Summer Reading: 10 Wellbeing Titles for the Long Break

A long six weeks ahead; a well-deserved rest which some of you are already enjoying north of the border. What is on your reading list? That thousand page epic that has sat there since Christmas? Something lighter and frothier? Maybe catching up on all the great children’s literature that Simon Smith @smithsmm promotes so passionately.

Maybe you are looking for some reading to promote your own, or your colleagues’, wellbeing for the year ahead. As regular readers will know, Healthy Toolkit promotes wellbeing as a whole school strategy; a holistic approach going beyond token days of massage and the occasional cake on the staffroom table. Self-care is important too, and there are invaluable guides available, based on practical advice, that many a teacher or teaching assistant could benefit from.

Below are ten books that the team at Healthy Toolkit HQ suggest for a wellbeing reading list, maybe ten books that might form a wellbeing library on your CPD shelf. This is no ‘top ten’ and they aren’t in any order of preference. Each are different and each promote wellbeing in its very broadest sense.

First up, recently written by our co-founder Andrew Cowley is The Wellbeing Toolkit which builds on the notion that wellbeing needs to be strategic, principled and ingrained in the school culture. Andrew also suggests that wellbeing is universal and that the principles we apply in schools could be used in any workplace.

Image result for the wellbeing toolkit

Tammie Prince, a good friend of Healthy Toolkit, has written Mindfulness in the Classroom in the 100 Ideas range, a practical and highly usable text to enable mindfulness techniques to be employed as part of the class routine. Look out for Tammie’s new book, 50 Fantastic Ideas for Mindfulness. out in the next few days.

Image result for tammie prince

Can you teach happiness? Ian Morris believes so; Teaching Happiness and Wellbeing in Schools captures Ian’s thoughts about wellbeing as a philosophy of education and is a practical guide to implementing this mainly in the secondary sector. Ian worked under Sir Anthony Seldon at Wellington College in developing his work.

Victoria Hewett writes with passion and refreshing honesty. Making it as a Teacher tells Victoria’s story and how to make it through the first five years- the crucial time for our profession where we are losing so many young teachers to burn out. Tips, anecdotes and practical advice abound in this very readable book.

Image result for victoria hewett book

Adrian Bethune’s Wellbeing in the Primary Classroom is the perfect primary accompaniment to Ian’s book. With Sir Anthony Seldon again appearing having written the foreword, Adrian draws from his experience and detailed knowledge of child psychology with practical and usable guidance for embedding a wellbeing culture. Your children will love making the class flags!

Image result for adrian bethune book

Though not a wellbeing book specifically, 10% Braver edited by Vivienne Porritt and Keziah Featherstone and with contributions from across the WomenEd community is an essential read. It fits the wider wellbeing agenda in discussing barriers to career progression, the gender pay gap and issues such as gender stereotyping.

“This book matters because it is guaranteed to inspire, to educate and to spark a much-needed clamour for women to assume roles of influence throughout our education system.” 
-Alison Peacock, Chief Executive of the Chartered College of Teaching

Image result for women ed book

Mental Health and Wellbeing on a budget, addressed in a practical handbook written by the inspirational and passionate Clare Erasmus. The Mental Health and Wellbeing Handbook sets out aa practical approach to mental health and wellbeing that any school can adopt to transform their mental health support for students, with a focus on providing staff with practical tools on a limited budget. It sets out a roadmap for staff to create robust mental health support for students without requiring qualifications in psychology or counselling. It covers key areas including staff training, creating safe spaces for wellbeing and how to harness the support of parents and the local community. It also includes practical advice for addressing concerns such as stress, self-harm and body image.

Image result for clare erasmus book

In How to Survive in Teaching Emma Kell relates some tales of the most toxic of school environments, with one particularly harrowing example. There are a number of examples of poor practice that Emma highlights, but the overall mood of the book encourages and demonstrates how to keep positive, flourishing and to keep teaching.

