Showing posts with label wellbeing. Show all posts
Showing posts with label wellbeing. Show all posts

Monday, 10 December 2018

On the @TES Blog: Saying No To The Non-Essentials (or Why Tweeting and Blogging is Bad for Me)


Perhaps the phrase "work-life balance" is a misnomer. Or at least it was rather too simple a term to help me to get things in check.

I’d always been very careful to attempt to preserve a good balance between work and life. Naturally, some weeks are fuller with work than others, but then the balance can instead be found longer term; when a quieter week presented itself, I made the most of it. But what I had been less cautious about was the "life" category.

Read the rest: https://www.tes.com/news/how-i-learned-say-no-non-essentials

Wednesday, 13 June 2018

Guest Post: Why Tackling School Leader Workload Is Not Enough By Viv Grant


In March, Damian Hinds announced that the DfE were going to implement measures to reduce teacher workload in an attempt to head off the recruitment and retention crises facing many schools across the country.

Whilst this is a very welcome initiative, unfortunately it is much like putting a sticking plaster on a wound when something more substantial and curative is needed.

If policy makers honestly think that measures to reduce workload are all that’s needed to stem the rising tide of leavers from the profession, then this shows just how far removed they are from the beating heart of those who are at its centre - teachers and school leaders.

So much more must be done to make the role of School Leadership sustainable amidst the growing challenges our Heads face on a daily basis.

The pace and volume of change over the past decade has led to increased ambiguity, inconsistency, insecurity and staggeringly high levels of public scrutiny and personal accountability. Meanwhile, the emphasis on data, results and policies such as academisation, free schools etc have only served to further complicate life as a School Leader.

As a result, Head teachers find themselves having to respond to a range of often conflicting national policy agendas. Many of which draw them away from their central school leadership role and into the world of local politics and excessively complicated levels of bureaucracy. The strain for many can be too much.

Yet the system seems immune to this fact and chooses to ignore the real reasons as to why so many school leaders are leaving the profession. Workload may be a contributing factor but it is not the sole one. School Leaders are leaving the profession because their needs as human beings are not being attended to. This is because we have yet to develop an accurate understanding of the support needs of school leaders.

Along with increased levels of public scrutiny and personal accountability, I believe neglect in meeting Head teacher’s psychological and emotional needs has become a major contributing factor to Head teacher attrition and early retirement.

Whether Heads are new in post or are well established and long serving, too often the predominate type of support that they receive is that which is concerned with meeting the strategic and operational aspects of the role. Their emotional needs are often neglected and this is where the system falls down in fulfilling its duty of care for school leaders.

Consequently, Head teachers often sacrifice the meeting of their own needs in order to meet the needs of those they serve. This level of constant giving, without moments and opportunities for renewal built into their leadership life can often lead to illness and for some, burn out.

This has to be understood and taken seriously because if the emotional and psychological needs of school leaders are not met, not only do our School Leaders themselves suffer but all school improvement efforts are also put at risk.

I fear this situation has been further compounded with local authorities now diminishing in size, meaning that there have been fewer and fewer opportunities where Heads can come together, to offer support for one another, and experience a real sense of collegiality and shared purpose to help combat this.

I feel this reduction of support has been felt across the profession and that’s why on the back of many requests from School Leaders, last year I began hosting “Education for the Soul” Conferences to offer a chance where Heads can have honest conversations about the issues they’re facing, replenish their passion and sense of purpose, and discover how to best support their own needs amidst the challenging demands of Headship.

Whilst I’ve seen what an incredible truly restorative events these can be, I still fear far more needs to be done across the country if we are to tackle this recruitment and retention crisis. We need a whole new conversation around how we support great leadership in schools and to find solutions that takes care of the “Person in the role”.

Meanwhile, policy makers finally recognise that workload measures are not enough. Instead they must learn that if they want help create outstanding schools, they must provide School Leaders and Headteachers with outstanding support.

The price of continually failing to do so is one we can no longer afford to pay. As when we fail to adequately recognise what it takes to create ‘Great School Leaders’, we also fail our children and their hopes of a better tomorrow.

Our children deserve the best care and education and our school leaders also deserve the best care that can be provided so that they can remain in the profession, fulfil their vocations and meet society’s hopes and dreams for our future generations.

Viv has been in the education profession for over twenty five years. She is a former primary head teacher and has been a lead trainer and consultant for a number of educational training bodies. Now as an Executive Coach and Director of Integrity Coaching, Viv works daily with others who have taken on the mantle of school leadership.

Tuesday, 3 April 2018

From The @TES Blog: 5 Things To Do Instead Of Revising For SATs

From The @TES Blog: 5 Things To Do Instead Of Revising For SATsThis might come across as idealistic or cynical. It might even sound hypocritical to those who’ve taught Year 6 alongside me. But there really is more to Year 6 than Sats revision – even in Sats week.

Regardless of your views on key stage 2 testing, it’s the system with which we’re currently lumbered. And I would always advise that children are prepared for them.

But by preparing, I don’t mean drilled to within an inch of their life: Easter booster classes, daily past papers, hours of homework and the like. There are other ways of helping children to be ready for that week of testing in May – ways that prepare them mentally; ways that ensure they remain emotionally intact.

Here are five suggestions:

Click here to read the whole article: https://www.tes.com/news/school-news/breaking-views/five-things-do-instead-sats-revision

Sunday, 11 February 2018

Year 11 Hell: Why More, More, MORE Is Not The Answer


Recently a secondary teacher got in touch with me asking if I'd consider sharing something he had written about something that was going on in his school. The following blog post is what I received. It details some worrying practices which appear to be impacting heavily on both student and teacher wellbeing. I echo the author's summary here: there surely is another way. Is this common practice? Are schools tackling the same issues in better ways? I'd love to hear your own experiences of this.

Year 11 students, their teachers and their parents are at breaking point. The most frustrating thing is that we’ve seen this coming for years, and we’ve done nothing about it.

It’s Saturday afternoon. In our house, the major concerns are who will win the race to the bath to warm up after my son’s football match and whether we should prepare the roast to eat before The Voice or during it. I’m wondering whether I can face the pile of odd socks which are glaring at me from the sofa. This is about as stressful as Saturdays get here.

As I write, year 11 are at school. They had English all morning then moved onto Maths. They’re in every Saturday between now and June. The rest of the school finished at 3.25 each day, but Year 11 have an extra hour at the end of each day. Subjects battle for prime positions – Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Science drew the short straw with Fridays – but the students all come, even if it does mean being rounded up and herded from their previous lesson by a pastoral team with apparent infinite patience, who must be clocking at least 30k steps a day as they prowl corridors to check on non-regular coats and chewing gum.

Last year, a respected group of educators put forward the suggestion that core PE should be pulled for Year 11, to give them more time to focus on core subjects. Thousands of schools have gone with this idea, it would seem. So, instead of running around on a field, students are filtered into English, Maths or English AND Maths depending on which week it is where the moon is in its current cycle. Trying to ensure the right students are in the right places depending on the latest half-termly data available is a feat requiring the skills of an aeronautic engineer.

