I do believe that teacher well being is fundamentally important.
I have seen teachers who are passionate about their jobs and have a balance in their personal / professional lives who are highly effective with the children they teach and enjoy their time with family and friends.
It benefits the children in schools to have teachers with this type of emotional wellbeing: academically, personally and socially. It makes life far more pleasant and worthwhile for the teacher’s family, friends and colleagues and it also ensures that the teacher actually has a life.
I also genuinely and morally believe that as a Headteacher it is imperative that I do everything I can to encourage and ensure my staff make time to have a life.
The best example I can think of was a good friend I used to work with 18 years ago, who had a healthy regard for the maximum amount of hours he would work and would not go beyond it. The children in his class flourished and achieved well and he enjoyed life. I use the past tense not because he has passed away, but merely because despite him being a good friend I have not found time to keep in contact since moving schools and area (First issue). I cannot think of a better example from the last 15 years, despite working with many colleagues (Second issue).
Every holiday I make the effort to spend some quality time with my wife and daughters, time to catch up with a couple of friends, eat healthily, run a couple of times a week, diligently do 15 minutes exercising every morning and actually sleep for 8 hours a night. Generally at the end of each holiday I feel more refreshed, positive, mentally alert and physically fit. At at the start of every term I promise myself to do everything I can to try and maintain this equilibrium. And for a couple of weeks I sort of manage it.
However I am a stereotype of a professional working in education. Within 4 weeks I am chasing my tail, waking up at 3 or 4 in the morning with the thought of something else that must be done, and after a few minutes of trying to switch my brain off generally get up to get on with it. I get tired, grumpy, become less able to think strategically and prioritise and generally end up exhausted and on my knees. This used to be the state of me by the last week of term, but as I get older I find I am often reaching this point much earlier in the term. I am not asking for and do not want sympathy as I know so many others in the same position, and like most of those others simply reply with “It’s just the job” when questioned by family or my Chair of Governors.
It certainly feels like my job at the moment. First term of my first headship, bound to be daunting and busy. My school only opened in September 2013. We are currently a small school with only 3 classes. Both of these facts bring many positives. It’s fairly straightforward to undertake a learning walk, analyse some books and Performance Management meetings are easily covered within a week. However with a new National Curriculum and no years worth of plans and projects to tweak, myself and my three teachers are planning everything from scratch, to say nothing of buying or creating all the resources. I am IT, Music and RE leader as well. We have 3 different systems of assessment running at the moment ( EYFS for YR, Levels for Y2, and a Key Objectives system for Y1). We still have to deal with all the policies and procedures, health and safety legislation… that any other school would. I don’t have a deputy or assistant head and I have an Admin Officer who gets 2 hours a day additional admin support.
Many people have given me very valid and valuable advice as a new Head. Try to do 2 or 3 things well and delegate. The situation is I have a long list of things that must be done and can only delegate a certain amount due to the staff structure. I have sectioned my to do list now into:
- Statutory and urgent
- Important and urgent
- Ideally should do
- Would like to do
This his has helped me to prioritise, not one of my natural strengths, but as with everyone else working in education I never expect to get to the end of my exhaustive (and exhausting) list. I also feel a fairly constant guilt: that I am not working hard or ‘smart’ enough, that I am not being as effective in my role / having as much impact as I would like to have and that I am letting others down.
But if this post is to do with wellbeing what on earth am I doing wasting my time moaning about my lot. Well although it may not seem it I am not trying to moan, merely to share my context. Nor do I think I am in a worse situation than the rest of the hard working dedicated professionals out there.
I would like to share a simple and quick technique that helps me keep some equilibrium and then make a public pledge for January 2015, in the hope that I may manage to keep it.
Achieved and proud list.
As well as my to do list I keep a weekly bullet pointed list (which I try to complete on Friday before leaving work) of the main actions I have taken that week that have been positive, that have had an impact and which I should be proud of. As the list gets towards or into double figures, some of my guilt lessens and I feel justified in spending Friday evening relaxing with my family and taking some time off work over the weekend. It may sound simple but for me it is also effective.
I am aiming to spend some quality time with my family everyday next year, not just being in the same room and thinking about work to be done.
I am going to exercise at least 4 mornings a week and run at least once. I have booked a 10K for March and a 48 mile charity walk for June. Again I am a stereotype of the person who needs a agreed goal to aim for to ensure work does not become an excuse to stop training. I am particularly looking forward to the walk as I am attempting it with 3 good friends, does that count as multi-wellbeing?
I am going to attempt to eat healthily, which I generally do at the start of term, until tiredness sets in and the need for calories from any source becomes to much.
I am going to attend some training event (course, TeachMeet, conference…) for my own PD each half term in 2015.
I am going to message at least 3 friends and actually talk to 1 friend every week who I haven’t spoken to in a while.
Finally I am going to keep following and promoting the excellent @MartynReah’s #teacher5aday initiative.
As Nina Simone might say about 2015
“It’s a new year, it’s a new dawn, it’s a new life for me. And I’m feeling good”