Looking after one another

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Staff welfare is important, we all get that and understand that there are senior and middle leaders in place to help and support us when times are tough.

 
Yet why do so many of us soldier on, ‘keeping on keeping on’? Driving ourselves in to the ground when with help, guidance and support workloads can be looked at; support given to balance the marking, planning, assessing, feedback, updating, reporting, differentiating, and to quieten the increasing worry. All we have to do is to ask for help. Or perhaps take the time to notice what is going on around us.

We do our best. Great teachers do that. Great teachers go out of their way putting families on hold, relationships on pause and the housework on (permanent) pause in order to hit targets, deadlines, complete paper work and admin required to allow middle and senior leaders to crunch the numbers and complete the reports. 

I’ve known friends and colleagues waking at 3am having only gone to bed at midnight to tweak lesson plans and activities to ensure a positive and progressive learning environment where students make clear progress in the lesson. Or it could be to complete marking that set of books or KS4 or KS5 assessments as they have had and will have a full teaching day therefore won’t be able to squeeze marking in.

I’ve heard of teachers driving home from their schools, 6th forms and colleges crying because they are utterly exhausted. Crying in the car on the way home because their families can’t find out they feel this way and the fear of asking for help for time for support is just too much. Heartbreaking isn’t it? 

I’ve been told of exercise books being hidden in garages and caravans or in cars to avoid scrutiny because there just hasn’t been time to mark them in accordance with whole school or departmental policy. And the fear of being found out is too scary. So hidden they are, for now. 

Can we go on like this? Frankly no. We can’t!  We’ll burn out the new (and old, as in experienced!) professionals joining the wonderful world of teaching. And we’ll say a teary goodbye to more than the 45,000 colleagues that departed this wonderful profession last academic year. We have to look at what we have to do and find some balance and some easy wins for ourselves and to support others through the turbulent and busy times. 

Teacher wellbeing is important, quite simply, if the teacher isn’t well they perhaps can’t perform duties (not in an acting sense) well; they’ll struggle to do their job and this just will not do. It’s not fair on the teacher nor the students. A worn out, grumpy or frustrated teacher may not deliver feedback in exercise books and assessment files nor complete reports to their usual standard despite giving everything in the classroom. If something is amiss it could possibly arise in the classroom or corridor whilst on duty.

Nothing supports an exhausted teacher more than ensuring they know they are fully trusted, supported and valued. Also knowing that someone cares. How is this achieved? It’s definitely isn’t rocket science but when we are all hard at it, and the pressure is on, we need to find a moment to stop, pause and think of others and notice the goings on. 

A few simple steps could be followed; this could be smaller things like acknowledging a colleague in the corridor, car park or staff room with a smile and a short conversation, through to finding time to meet with them for a cup of tea or coffee and a catch up. Saying thank you; by acknowledging the work accomplished and the difference colleagues are making to the lives of the students in their classes and around school. Noticing a newly created display showcasing students amazing achievements and acknowledging this. Perhaps also by handwriting a note or card expressing thanks. Not rocket science but very welcome by the recipient I’m sure. 

We are all aware of the squeeze on finances, the push for more rigour in the exams system, the unfair funding, the ebac is the only way, the ridiculous demands on teachers to multitask, keeping the plates spinning, the dilapidated buildings, the new inspection regime and concerns about the inconsistent messages from a variety of fields but we have to find another way. There will be another way, we just have to look for it. We have to cut through the rhetoric and seek out the other way; undoubtedly it will be a road less travelled but it’ll be full of adventure and great learning. And shows gratitude and that we care.

@musicmind and the #teacher5aday movement have been fantastic in raising the profile of teacher welfare and wellbeing for a while now. And I know in several schools staff were gifted well being bags to show teams and individuals that they were valued and supported but also this served as a reminder to all recipients and gifters that staff need to feel noticed, valued and acknowledged. This is so inspiring. 

The impact of this small gesture of kindness stops the daily grind and forces a moment to be found where teachers can just stop and feel valued, loved and appreciated. The emotional bank topped up with a healthy deposit of loveliness, well being restored and teachers pepped up ready for the next lesson, day, week or term. As Vic Goddard says ‘teaching is the best job in the world’ and I’m certain it is, but it’s hard work too and we all know about the tough times so we should keep an eye out for colleagues around us making sure it remains the best job in the world for them too!

Everyone needs to feel valued, everyone likes (secretly) to be thanked and to feel supported, so if you haven’t yet had chance to write a note or send a card perhaps consider sending an email; please take a moment to acknowledge, appreciate and value a colleague. What a wonderful start to the new term it would be to be in receipt of such a lovely appreciative email. It’ll work wonders just you try it and see! 

As @gapingvoid have said, we have to see what small changes we can make that will make the biggest difference. I’m certain that noticing, valuing and taking care of one another is certainly a very good place to start.  Have a really good rest everyone and make sure you get some positive deposits in the well-being bank this holiday. 

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