After the mock results came in, the school went into panic. I can’t remember, in my ten year career, this ever not happening. ‘MORE!’ ‘We need MORE!’ MORE resources, MORE time, MORE Walking Talking mocks!’ say the heads of the core subjects. If we don’t, they’ll all fail! The school will be plunged into Special Measures if we don’t throw every spare moment, every resource, every initiative at Year 11.

So, at the end of December, tutor time for Year 11 was replaced by TTI. That’s tutor time intervention to the rest of you. Instead of spending their morning with the form tutor and fellow tutees most of them have known since Year 11, they go to Maths and Science. Instead of having a chance to read a book, finish off a bit of homework or catch up on the news, they are having extra lessons for half an hour each morning. Instead of sharing a joke or having someone who knows them really well checking in on the latest family challenge or holiday plan, their daily dose of English, Maths or Science rises in some cases to over three hours a day.

It’s a Catch 22. All schools are doing it – or at least, that’s the perception. Whatever the rating of your school, you are under pressure to be keeping up. Perish the thought that you might lose your ‘Outstanding’ rating, drop back into RI when you were only recently deemed ‘Good’ or indeed face your entire SLT replaced by a SWAT team of Future Leaders if your school finds itself once again below par. Should you dare to suggest that Year 11 might have one whole holiday without a single day in school, you might slip behind the rest.

I’m not lucky enough to teach a ‘core’ subject. I’m part of the ‘non-core’ as a historian. But I’m better off than the third tier subjects – the arts. My poor colleagues in Drama! Their new written exams are terrifying. It’s no longer a subject for students to demonstrate their creative strengths. They have to be able to analyse stage directions at length – in writing. There was a great opportunity recently to take our students to the battlefields of Northern France recently. It would have been a long weekend – they’d have missed three lessons in total. One of these would have been Science. I may as well have asked for a year off to perfect my crochet skills. Snowball chance in hell. We didn’t go.

We ‘non-core’ subjects have to fight for time with our students. ‘It’s too late!’ we are told when requesting a half day over half term. Maths, English and Science booked theirs in weeks ago! As if we are somehow being granted a huge favour by being allowed to come and work with students during the holiday we too so desperately need.

Now, there are two schools of thought on this, based on the teachers I’ve talked to. Yes, they may be doing 7 lessons a day, but that’s ALL they’re doing, say some – and we can all picture the student who can never take their coat off or get out their pen without being asked about 500 times. The one who could do with a direct intravenous shot of the sense of urgency that the rest of us are feeling. The boys who regress to the age of 5 – happens at this time of year like clockwork. The ones whose parents learn they’ve been communicating using a series of animal noises throughout the school day. The ones who will do ANYTHING to pretend it’s just not happening.

But there’s also this: I don’t go more than a couple of days these days without finding a hitherto quiet and studious student – the kinds whose name you probably wouldn’t know unless you teach them yourself - crying in a corridor. I sit them down, offer them chocolate (it usually does the trick – at least for a few minutes) and ask what’s wrong. ‘I don’t know!’ is almost always the answer. They are overwhelmed, exhausted and their struggles at home funnily enough haven’t diminished to cater for the extra demands of being in Year 11.

And then there are the students who actually love History, have always worked extremely hard, but who literally are unable to find a couple of hours at home to study, because they’re so wrung out from being stuffed like Christmas turkeys with equations, formulae and quotes from Twelfth Night.

Oh, and the teachers. Yes, them. A colleague of mine with two children under 6 at home is on her fourth Saturday at work. We all know she’s dedicated, but she seems to believe that her dedication will come into question if she doesn’t ‘step up’.

I overheard a parent of a Year 11 student telling a mutual friend that she’d like to ‘crawl into a corner and hide’ until it’s all over. The level of hysteria, the level of panic, is quite simply untenable. Only in ten years, I’ve not seen an alternative. At the moment, we are destined to send out into the workforce a generation of highly-strung individuals who have learned through experience that someone else, rather than sending them off to work independently, will always give up weekends and holidays for them, photocopy a rainforest’s worth of resources and put a pen in their hand if they can’t be bothered to root around in their bag. We bang on about building resilience and independence, but our actions – our constant supply of MORE makes these aims laughable.

Vic Goddard said recently, ‘there is always another way’. We need to find it. Now. Because all we’re doing is pouring oil onto the wreckage of the profession we love.

Monday, 22 January 2018

The Four Tendencies and Teacher Wellbeing

In her book 'The Four Tendencies' author Gretchen Rubin outlines four ways in which people respond to expectations. According to her findings everyone fits into one of the following categories:
  • Upholder - readily meet external and internal expectations
  • Questioner - question all expectations; they meet an expectation only if they believe it’s justified
  • Obliger - readily meet outer expectations, but struggle to meet inner expectations
  • Rebel - resist both outer and inner expectations
It is worth noting that Rubin believes that we each fall into one single category and that this is not likely to change. However, the Venn diagram below demonstrates that we may 'tip' into a neighbouring category.

Information taken from the free-to-download The Nutshell Guide To The Four Tendencies (a read-through of this will be useful before you proceed)

In a recent Twitter poll I asked educators to complete The Four Tendencies online quiz and to then vote as to which tendency they were. 696 educators responded and the results were as follows:
  • Upholder - 12%
  • Questioner - 47%
  • Obliger - 25%
  • Rebel - 16%
However, according to a survey done by the author (not just of educators), the biggest percentage of people in general were Obligers (41%) followed by Questioners (24%), Upholders (19%), and Rebels (17%). There are some possible reasons for the differences between my poll and the author's (much larger) poll:

I asked on Twitter. According to Rubin Questioners have the following traits:  Data-driven; interested in creating systems that are efficient and effective; willing to play devil’s advocate or buck the system if warranted; strong-willed; enjoy sharing their findings. Which sounds to me exactly like the sort of teachers who sign up for Twitter. It may be that there are many more Obliger teachers who haven't joined Twitter (which is commonly seen by twitter-using teachers as a place to find new and better ways of doing things).

I asked educators. One trait of Questioners is that they ask questions and then enjoy sharing their findings - most teachers like imparting knowledge in one way or another. Questioners also ask a lot of questions, as do teachers. Perhaps teaching is just a natural career choice for many Questioners. Having said this, the traits of Obligers would seem to make great teachers too: Reliable; responsible; team player; good boss, responsive leader; feel great obligation to meet others’ expectations; willing to go the extra mile; highly committed.

People didn't take the quiz. Twitter polls are usually used to gauge a very quick off-the-top-of-the-head reaction, usually based on opinion. My poll was completely the opposite. Some folk contacted me to say they'd voted before doing the quiz (some of them had picked the right option) but there are bound to be others who voted based on their own opinion without understanding the four tendencies framework. Questioner is probably the easiest category to believe you belong to as it is seemingly most self-explanatory, and after all, all people ask questions.