Image result for emma kell book

Abigail Mann writes practically and purposefully about self-care in Live Well, Teach Well 

‘Putting your own oxygen mask on first’ is an essential of self-care and Abigail expounds the benefits of a good work-life balance whilst also discussing the wellbeing needs of the whole school community. Abigail’s book sits perfectly alongside the others on our list.

Image result for abigail mann book

Our final selection is from Daniel Sobel; Leading on Pastoral Care considers the most challenging aspects of pastoral care such as paperwork, time, confrontational parents and Ofsted. Again based on practical advice and case studies, like Clare’s book, Daniel enables schools to think effectively and efficiently about pastoral care, to the benefit of the whole school community.

Image result for daniel sobel book

We hope there is plenty of food for thought here. There are of course a whole range of excellent books out there. Matt Pinkett’s Boy’s Don’t Try and Shaun Dellenty’s Celebrating Difference are just two as yet unopened but much anticipated texts on our bookshelves.  Please add to the list in your comments or on our Twitter feed.

Thank you to publishers such as Bloomsbury Education, John Catt, Crown House and Sage who give a voice to teacher through such publications, whether about wellbeing, pedagogy or leadership.

Have a great summer everyone!

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

Losing the Dressing Room, or why we need to be more Ole than José.

We like a sporting comparison at Healthy Toolkit HQ. In fact we can learn much, particularly in the leadership of wellbeing in our schools, from sports leadership and sports psychology.

Image result for ole gunnar solskjaer and jose mourinho

José Mourinho, like Marmite, isn’t to everyone’s taste. His undoubted charm and tactical brilliance can be offset against his self-acknowledged arrogance and somewhat fractious relationship with club chairmen, directors and players.

“We have top players and, sorry if I’m arrogant, we have a top manager”, he announced on joining Chelsea for the first time, before adding, “Please don’t call me arrogant, but I’m European champion and I think I’m a special one.”

Football managers are of course employed with the anticipation that they will coach winning sides, hopefully with trophies to match.  A league champion eight times in four countries, Champions League winner twice and fifteen other trophies show he is no slouch. Large amounts of money to fund the purchase of quality players at Chelsea, Internazionale, Real Madrid and Manchester United probably helped too. Whether he would have produced the same results at more financially prudent clubs remains a rhetorical question.

Ultimately though did his arrogance, people management skills and sometimes confrontational style cost him his current role? It is suggested that, during a poor start to the current campaign, with players of the quality of Paul Pogba, a World Cup winner six months ago, plus a further ten players costing £400 million,  he ‘lost the dressing room’. ‘Losing the dressing room’ means losing respect from your playing staff. A week before Christmas, he was on his way.

Enter the baby-faced assassin, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, in an interim or caretaker role. Same players, new boss; form transformed overnight. Dismiss the ‘easy sides’ comments, these same players, dispirited a few weeks ago, have won eight games in succession, playing with the flair and confidence that fans of the Red Devils hold dear. Of course the winning run will end at some point but it cannot be dismissed that here are a group of happier players.

The link with school wellbeing? Well, replace ‘lost the dressing room’ with ‘lost the staffroom’ and then the link is less tenuous. Here at Healthy Toolkit HQ we often hear of wellbeing not being a priority, of lip service paid to it or of leadership behaviours which marginalise staff or raise their workload. It is these leaders that may ‘lose the staffroom’ and the trust of their staff to look after their mental and physical wellbeing in school.

The situation at Manchester United this season was about relationships between the manager and his players. Wellbeing is equally about the relationship between school leaders and their staff. Be more like Ole and less like José and the relationships are more likely to thrive.

In May 2019 Healthy Toolkit will be in print: our co-founder Andrew Cowley has written The Wellbeing Toolkit which can be pre-ordered here and in discussing the leadership of wellbeing, there are links to sports psychology and leadership, as well as to effective leadership of wellbeing, unpicking the myths around the subject and challenging leaders to make their workload and wellbeing decisions based on principles and values rather than be reactive.

Keep an eye on our tweets for news about publication.

