlier.
  • 1.3 million days of absence over four years for stress related conditions.
  • 312,000 days of absence in 2016/17 alone.

With limited budgets for supply cover, costs of staff insurance and limited numbers of options for covering classes, there is a level of stress for members of SLT juggling a whole range of other matters in addition to staff illness.

Where is the stress emanating from? Whilst it would be easy to lay responsibility at the feet of those in authority,  this article outlines the stress that micromanagement and a perceived lack of trust has. Though the work of one teacher, we suspect this is replicated on a much wider basis. Add to this the responses we often hear of schools to local sourced ‘OFSTED Myths’ and new initiatives introduced sometimes with little strategic thinking.

Where does the answer rest? Though responsible ultimately from 450,000 or more teachers, the new Secretary of State, with all the best will in the world is not going to know what makes our teachers tick. 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.

If there is going to be an approach that supports the mental and physical wellbeing of all our staff, it is individual schools and MATs that need to drive this. It is a matter of school culture.

It is all down to culture.

Culture is everything.

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As we have written before wellbeing is a ‘multi-sided dice’ but neither is it a tickbox exercise.

Self-care is an core part of  wellbeing. However self-care is going to look different for everyone. For each person that takes a digital detox there will be someone who may ‘live’ on social media yet see it as part of their self-care. Meditation and Mindfulness exercises are felt by many to be highly beneficial while others might feel more uncomfortable. For every person who may spend Saturday lunchtime at a local hostelry, there will be another hiking over moors and mountains. Every teacher with their nose buried in a book will be matched by others digging an allotment or chasing a ball of a variety of shapes and sizes around a field. Many readers may be pursuing #SelfCareSunday but other days are available. Remember also to ensure your self-care during the working day too.

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Self-care is an entitlement, an equal entitlement for all members of the school. Do we however provide the means for our teachers, our teaching assistants and our other staff, including SLT, to exercise self-care. This is where school culture is vital. Is your school values driven, principled, and strategic? Or is wellbeing undermined by short deadlines, ad hoc solutions, inconsistencies or rreactive decisions. Do the actions or words of some individuals impact upon the wellbeing of other staff.

It is all down to culture.

Culture is everything.

This has been the core message of Healthy Toolkit since our inception. Solutions to wellbeing matters from a whole school, strategic perspective should enable our staff to have time for their self-care. There is no ‘one size fits all’ solution, no ideal solution; nor will there be a solution that is 100% perfect but we can aspire to this. Ultimately having staff who are as physically fit and mentally well as possible benefits our children and the quality of the education they receive.

We would like to hear more from our readers and from schools as to  their experience of supporting staff wellbeing. We would to hear both positive and negative experiences: for every school that might expect planning emailed to SLT over the weekend there will be a school with exceptional support for staff experiencing bereavement or family illness; for each establishment where PPA is uncertain, others will guarantee it regardless of circumstance. Do you know what makes each other tick, or do you only ever ‘talk shop’? Maybe you work in a school which is using a version of our #TeaAndTalk initiative.

Please use our contact form or DM @HealthyToolkit on Twitter. Confidentiality is assured.

Ultimately it is down to culture.

Culture is everything.

 

#JoyfulJanuaryHT: Rebooted for 2018

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The tree is looking limp, the thought of a turkey sandwich turns our stomachs and for some of us the new term is less than a handful of days away. Time to reboot and refresh  our January theme. #JoyfulJanuaryHT was chosen deliberately to put a positive spin on what can still be a negative month. Here is last year’s piece as a reference point. https://healthyteachertoolkit.wordpress.com/2016/12/30/joyful-january/

“The New Year will inevitably bring resolutions: cutting down, cutting out, and changing of ways. With equal inevitability these may last a few days before the cold, dark and damp sends even the most zealous promises back from whence they came.”

The first week back: dark and cold evenings, a backlog from last term, the temptations of that last box of biscuits left over from Christmas. That promise of the gym, of hearty vegetable soups, of leaving early….

“Resolutions are all well and good but here at Healthy Toolkit HQ we believe that if a change is going to be made it need not be hostage to the calendar but made when the need to do so is recognised.”

Spring and the season of renewal is actually a better time for change, but with a further three months to the Spring Equinox, what could we be doing for ourselves and for our staff to ensure that the mists of gloom don’t envelop our psyche in coming weeks.

Self-care

Try this: Starting Sunday December 31st,2017, write a letter to yourself about the year of 2017 and set a twelve month challenge to reflect, release, uplift, self-love ,self-care and grow. Time spent in self-reflection is never wasted. The more reflective you are, the more effective you are at noticing and breaking recycled cycles. Why not share them under the hashtag 

Have a digital detox day, and make it regular. Ignore Twitter and the incessant negativity from some quarters. Turn off the email, Facebook and digital interaction. If you are serious about this, try ignoring the television for a whole day too. And if you can’t avoid the smartphone for a day, try using it positively by capturing positive images from your experiences.”

Care for others

“January can be a challenging month. Though ‘Blue Monday’ is largely dismissed as pseudoscience, the third Monday into a long month can feel dark with a long break between paydays with the December salary often paid in well before Christmas and probably largely spent by this point. Add in dark mornings and evenings, often bitterly cold, seasonal sniffles and bugs and the feeling that everything is bare after the decorations are removed.”

School leaders: please be aware that many of your staff will be returning to teach still suffering the after effects of flu or other winter viruses. Why not try these?

  • ‘Tea and Talk’ where you need to create time to actually talk to your staff, not idle chatter but real conversation. What makes them tick, function and perform? What worries them?https://healthyteachertoolkit.wordpress.com/2017/10/27/tea-and-talk-best-drink-of-the-day-best-time-of-the-day-teaandtalk/
  • Try a box or bowl of fruit on the staffroom table. Not as much of a winner as cake, but a hearty message that you are considering the functional and practical impact of healthy eating upon your staff.
  • Offset negativity: “The ability to stifle a mood doesn’t always result from a sore head, but often from a particular mindset. This can be witnessed across a range of workplaces including our staffrooms. The most effective staffrooms are ones where a positive mindset builds an ethos of teamwork and consistency.”
  • Promote positivity. Motivational quotes sometimes receive a less than enthusiastic press, but carefully chosen, so not patronising,  and with good intent, they reflect the mindset and consistency that effective leaders would want to convey.
  • From last year, taken on by many of our readers: “Try setting up a ‘Joy Jar’ in your staffroom to which you add one positive and happy thing that has happened that day. Open them up and read them at the end of the month, or the end of the year, to reveal just how much positivity there is in our schools. This is a great idea for classrooms too, to share the positivity with our young learners.”
  • Words are our most potent weapon. Make them count. Don’t begin a conversation with ‘Can you…’, ‘Will you…’ or ‘I want…’ How about ‘Good Morning’ or ‘How are you?’ Choose your words carefully. Don’t complain! It wears others down!

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 positive attitudes into the New Year.

Image result for positive thinking quotes

Don’t forget the hashtag #JoyfulJanuaryHT

Happy New Year from all of us at Healthy Toolkit HQ!