It's also interesting to note that so many Questioners responded to the poll (and indeed that Rebels did too) - they responded to an outer expectation (from me) with only a brief explanation of why they should do it. Perhaps I have some very dedicated followers who felt like my asking for help with something I was writing was a good enough reason.

Implications of The Four Tendencies for Teacher Wellbeing

In Dr Emma Kell's book 'How To Survive In Teaching' she cites that respondents to her questionnaire identified unreasonable working hours for the reason why they left teaching. She also outlines that the LKMco's 'Why Teach?' report found that workload was the top reason for teachers leaving the profession and that the ATL's survey had 76% of teachers cite workload as their reason for considering leaving the profession. There are plenty of other studies and reports that say the same, not to mention the personal experience of many teachers. Heavy workload is the main reason for poor teacher wellbeing.

After reading 'The Four Tendencies' I believe it might be the case that teachers struggle with workload and therefore wellbeing in different ways, depending on their tendency.

Upholders - they will readily meet the expectations of the government, their school policies, their leaders and their students and will do their best to do what is asked of them but will also respond to their own inner expectations, for example, if they know they need to get rest, or to not work so much. Upholders might struggle to delegate because they believe others aren't dependable enough. This puts this group in a fairly good position when it comes to workload and wellbeing, although they still have the potential to uphold unmanageable expectations and want to do everything themselves. Their reliability also might mean that more is asked of them.

Obligers - they will readily meet the expectations of the government, their school policies, their leaders and their students, potentially regardless of difficult it is to meet those expectations. In addition to this, they won't find it easy to priorities their own needs without some external accountability. This puts this group (a large group) at risk of being over-worked, and therefore of having low levels of wellbeing. If an Obliger feels resentful about the expectations they are meeting then they are prone to falling into Obliger-rebellion. Most Obligers are also known to others to be obliging meaning that this group can often find themselves being asked to do more and more, thus adding to their workload and the possibility of them burning out.

Questioners - they will meet their own expectations and if they can see a good reason for doing what they are expected to do, will find this relatively easy. If the policies they are expected to adhere to are not, in their opinion, based on sound reasoning, they will find it difficult to meet those outer expectations. However, in a school system where teachers are held to accountable for meeting the school's expectations, a Questioner could get into trouble - they may end up missing deadlines, doing last minute work, or becoming subject to the school's accountability processes. Questioners also may dislike delegating, especially where decision-making is involved as they believe others won't make the best-informed decisions - this could lead to an obvious increase in workload. If this is the case, then wellbeing levels could be low for a Questioner.

Rebels - they prefer to do things their way, and will often feel the need to do things contrary to expectations (including to their own expectations). Just as with Questioners, in a school system where teachers are held to accountable for meeting the school's expectations, a Rebel could get into trouble - they may end up missing deadlines, doing last minute work, or becoming subject to the school's accountability processes. If this is the case, then wellbeing levels could be low for a Rebel, particularly if they are frustrated at themselves for not meeting any expectations even if they want to.

Providing Wellbeing Advice To The Four Tendencies

Having read Rubin's work with interest, I came to realise that all the advice being given about wellbeing and managing workload (my own advice included) might not be having the desired impact on particular teachers because of their tendency. Perhaps I only give advice as a Questioner that would have an impact on other Questioners.

Rubin outlines that to persuade someone to follow a certain course, remember:
  • Upholders want to know what should be done
  • Obligers need accountability
  • Questioners want justifications
  • Rebels want freedom to do something their own way
If we want teachers of all tendencies to look after themselves, then the advice we give needs to appeal to all. In the book Rubin writes, "because the tendencies see the world in such different ways, there are no magic, one-size-fits-all solutions for how to influence ourselves or other people" but does suggest that "the winning formula is indeed information-consequences-choice... and best of all, humour".

How then can we help each of the four tendencies when it comes to workload and wellbeing issues?

Upholders - when giving wellbeing advice they want to know what they should do. But, any advice given might clash with other internal and external expectations. For example, you might advise someone to only spend a certain amount of time on marking books, but this might not fit with an inner expectation of marking books to a certain standard.

It's also worth noting that telling an Upholder what to do when you have no power to remove other expectations (such as their school's marking policy) might put them in a difficult situation - whose expectation should they uphold? When giving advice to an Upholder is might also be necessary to be someone who they respect - they're likely not to meet the expectations of someone who doesn't matter and are more likely to meet their own expectations, or those of someone with higher standing.

Obligers - when giving wellbeing advice they need to be held accountable for making necessary changes. Much wellbeing advice hinges around the importance of doing things for one's own sake but Obligers are unlikely to meet such inner expectations - they may want to take action to improve their wellbeing, but will feel bound to meeting the expectations of others, no matter how ridiculous (although Obligers can experience Obliger rebellion, where after time, they rebel against constantly meeting unfair expectations).

It is important for Obligers to have someone to hold them accountable - thus making an inner expectation into an outer expectation which they find easier to meet. So, if you are in a position to give an Obliger some wellbeing advice, follow it up by providing deadlines, oversight and monitoring (which to people of other tendencies sounds like too much) - giving advice without this ongoing support will probably lead to very little change in an Obliger.

Questioners - want justifications, and for them, they might need further justification as to why they should meet certain expectations, such as why they should spend time planning lessons thoroughly or providing feedback to children about their work. As discussed before, their wellbeing might be suffering as a result of begrudgingly meeting enforced outer expectations in a last-minute manner - they need to buy into the reasons behind particular work-heavy policies in order to use their time more wisely to complete these tasks.

Where Questioners have inner expectations which have a detrimental effect on their wellbeing (they could, for example, really believe that triple marking is absolutely the best way to mark and thus spend hours each evening providing this) it will take reasoning, provision of research findings, and plenty of information to help them change - they will also need trust the expertise of the advice-giver as they probably won't take advice from someone they think doesn't know what they're talking about.

Rebels - want to feel like they are doing things their way. Advice to the Rebel is best given as a series of recommendations from which they can choose. If only one way is provided then the chances are they will decide to reject that way, preferring to do something their way, or no way at all. However, Rebels may choose to act out of love, a sense of mission or belief in a cause so if the advice-giver can tap into that feeling, as long as they don't specify what they should do.

Rubin also points out that Rebels "may be easy to manipulate by using their spirit of resistance: “I’ll show you,” “Watch me,” “You can’t make me,” “You’re not the boss of me”". This essentially means that in some situations counterproductive advice might drive Rebels to take productive steps or that telling a Rebel that they probably won't be able to solve their workload and wellbeing issues might be the catalyst they need. However they dealt with, they still might defy convention, finding their own ways of doing things to make improvements to their wellbeing.

Other Implications of The Four Tendencies for Teacher Wellbeing

What I haven't gone into in this blog post is how schools might manage teachers of all four tendencies when it comes to getting them to meet expectations. Clearly, the same principles as above apply, but where wellbeing is concerned schools need to ensure that their own policies and systems aren't demanding too much of teachers before thinking about how to get teachers to meet those expectations. Once a school's leaders are content that what they are expecting is manageable, then they should think about applying Rubin's theory to persuading teachers to follow a certain course of action.

