This is a blog about teacher wellbeing and my own work-life balance.
I am passionate about staff well-being, particularly in times of workload, triple marking and the never-ending spiral of OfSTED scrutiny. The list is endless, but if we are truly to maintain a level of professionalism, attract new teachers and most of all keep those have been teaching for a very long time within the profession, we must be willing to take wellbeing extremely seriously and not assume it to be a woolly subject.
This time last year, I attended a round-table meeting at The Guardian headquarters in King’s Cross, London. After the meeting, I have shared my own 5 Point-Plan for Teacher Wellbeing several times over the past academic year, as well as this single and fundamental piece of research from Birbeck University on teacher well-being; “staff well-being is key to school success.” If you have not read it, then it is a must read; and the more that we read and share this document with those in leadership and positions of policy, the better for us all!
This information can shape pedagogy across the entire country, but unfortunately it is not on lips or in the hands of everyone who offer ‘lip-service’ to improve teacher workload. Why not print out a copy here and leave it on somebody’s desk?
I am often asked about how I managed to keep up my family life, as well as my @TeacherToolkit tweeting and blogging machine; alongside a full-time role as a classroom teacher and deputy headteacher. Although I am not planning on blogging about the details of how I managed to achieve this here, this blog is a promise to @MartynReah to share my own commitment towards my own teacher-5-a-day well-being and that of the staff I work with.
Teacher 5 A Day:
@MartynReah first shared his well-being ideas at a Specialist School and Academies Trust TeachMeet (#SSATNC14) in December 2014. He has been encouraging everyone to think about teacher wellbeing and has been challenging all bloggers and tweeters to share their own teacher-5-a-day; there are many examples here. So, in the spirit of wellbeing and a promise to Martyn, here are my very own wellbeing tips and my teacher-5-a-day:
- Remember that my to-do list will never, ever be complete.
- Say ‘hello’ and ‘how are you?’ to every single member of staff. Read my Hidden Leaders blog.
- Eat; take time out to eat. Working in schools, you need fuel.
- Go home early. That means once a week when the bell rings. Even if you are a senior leader.
- Join in with staff social events. The end of term party; exhibitions and sports. It’s important to unwind with staff.
5-Point Plan for Staff WellBeing:
Short manifesto: I am not putting my union hat on here, but genuinely suggesting what we need to do to invest in every teacher in every school.
- Hold all staff to account, but retain support with constructive feedback and most of all, flexibility.
- Reduce unnecessary workload on staff. Endless meetings; tick-box templates and the famous paraphrase: ‘Ofsted will be coming this year’.
- Invest more than £500 per member of staff per year for professional development. In fact, treble this to ensure there is scope for internal and external development, and keep some cash spare for personal and professional classroom development; set by the teacher, not the appraiser.
- That teachers, bloggers and school leaders share more and more good news stories to challenge the misconceptions cast by the media.
- Praise and recognise every member of staff in the school. Promote staff wellbeing as a school priority and not a woolly add-on! You may also want to consider applying for the Investors In People Health and Wellbeing award which I am soon to do with our staff. See academic research from Briner and Dewberry (Birbeck University 2007) Staff well-being is key to school success. A key finding is this:
“There is a significant and positive association between the wellbeing variables and the following measures of school performance.”
Read my full manifesto here.
I’ve also thought about my own work-life balance teacher-5-a-day;
- Turn off the work emails from personal devices. The more you respond out of hours, the more it will become expected.
- Use at least one full day during the weekend, to be with your family/friends. This is not always possible; but the most relaxing weekends are when the are packed with loved ones.
- Take time to eat correctly, replenishing vital fuel missed throughout the day at work.
- Have a hobby. My hobbies have evolved over the past ten years as a school leader. Today, I love reading and writing more than anything else. When I’m feeling active, I like to swim and dream of my former cycling and semi-pro football days …
- Call your mum. My family lives 200 miles away. I catch up with each of them every half-term, travelling north.
You can read more about how you can take control of your own wellbeing, with The 5 Minute Wellbeing Plan by @TeacherToolkit and @LeadingLearner or try my End Of A Flight blog about pacing yourself.