 

 

Wellbeing 2018: The Year in Posts to Welcome #Wellbeing2019

Happy New Year 2019!

Image result for happy new year 2019

Where did 2018 go?

January: snow: Meghan and Harry: heatwave: football almost coming home: more heatwave: shouting about Brexit: Christmas.

It was a busy old year, and not as active on the blogpost front as previously as we have refined our content and had other ventures here at Healthy Toolkit HQ. So here are our top 5 posts of 2018.

5. Forte February

Revisiting a previous theme this post built on our belief in building resilience in our school settings to boost wellbeing. Promoting good feelings and emotional resilience in others in others is one core of good wellbeing leadership.

4. Culture is Everything

Whilst we would all love to have the self-care we so need, if the leadership of our schools doesn’t promote this through the school culture they grow, then self-care will suffer as will mental and physical wellbeing. Read the full post here.

3. Reverse Advent Calendar

This gave us our busiest week ever for stats. Focusing on acts of kindness as a school and as a socially aware action, our daily tweets motivated some interactions that may have been missing previously.

2. Tea and Talk

Ok this is two posts but our #TeaAndTalk initiative has had an impact beyond the twittersphere promoting time to talk, an absolutely essential tool in supporting mental health of our colleagues and of our learners. The first post, here actually dates to October 2017 but still had a healthy readership boosted by this subsequent post.

Contact Healthy Toolkit if you wish to have a copy of our leaflet to use in school.

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

We are proud to say that this is our most read post to date. Resulting from a Twitter poll of wellbeing and workload as well as from strategies the Healthy Toolkit team advocate in their schools, here were and are initiatives, not tickbox solutions, that teachers feel will make a difference.

What are you going to do in your school in 2019 to promote wellbeing and workload. Use the hashtag #Wellbeing2019 to share this.

We have had a busy 2018 for another reason. Healthy Toolkit will be in print in 2019. Our co-founder Andrew has written “The Wellbeing Toolkit” to be published by Bloomsbury Education in May 2019. We will share more details once proofs are back.

Have a wonderful 2019 everyone.

 

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 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

Let’s have an #AmazingAugustHT and celebrate our #SummerWellbeing

Well! We’ve have made it! All of us are now on our summer holiday and even though some vocal members of the journalistic profession may protest otherwise, we all deserve our time off. So let us take August to celebrate our wellbeing, to separate our education lives from our real lives.

Image result for summer wellbeing quotes

It is your real life that defines you, makes you who you are, determines your friendships and your relationships and ultimately makes you the teacher that you are.

A few days ago we tweeted this:

Summer Wellbeing in one tweet.

Share the books you have read.

Share the dishes you have cooked.

Tweet your garden pictures.

Meet some friends.

Connect with family.

Tweet positive.

Read: share those amazing books you have been saving for months, amazing fiction, extraordinary children’s books, brilliant biographies. Poolside, beachside, lakeside,in your tent or on your patio. We want to see whatever you are reading!

Image result for books

Cook: whether it is something new, an old favourite, something from BBC Saturday Kitchen (a Healthy Toolkit favourite) or your meal on holiday, we would like to see it, share it and your never know we might just cook it!

Image result for cooking

Garden: are you truly grounded? Connect with your soil, share those vegetables, your amazing sunflowers, the window boxes, pots, beds and allotments that define us as a nation in touch with the earth.

Image result for gardening

Friends and family: make sure you celebrate and commemorate both. Connect, or reconnect; it has been a busy year, but these are the people who you love and love you back in equal measure and for every hard day you have survived, they are there for you.

Image result for friends and family

Tweet positive: keep connected with your community but let’s stick to the good stuff. The world of education will still be there in September!

Image result for positive quotes summer pooh

So please share your books, gardens, cooking, friends, family and positive thoughts. You are all awesome, because you are in the most awesome role there is!

Image result for share quotes

Happy Holidays from all at Healthy Toolkit HQ!

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

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.

Image result for teachers leaving profession

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.