Another implication of the above is that one-size-fits-all approaches to wellbeing won't be very effective. Questioners will never see the point in whole-staff Yoga sessions if they think they could be doing something better; Rebels will just walk out. Obligers might go along with your initiative for a while but if they resent it then they might rebel too and even if they don't, it could just add to the pressure that too many expectations puts on. Upholders would most likely get so annoyed at everyone else for not meeting the expectations that they too would feel unhappy.

The four tendencies framework does not intend to label someone's whole personality. Within each group there are hundreds of other factors - nature and nurture - that makes each one of us unique. Having an idea of someone's tendency is helpful, but their other characteristics, traits and experiences must be taken into account too, when thinking about giving them advice about wellbeing. For example, I'm a Questioner but I'm also very loyal so I am more likely to make someone else's expectations into internal expectations because I believe that if I've committed to something then I should follow through on that commitment come what may. If someone were to give me advice, they'd also have to navigate the fact that I find it very hard not to do what I consider to be loyal, even if it is to the detriment of my own wellbeing.

Many teachers feel powerless to change their circumstances - they believe it is only policy makers at government or school level who can do that. They feel like however much they try to change themselves, it will never be enough to combat unmanageable expectations. But when they consider that the way they are (their tendency) will never change, and that (for the time being) policy won't change, but that how they deal with the expectations in light of their tendency can change, things might become more manageable. They might need to be shown how to set their sights lower than whole system change, but higher than no change at all, in order to identify what circumstances they might be able to change:

Obligers might realise they need to ask for more accountability when it comes to taking up a hobby or starting to exercise more regularly. Questioners might need to see that they can ask their questions constructively to people who can influence change rather than question in an unproductive way to their colleagues, friends and family who can't do anything to change policy. Upholders might just need to understand that they want to meet both inner and external expectations and that in order to do this they could plan their time to ensure this happens in balance. Rebels might need to find their own ways of achieving things.

Sometimes expectations  will need to be introduced - some teachers might have no expectation whatsoever that they can have a good work/life balance, and as such will not try to meet that expectation because it doesn't exist for them! Some will need this introducing as an internal expectation (telling themselves that they expect to have a good work/life balance), others as an external expectation (being told that they are expected to have a good work/life balance). The belief that teaching is a 24/7 job can become an external or internal expectation leading some teachers to put in a dangerous number of hours each week - this general expectation in the profession needs to be tackled, otherwise, regardless of tendency, teachers are going to struggle with being well as they try to meet unattainable expectations.

Monday, 18 December 2017

On The @TES Blog: Idealistic Leaders vs. Realistic Teachers




"Teachers must…", "Teachers need to…", "Teachers should…"

These are potentially my most used phrases when writing articles on education. Occasionally other groups will be on the receiving end of my strongly worded ‘advice’, but usually it’s teachers because teaching is what I know.

Recently, I have been pulled up on my use of these phrases – turns out teachers don’t like being told what to do. Now there’s a surprise.

My sharing comes from a desire to help others, never from a position of wanting to overburden and bludgeon teachers who are already striving to do their best. But I can see how it comes across sometimes and it got me thinking...

Click here to read more over on the TES blog

Saturday, 14 October 2017

The More-ness Of Reading

A blog version of my Reading Rocks 2017 workshop:

The purpose of reading

What is the purpose of reading? Most people would say that we read for enjoyment and to learn. There will be those who think some books are for enjoying, and some are for learning from. Other folk will agree that the act of reading in order to learn something is enjoyable. Some readers will only do it for one reason or the other.

Children’s novels are ostensibly written so that children gain pleasure from them, and from the act of reading. But if we actually considered some of the books that children read, and if we scratch beneath the surface, we will find that children’s books are for so much more than pleasure and enjoyment. In fact, they are for learning.

Reading is for more than enjoyment and learning

Learning about what? What can made up characters in made up places doing made up things be possibly teaching children? Well, when it comes to making my point, quotations abound – from researchers, authors and children who read:

https://wherereadingrocks.wordpress.com/2017/10/14/the-more-ness-of-reading-by-thatboycanteach/

Friday, 13 October 2017

From The @TES: Throw A Spanner In The Workload

Unless you completed your teacher training in a parallel universe, where everything is perfect, you will have picked up on the fact that “workload” and “wellbeing” within schools are kind of a big deal right now. You’ll have heard about education’s recruitment and retention crisis, and you’ll know that many teachers complain that their wellbeing is affected by the amount of hours they do. According to a 2016 NASUWT survey, 74 per cent of teachers have considered leaving the profession, with 90 per cent citing workload as a problem.

But as an NQT, full of enthusiasm and not yet infected by the cynicism that is rife...

https://www.tes.com/news/tes-magazine/tes-magazine/throw-a-spanner-workload

Sunday, 8 October 2017

From The @TES Blog: Shine Bright But Don't Burn Out

Are you forever striving to teach flashbulb lessons? The ones that wow the students and leave any observers dazzled?

They're usually the ones you spend longer than average preparing for and that often aren't representative of your everyday way of teaching. They're brilliant and the kids love them, but if they miss the mark, it was a lot of effort for very little return.

And they can leave you – and your students – with the sense that all of your other lessons aren't good enough. You can get into a spiral of trying to replicate the whizzes and bangs more often than you can possibly manage.

https://www.tes.com/news/school-news/breaking-views/we-do-have-shine-brightly-students-shine-too-brightly-and-we-might

Monday, 31 July 2017

Songs of Summer: Teacher Wellbeing in the Holidays

The clichés of summer are all about us now: the skies are the bluest of blue, greenery explodes in a million hues, warmth hangs in the air lethargically and I even heard some seagulls this morning, despite my school's city centre location. 

Summer and music go together for me and plenty of songs feature on my summer playlist, but for the purposes of this, my final blogpost of this academic year, I've gone for some of the most obvious - the ones that really make sure you know they're about summer.

Ray Charles said "Music is powerful. As people listen to it, they can be affected. They respond." Here's how I plan to respond to some of my favourite summer tracks:

"...Summertime, time to sit back and unwind..."

The idea that teachers might be tightly wound by the end of a school year isn't a far-fetched one. The stress (not necessarily a bad thing) of the job can often see us beginning holidays as a tensed up ball of emotion. I find the best way to relieve that is to wind down gradually - going from full-throttle working to 100% relaxing is not the way for me. I prefer to spend some time in reflection (perhaps expect more blog posts in this vein), sorting through all my thoughts and feelings about the year just gone.

Confucius said 'By three methods we may learn wisdom: First, by reflection, which is noblest; Second, by imitation, which is easiest; and third by experience, which is the bitterest.' Forget lesson planning and classroom decorating - the real preparation for next year comes by reflecting on the year just gone.

I also enjoy doing jobs around the house that I've not had time to do during term time - this way I get to be productive without it being work-related

"...Lazing on a sunny afternoon, in the summertime..."

Well, the Fresh Prince already mentioned sitting back, and here we have that summer ideal: lazing around, ideally in great weather. And for me, there has to be some time to be lazy - my perception of what that means has changed over the years, particularly since children have been on the scene, but having time with no plans whatsoever are key to my wellbeing in holiday times. Having some time where there are no commitments hanging over me really helps me to clear my mind.


"...I'm staying out for the summer..."

Of course, summer is all about doing all the things you can't normally do - whatever that may be. There's no one-size-fits-all when it comes to wellbeing - get out there and do what you want to do. Last summer I rediscovered rollerblading and actually managed to continue doing it during term time; if you get out there and do this summer, it might just become a habit that you make time for once you're back at work.

"...Summertime, and the livin' is easy..."
It has been said that life is all about relationships; certainly for me that is true. And what better time to invest in relationships that matter than when you have 5 or 6 weeks free to do so? It's not even yet my holidays but this weekend I've been to dinner with my sister and brother-in-law, had my parents round for brunch, had a friend for lunch, met up with our NCT friends for a child's birthday and been to some friends' for a BBQ. I've also spent some lovely time with my daughters, including making thank you cards for their teachers. If living is about relationships, and living is easy in the summer, then summer is a good time to make relationships easier, simply because there is more time, lack of which is the number one barrier to conducting relationships. 
Of course, even I couldn't maintain the level of social interactions I've had this weekend. I have to be careful about how much I do with others - there has to be a balance! However, without any time spent on relationships my wellbeing surely would suffer!
I wish you all a very good, and I'm sure well-deserved, break. I'm planning to be a little more scarce on Twitter although I'm sure I'll pop up occasionally to catch up and I've got a few blog posts in the pipeline too.
I'd love to hear what your summer songs are and how they help you to make the right choices during the holidays! One final one to finish with:
"...Summer breeze, makes me feel fine..."

Friday, 23 June 2017

Relight My Fire: Advice For Teachers Who Need To Get Re-inspired

To be honest, I wasn't asking theoretically, or for a friend, when I tweeted this recently:


Thankfully, plenty of my Twitter friends had some great advice to share. As I'm sure loss of inspiration, a certain amount of boredom and sometimes even unfulfillment is a common experience amongst those who work in education, I thought I'd pool together the advice for future reference.

"Reflect, stay neutral and get curious. All of this helps come back to your WHY." - Jaz Ampaw-Farr @jazampawfarr (see the video she recorded inspired by my tweet: The Importance of Why)

"Remember WHY. Why is more important than what. Then go and look at the faces in front of you. See them older and happy. That's why." - IWilson‏ @linainiwos

Many find that inspiration comes from spending time with the children, and rightly so. As educators, the children are our 'why' so it stands to reason that in order to feel reinvigorated we should go to them:


"So much inspiration depends on the children. I think it must be harder to get mojo back if you're not in classroom. Take class and have fun!" - Janette de Voil‏ @Janetteww

"Go back to the basics. Spend time with the kids. Do the things you like to do with them. Find the positives." - Mister Unwin‏ @misterunwin

"Ignore adults for a while, have fun with the kids. Remember how enjoyable their company is, then teach them something (anything). Feels great!" - Kymberley‏ @open_door_teach

"Sit and talk to the children. Not just fleetingly but proper talk. They will inspire you." - Suzanna C‏ @sing0utsue

"Talk to children. Sit in the playground, watch, listen and then talk to them. Always inspires me to get on with it." - Simon Smith‏ @smithsmm

"If I’m having a dodgy time I always go and soak up the good vibes from the playground!" - Rebecca Stacey‏ @bekblayton

"Sit down and be in the moment with kids." - The Trainee Teacher‏ @TrainingToTeach

"Spend a day in reception - but... take your 'teacher head' off and just inhale the joy and energy and play, play, play." - Maeve‏ @MaeveBeg

"Being out of the class is tough so I go back into class; I also spend some time in Early Years! Watching and learning from others-inspiring!" - StJamesChurchPrim‏ @church_prim

"Work with children with special needs - always something to reflect on that will make you remember why!" - scatti1‏ @scatti1

Others advised doing something linked to the job that we know we will enjoy:


"Choose a topic to teach that YOU love not just one the kids will or that needs covering." - Emma‏ @HeyMissPrice

"Plan projects that excite you. A blog series, a club, a unit of work, a display. Anything that you can throw yourself into." - Sam Daunt‏ @samdaunt

But many respondents talked about other ways of feeling re-inspired. Whilst some identified Twitter as a means for regaining inspiration, others advised having a break from the potential overload that Twitter can generate:


"Twitter. And writing. And looking at old keepsakes from parents and children. And Twitter." Mr. Phillips‏ @Mr_P_Hillips

"Meeting other teachers, listening to inspirational workshops and even conversations on here [Twitter] have reignited my passion. I think you take it with a pinch of salt but reading blogs like yours and others and seeing #whatItaughttoday makes me miss classroom teaching." - Lisa C‏ @Elsie2110

"Take a Twitter break. It's good for you. I'm looking forward to turning my Twitter off over the summer. I put a special Twitter break avi up. What I find it does is it reinforces the physical IRL relationships I have. The other thing is the significant number of mood hoovers on the edu-Twittersphere. I am constantly inspired by my children and my partner." Mark Anderson‏ @ICTEvangelist (Mark went on to write a whole blog post about this idea: https://ictevangelist.com/have-a-break-have-a-twitter-break/)

Rebecca Stacey sums that contrast up well:

"Spend time in class with inspirational teachers. Read. Use Twitter wisely." - Rebecca Stacey‏ @bekblayton

Many teachers recommend stepping out of the comfort zone and trying something new:


"New challenge outside of your comfort zone." - Joe O'Reilly‏ @Edu_Wellbeing

"Take risks. Ignore the curriculum. Turn a drinking game into a classroom one. Think about experiences you want for your pupils first." Parky_teaches‏ @Parky_teaches

"Try to carve out enough time to study something new. Often gives a new frame of reference to defamiliarise what may feel stale. Self care. Varies from person to person. My recharging usually comes from new knowledge but there are are different roads." - Diane Leedham‏ @DiLeed

"Refocus your attention onto a new pedagogical idea or project to trial and then implement or roll out." - Steven Fox‏ @SteveFoxAST

"What worked for me was moving age groups, working with new people and a new HT who didn't micro-manage." - Just Teaching‏ @RunningToLearn

Sometimes, its not even a risk or a challenge that is needed, only a change:


"Change the way you do things. Just mix it up a bit." - Kat Schofield‏ @PearlOchreRose

"Swap year groups, move school, change subject lead, take a risk, take a student, visit other schools, go on residential... Be a grape not a raisin! Grapes are engorged, juicy, sweet - full of ideas. Raisins are dried up, shrivelled, hard. We start as grapes and if we are not careful we end up as raisins." - Kate Aspin‏ @etaknipsa

"Do something completely different in school, dump an afternoon you'd planned and do big art work, plan topic on the wall using marker pens then do something like that at home like let the kids choose everything for a day. Don't over think it." - Dorastar1‏ @Dorastar1

Many turn to books, conferences and personal learning to revitalise their teaching mojo:


"For me, continuous learning, being a student again, e.g. doing my MEd." - Dr Vincent Lien‏ @fratribus

"I found the #NAHTConf really got me re-fired up. As does #TMSussex & reading edu-books. I hear there's a new one out for primary teachers..." - Jo Payne‏ @MrsPTeach (Jo, alongside Mel Scott, has just had published her book 'Making Every Primary Lesson Count')

"I have been in a slump since January and going to a wellbeing conference the other day reinspired me. It was obviously the right content. But also the right time. Sometimes life can combine with school and make one or the other challenging. I think sometimes a slump ends when it ends but we can try to speed it up. It took me being surrounded by people and ideas."  - Mr Wiltshire‏ @secretsforabuck

"I've been listening to a lot of the TED talks on Youtube. Some are absolutely brilliant. Lots are not about teaching but still relevant!" - James Heeley‏ @lhpHeeley

"Attending inspiring courses/CPD, which fill you with ideas, that you just can't wait to try out in class!" - Mr Mclugash‏ @MrMclugash

"Twitter, Conferences and Teachmeets, reading books. Trawling the internet for ideas I can adapt. Talking to other Teachers." - The Hectic Teacher‏ @HecticTeacher

Then there's Nancy Gedge's (@nancygedge) suggestion: "Take a break." It might seem counter-intuitive to stop when we should be seeking to remotivate ourselves but it is very possible that an overload of work (including using Twitter, reading blogs and books and going to conferences) is what leads to a lack of inspiration. Some more ideas which expand on Nancy's straight-talking comment:


"Attempt to switch off from all the logistical stuff during holidays, but still spend time recharging the creativity and imagination. I don't honestly switch off in the holidays; I feel I 'switch back' to the reasons I wanted to do it in the first place." - Jonny Walker‏ @jonnywalker_edu

"Lots of the time it's less inspiration required and more feeling burned out. Making time for myself is key. That can be as simple as putting leave-in conditioner on my hair & watching Netflix all of Sunday, or going out with friends/family/boyfriend. Nice to recharge. If it's genuine lack of inspiration, talking to other teachers helps. At school or Twitter etc. Sharing ideas and triumphs is important." - Arithma-ticks‏ @Arithmaticks

"Can I respond with a rhetorical question: what fills your tank? Do more of that! Different for each of us. Tank not being filled = imbalance." - Anita Devi | FRSA‏ @Butterflycolour

"Spend time with those who inspire you and motivate you to be better than you ever thought possible. Relax. Refocus. Go again." - Charlotte Briggs‏ @missb_teach

Focusing on the positive difference that we have the potential to make in the lives of others, and indeed the impact we have already had, was one of m particular favourite responses to my question:


"Take a step back, look at the positives you're making in 30 lives. Failing that I look through my teachers memory box!" - Alex‏ @MrCYear5

"Think about the children, the difference you have made and continue to make and the impact it has." - Nicole Moore (Anand)‏ @MooreNixie8

"Look back at some of the things that have gone well, and look to the future and know I have to make a difference for them." - Beckie‏ @beckie_edu

Connecting with other professionals in different ways seems also to be a popular activity to get inspiration, an understandably so:


"Visit other schools." - Katharine Elwis‏ @KElwis

"Great colleagues re-energise me. Their enthusiasm, drive and willingness to take risks curbs any complacency in me." - Lee Card‏ @eduCardtion

"Go and visit other schools!" - Dan Nixon‏ @pruman21

"I go and observe colleagues teaching. Seeing their enthusiasm in the classroom usually brings back my "mojo"!" - Jess @jrmdola

"Team teaching with other colleagues, collaborative planning sessions, Observe colleagues and letting my students lead the learning." - Bethan Schofield @1Bethanlouise

"Observe others teaching, that ALWAYS inspires me. We'll all work with some amazing professionals but are too busy to see this sometimes." - Laura Jackson‏ @MrsJacksonMusic

There were many more replies to this Twitter thread, and more replies keep being added. To read everything, and to keep up-to-date with it, here is the link: https://twitter.com/thatboycanteach/status/877262764905041921

Monday, 19 June 2017

Collective Wellbeing: How We Can Work Together To Help Each Other

I've always had the privilege of working in schools where a network of teachers look out for one another and support each other's wellbeing in numerous ways. Even at moments when it seemed that the leaders didn't have wellbeing at the top of their list, the relationships between members of staff kept us all afloat in the more testing times. Although I think I have the ultimate responsibility for my own wellbeing (after all, I'm the one who knows my own triggers, warning signs and limits) I have also recognised the value of these relationships where teacher wellbeing is concerned.

To continue reading, follow the link: http://www.innovatemyschool.com/ideas/why-teacher-wellbeing-is-so-vital-and-what-we-can-do

Tuesday, 16 May 2017

How To Stay Sane Now The KS2 SATs Are Over


The fourth and final post in my series of blog posts for Third Space Learning focusing on teacher and pupil wellbeing during the key stage 2 SATs testing period:

An almost audible collective sigh of relief rises from Year 6 teachers and KS2 pupils across the realm. Suddenly, the prospect of life beyond SATs becomes tantalisingly real and, at least for now, it is there to be enjoyed.

Feelings during the next few weeks will (though I hate to have to remind you) morph from the relief that the end of the SATs week brings into the impatient wait for results day on July 4th.

Click here to read my five tips for staying sane now that the key stage 2 test are over: https://www.thirdspacelearning.com/blog/2017/sayonara-sats2017-5-golden-rules-for-year-6-teachers-to-make-the-most-of-lessons-after-sats

Monday, 17 April 2017

Preparing For SATs: Advice For Year 6 Teachers (Part 2)

You might question whether or not I'm a legitimate 'wellbeing expert' but regardless of that I hope you find enough helpful advice on my latest blog post for Third Space Learning.

It's the second in a four-part series focusing on year 6 and SATs. In this week's article I focus in on the two or three weeks after the Easter holidays and look at what's best avoided and what should be prioritised.

Even if you're not a year 6 teacher you probably know someone who is so please consider sharing this link with them.

Wednesday, 12 April 2017

Wellbeing in Schools: A Framework

When one thinks of an empowered teacher, one does not call to mind the image often linked with that of a teacher; frazzled, harassed, clutching their umpteenth cup of coffee and making a mad dash to their next class, eventually settling down later at home to spend their evening beavering away at marking books, planning the next day's lessons, and all whilst drowning in a sea of that notorious 'paperwork'.

And sadly, there are many teachers out there who fit that description, and, as a result, they run the risk of struggling to provide meaningful educational outcomes for the children they teach. I've known teachers like it and there have been times when I've experienced it myself.

No, an empowered teacher is one who manages their workload carefully and has both work and life evenly balanced, and who consequently is an effective classroom practitioner. But very few teachers set out to have a heavy workload, a poor work/life balance and low levels of wellbeing. It is true that every teacher attempting to maintain good levels of wellbeing ideally needs the support of their leaders. And with schools increasingly concerned for the wellbeing of their pupils it is important that those who have the most contact with them - teachers - have good physical and mental wellbeing.

Maintaining one's wellbeing is an ongoing task which is often seen almost to be a selfish act. However, in considering our own wellbeing we must be aware of how our actions impact on the wellbeing of others. We all have a responsibility to those we live and work with to ensure that the things we do and say have a positive effect on them; improving levels of wellbeing is a collaborative act which should benefit all.

Every teacher can lead for the wellbeing of their pupils and their colleagues. We should stop waiting for someone to provide opportunities for us to improve our wellbeing and begin to create opportunities for ourselves and those within our sphere of influence. Regardless of position or status, we all have the opportunity and responsibility to lead for wellbeing. Having said this, there are very clear and important messages for those with formally-recognised positions of authority.

With these things in mind, let's look at:
  • The responsibilities and challenges for school leaders (i.e. those with recognised positions of leadership)
  • The responsibilities and challenges for teachers
  • The influence on (and of) students
This structure is intended to demonstrate that high levels of well-being should ideally be cascaded down from the leadership, to the teachers and then to the students.

The responsibilities and challenges for school leaders

A leader who does not prioritise their own wellbeing is easily identifiable; they probably run a tight ship, but to the possible detriment of the health of them selves and their staff and pupils. A leader who does prioritise their own wellbeing will also be identifiable by the happiness and willingness of their staff and pupils - they too will run a tight ship. It's just how the ship shape-ness is achieved that's different - that and the longevity of the ship shape-ness.

In order to for their staff to reflect well on them, a leader's staff must reflect their leader. Thus, leaders must model good habits - they must be seen to be taking care of themselves and making decisions which don't impact negatively on their own health. Of course leaders might be expected to put in more hours than those they are leading - they are paid accordingly - but this should still not be to the detriment of their health and wellbeing. When teaching staff see that their leaders prioritise wellbeing, they will feel able to do the same; by leading by example the leaders will have created a culture which values high levels of wellbeing.

Leaders who lead successfully on wellbeing will also have careful expectations of what is achievable and they will ensure that workload is manageable for each individual in their circumstance. They will pass every new initiative through a filter, ensuring that what is expected of teachers does not cause undue stress or demand extra work. It is also the responsibility of a leader to point out where and how expected tasks could be carried out more effectively and more time-efficiently; often it is the time a job takes that impacts most on wellbeing. If time spent working can legitimately be reduced then a more well-rested staff will be better prepared to work with children.

Successful wellbeing leadership depends on leaders listening to their staff. Each teacher knows their limits and should feel that they work in an environment where they can voice their concerns. For the sake of the children as well as the staff member, leaders should always be in tune to the thoughts and feelings of their employees, gaining ongoing dynamic feedback on the impact of their expectations on health and well-being.

Many leaders are attempting to respond to the increasing awareness of the presence of mental health issues in both teachers and pupils. This is a positive move but leaders should not enforce any particular health and well-being activities; what might improve someone's wellbeing might have a negative impact on another's. If someone takes part in such an activity but thinks to themselves 'it'd have been better for my well-being to have gone home and done my own thing' then they're probably right. Leaders can't assume to know what will positively impact a person's wellbeing. If they do want to give CPD time over to wellbeing it should be aimed at improving skills such as management of time and workload.

The responsibilities and challenges for teachers

In an ideal situation a school's leaders will be doing all of the above to ensure that a their members of staff have a good level of health and well-being. But the buck does not stop with leaders; teachers have a responsibility for their own wellbeing and must do all they can to ensure they are well, for the good of themselves, their relationships and the children they teach. Teachers must lead on their own wellbeing, even if, and especially when, their leaders are not.

Workload, and therefore amount of time spent working, impacts on wellbeing more than any other aspect of a teacher's job. It must be a priority for teachers to find ways of working efficiently and creating healthy working habits. Teachers should learn to prioritise, deciding what really needs to be done and what can wait. They should also concentrate on doing one or two things well on any given day – the ones that obviously need doing soonest. Many teachers would benefit from being more organised and making time by planning ahead. Another small but effective practice is maximisation: making the most of the small chunks of time to complete short tasks. An essential time-saving habit is collaboration with other teachers; when teachers nurture good working relationships with colleagues help is at hand; lesson ideas, pre-made resources and even a sympathetic ear.

When teachers are considering how to improve their well-being they must be aware that solutions are not one-size-fits-all. What works for one may not work for another; teachers should take into consideration their own unique circumstances when attempting to make changes to their working patterns.

Teaching requires a lot of hard work; most teachers are aware of what they signed up for. Teaching is also a job for whichever there aren't enough hours in the day; teachers could fill all their time with work-related jobs but common sense and research show that this is not productive. Productivity relies on rest yet so many teachers neglect sleep and time spent occupied by non-work-related activities such as hobbies and time with family and friends. Although term time can be action-packed, teachers should consider making the most of the holidays and the other natural breaks that present themselves every now and then.

Those who don't have senior leaders supportive of the wellbeing of their staff must seek to improve their wellbeing in any way they can. In addition to the ideas already outlined it is crucial that they challenge decisions made by leaders which negatively impact wellbeing. In situations such as this teachers should work together to approach their leaders, possibly with union backing (but maybe not in the first instance), in order to seek change. It helps on these occasions to be prepared with evidence and ideas for workable alternatives.

Wellbeing should be as much a priority for teachers as lesson planning, assessment and resource preparation.

The influence on (and of) students

Although this section focuses on students, the emphasis remains on the role and responsibilities of the members of a school's staff who spend their time with the children. If a school's leaders are doing their job well, and teachers are also prioritising their own wellbeing, then half of the battle of influencing student wellbeing is already won. What teachers often attempt to pass on through motivational posters and one-off assemblies will only really be passed on by the atmosphere that is naturally created by teachers who are themselves well. There is much truth in the idea that healthy (and indeed unhealthy) habits and mentalities are caught and not taught. Many schools who purport to have a strong emphasis on student well-being forget the influencing factor of staff well-being on students.

As well as setting a good example to students teachers should also listen to and observe students in order to identify traits of good or poor wellbeing. Physical signs such as tiredness and weight loss should be monitored closely. Changes in behaviour are also possible indicators to poor wellbeing, both mental and physical: emotional outbursts or becoming unusually quiet and withdrawn could point towards well-being issues that need addressing.

If we want to listen to what students are saying about the state of their own wellbeing then teachers must teach children to be wellbeing literate - we must exhibit and encourage the use of language and vocabulary which enable students to self-reflect and verbalise their thoughts and feelings. Again, this is something better caught than taught; the use of story is particularly useful here as many age-appropriate novels and picturebooks skilfully explore well-being issues which teachers could use to promote discussion.

It is worth noting that when student well-being is good there will be a positive impact on the wellbeing of staff: Not only do we influence the wellbeing of pupils, they impact on the wellbeing of their teachers; if students are happy then teachers are more likely to be happy too. In the experience of many teachers poor student behaviour has caused more stress than excessive workload. If we prioritise staff wellbeing as well as student well-being a virtuous circle will be created.

Conclusion

In order for teachers to ensure that their students are not only well, but that they are learning successfully, teachers and leaders must see that there are actions to take that are within their powers. It is important to realise that where wellbeing is concerned teachers shouldn't rely on possible future policy change or successful union action to bring about improvements in their wellbeing but that improvements can be made despite the demands of the current educational environment. Teachers must understand that their remit to care for the wellbeing of students means that they have a responsibility to care for their own wellbeing. Leaders must view their responsibility to teachers and students in the same way if they want to run a successful school where student outcomes are optimised.

Further reading on teacher welbeing at the Schoolwell site: schoolwell.co.uk/staff-wellbeing-research/ 

Monday, 27 March 2017

Preparing For SATs: Advice For Year 6 Teachers

If you're a Year 6 teacher this Easter, you definitely don't need me to wax lyrical about the pressure you're feeling right now. Teachers up and down the country are, in their own way, stepping up their preparations for that one week in May that so much of their year seems to have been geared towards. Instead, I’d like to offer some advice from my own practice.

Year 6 teacher, click here for my top 5 tips on how to preserve your sanity over the next few weeks!

Whole blog post hosted at the Third Space Learning blog.

Sunday, 26 March 2017

People Can't Be Radiators If Their Leaders Drain Them And Give Them Nothing To Radiate


I'm not really sure where it came from but the idea of an organisation being made up either of radiators or drains is fairly well known - it's even made its way into the vernacular of school leaders.

If you've not come across it, it's very simple: radiators radiate positive energy and such like, whereas drains drain said energy. It's not a bad analogy really - we can all identify certain teachers we know within the two categories. Most teachers, in reality, will probably flit between being a radiator and a drain depending on the circumstances(I know I do). And there probably is some sort of middle ground too - it just doesn't have a straightforward parallel in the world of plumbing.

So, a reflection as a leader who hopes that his team will all be, for want of a better phrase, radiators: I can't expect people to be 'radiators' instead of 'drains' if I'm draining them and giving them very little to radiate.

It's funny what leads to these ruminations: a couple of mishaps with removing radiators during some redecorating got me thinking about how radiators work.

Radiators do not create their own heat. They only radiate heat which is generated in the boiler. Middle leaders are often referred to as the 'engine room' of an organisation. For the purposes of this analogy they are actually the 'boiler room' of a school. And not just middle leaders, senior leaders too. It is leaders who must be generating the heat, or the positive energy, for their staff to be radiating.

Leaders must set the climate - whatever they themselves radiate will be what their teams radiate. If a leader is a drain then their teams will feel drained and will have nothing to radiate - just like a radiator which has just fallen off its bracket and has spurted putrid water all over the newly-fitted carpet.

There are many ways that, as a leader, I might drain my staff. I might have unrealistic expectations of how they plan, mark, prepare or teach. I might fail to support them enough to enable them to cope with changes. I might not provide the necessary emotional support or foster the kind of relationships that are conducive to good teamwork and good teaching. There are a million and one ways I might drain my staff - every choice I make will have a knock-on effect, either positive or negative. As a leader I have to constantly evaluate how my actions will impact on my team, and whether they will drain them of energy or energise them.

Valuing having a team of radiators means that as well as avoiding draining them, I also must give them something to radiate. In order for me to have that positive energy (a loose term, I know) I must ensure that my boiler is fully-serviced and running efficiently. In short, I have to take care of myself in order to set the climate. The balance is a fine one though: I shouldn't ensure my own wellbeing to the detriment of the wellbeing of my team members. For example, when delegating a job I shouldn't just offload it to someone else if it means my load is lightened and theirs is made heavier. All the same, I see good levels of my own wellbeing as an essential part of enabling my team to be radiators.

It is my hope that my enthusiasm for the privileged and exciting role we hold in shaping children's futures will be conducted to the teachers who work with me. But there is no such thing as wireless plumbing, or osmosis, in a heating system - it takes some careful and deliberate pipe work to connect each teacher to the boiler. It will take a great deal of my thoughtfulness to enable each member of my team to radiate the positive energy that makes education possible.

The brilliant thing about creating a heating system like this is that (and here's where the analogy totally falls apart) anyone can then be the boiler creating that positive energy. The energy is generated exponentially as each team member begins to contribute, enabled by the initial example of their leader.

Even if this whole analogy leaves you cold (sorry), there is merit in its basis: leaders can either be radiators or drains, and whichever one they are, their team will most likely follow suit. Turn up the thermostat, keep that pilot light burning and bring the heat to your classrooms this week!



Thursday, 23 February 2017

Not Just Teachers, But Human Beings Who Teach


"And what do you do?"

"I'm a teacher."

"But, what do you do?"

Have you ever noticed that whenever we're asked that question, we don't answer it truly?

We don't actually respond by stating what we do. We tell them who we are instead. Or at least we tell them that we identify ourselves by our job title, regardless of all the other aspects of our lives that might make up our character: spouse, parent, sibling, sportsperson, hobbyist, believer.

Continue reading on the TES website: https://www.tes.com/news/school-news/breaking-views/we-are-not-just-teachers-we-are-people-and-one-bad-lesson-doesnt

In this article I touch on the subject of teaching as a vocation. The very best thing I have read about vocation is Justin Gray's blog post entitled 'Vocations - Balance and the Art of Happiness'. In it he suggests that teaching is a vocation but it is only one of several vocations that a teacher might have to balance. But don't take my word for it, read it for yourself!

Friday, 2 December 2016

Reading the Warning Signs


We’ve all experienced the moment when, mid-work, the computer begins to automatically shut-down; it needs its updates and a restart.

Our bodies send the same messages, often in code and rarely in the glaringly obvious written-across-the-screen way of digital devices. No, our bodies are more subtle and there are positives and negatives to that.

Continue reading here at www.integritycoaching.co.uk

Wednesday, 30 November 2016

TBCT Interview @ Schoolwell.co.uk

SchoolWell, a school staff wellbeing directory, asked me a few questions about wellbeing, marking, Twitter, reading and #OptimisticEd; the full interview is posted on their site at: http://schoolwell.co.uk/exclusive-interview-thatboycanteach/.

"I am always conscious of how hard the work can be and that part of my job is to ensure that my own colleagues’ wellbeing is prioritised"

"I’ve found it really beneficial to read before I sleep: it takes my mind off all the things I’ve been doing during the day. If I don’t read I often have vivid dreams about those things which leads to a restless night and tiredness the next day."

"What schools should focus on is their expectations of teachers: of the amount of planning, marking, preparation that is explicitly expected. Every new initiative needs to be passed through a filter to ensure that it is purposeful and efficient"

To read the full interview, click here to be taken to the SchoolWell website.