Wednesday, 27 December 2017

#teacher5aday Nurture 2017/2018

In ancient Roman mythology, Janus was the god of beginnings and new transitions. His two faces enabled him to look both back at the past and ahead into the future. Having been reminded of last year’s #nurture post by @MartynReah I was encouraged to reflect and project ahead of another new year. 

Realising I had overshot some of my goals last year was a thrill. On a road from quite ill health, I had an ambition to swim a bit more but actually thanks to #teacher5aday & some super Twitter support, including that of @isright aka #virtualcoach, I ended up running the Royal London Parks half marathon instead; an actual impossibility only months before the event! And next year? Well, I love the change that the extra #exercise brought both physically & mentally but honestly, I hope I never have to run 13 miles again so maybe I’ll try something different. Watch this space...

Previously I had said that #volunteer was a personal weakness but I was proud to raise thousands for Great Ormond Street Hospital whilst pounding those London parks and pavements and hope to raise more money for charity next year. There was a moment - running with thousands of strangers - when the sheer scale of charitable good will was quite overwhelming.

Writing about #notice previously, was all about my wellbeing and that remains a priority. I am in a better place but certainly not where I would like to be. My health requires patience close attention and determination; the latter I have in bundles but patience? Not my strong suit. In 2018 I would like to be more patient & get less frustrated. With myself. 

#teacher5aday has continued to act as a signpost and while I have faced some particular personal challenges this year, I have learnt that I am capable of much more than I imagined. There are a couple of opportunities on the horizon requiring a leap of faith and 2018 might be the year, or at least the preparation. You never know. 2017 brought some truly surprising and joyous moments. If I can have a few more next year, I will be happy.

Oh I forgot to say, I had my first school inspection as Head this year and we smashed it. Look how far down my list of priorities it came.

Sunday, 12 November 2017

Silly Season

How have I forgotten the craziness that exists every year in these final weeks of the year? I suspect I have erased it from my mind in an  attempt to manage the trauma...
Monday came this week, as it does every week but for some reason nobody knows what they are doing! Where the timetable would usually dictate a sense of sameness, a nativity rehearsal at the church has rendered two classes teacherless and a general sense of chaos is looming. And this is just the beginning.
At the time of year when love and peace and patience have the highest profile they are in short supply in schools and classrooms across the world! The children are... different. After a solid few weeks of engaged learning something has changed and I suddenly feel the need to lie in a darkened room. It is silly season! 
And there is a reason we have forgotten how things were last year at this time of year. But we survived! Remember that, comrades; we survived last year and with a few deep breaths and a few more, we will maintain our patience and smile through the carol service  and emerge from the end of term celebrations triumphant and live long enough to erase this from our minds in an attempt to manage the trauma. 
And smile!

Teacher5aday Pledge


The last few months have been difficult. I have been quite unwell and this has impacted upon my professional and personal life. Suddenly I found myself unable to function at the same breakneck speed that I usually do.
#notice has taken on new meaning for me as I have had to work really hard at noticing my stress levels and the impact that my well being has upon my health and on those around me at work and at home. Noticing when I need to take a break, get some exercise or see the doctor has become a serious priority for me and must be my pledge for 2017. @chris_eyre provided the perfect reminder via #50isplenty. Many weeks I have managed far less than 50 hours of work and that is OK.
#connect This year I have grown my Twitter network and I am grateful to my Twitter friends for their continued support and encouragement throughout 2016. Recent events have forced me to connect at a deeper level with people. My pledge for 2017 is to connect with myself (see also #learn.) This could be the trickiest pledge of all and I haven’t quite worked out where to start…
#exercise has saved me this year. Three times weekly trips to the pool to swim 60 lengths have released me from a 7.30 pm bedtime and have combatted serious fatigue issues. There are a lot of days that I force myself to go. It is always a good idea. Leaving work by 4.30 twice a week to do this is an added benefit. Squeezing in a fourth session, maybe a class, will be my 2017 pledge.
#learning about myself and learning how to live a more balanced life must be my pledge for next year. I need to see myself, not just as a teacher or as a leader but as a person. I need to learn how to achieve and maintain perspective. If you know how please tell me.
#volunteer This is last because I am not good at it. In the last few months it was not sensible for me to volunteer for anything extra but hopefully as things ease and I feel more able to manage, I will find ways to volunteer in small ways and perhaps take on a bigger challenge in 2017. I will listen out for it.
Despite my health issues, I made many wonderful happy memories in 2016. And even my challenges have taught me something. I have smiled through and had a blast. More of the same please in 2017!

Teacher5aday Workload Debate

You don’t have to talk to a teacher for very long before the subject of workload arises. Publicly, as a profession we are in danger of pedalling the image that complaining about our lot is what we do best. However there are whole networks of us making great strides in spreading the love of what we do; none less than the teacher5aday movement that so many of us engage with on Twitter. The teacher5aday movement challenges teachers’ predisposition to place the wellbeing of others over their own. It asks us as professionals, to model best practice in taking care of ourselves, and to actively inspire others to do the same.
In stark contrast, the Department for Education’s newly published Teachers' Working Time Survey shows that 93 per cent of teachers identify workload as a serious problem, with teachers working on average 54.4 hours a week. The survey also states that Primary teachers new to the profession are working nearly 19 hours per week outside school hours, causing many to leave the profession within just a few years of qualifying.
One response is over 21,000 signatures on a government petition to reflect the hours worked by teachers in their pay. An alternative approach is to adopt the #fiftyisplenty rule advocated by @chris_eyre. The 50 is plenty rule is the principle that we limit our working hours, wherever possible, to less than 50 per week; maintaining a sustainable work load that neither compromises our productivity or our health and wellbeing but promotes longevity as a professional whilst also improving the wellbeing of those around us.
When Secretary of State for Education, Justine Greening, addressed the Chartered College of Teaching with her vision for the profession, she said, “Teachers are the experts who inspire the professionals of the future.” The question is how will we inspire other professionals to develop the workload debate?

So who are you?

I was recently interviewed by a couple of Year 5 pupils for a 'News hounds' club project and the interview went a bit like this...
Did you always want to be a Headmistress? 
Keeping a straight face was the hardest part of answering this question! I was a bit of a rebel at school and the last thing I could ever imagine I would end up doing was working in one. I loved primary school though and somewhere along the line I came to be a hard worker, who said yes to most requests. This accidentally landed me the headship in my charming and brilliant prep school in Oxfordshire.
What do you like best about your job?
Being in a small school means lots of variety. I get to do a million different things a week and as I have the attention span of a 5 year old, this suits me just fine. It also means I get to know all the children and build relationships with everybody. I love this.
Who is your favourite pupil in Year 5? (What!)
Teachers don't have favourites; it is their job to find the unique qualities in every child. (Maybe I should have been a politician)
What keeps you awake at night?
Nothing. I am so exhausted by the time I go to bed, I am lucky if I get as far as the bed before dropping off!
If you hadn't been a teacher, what would you have been?
A trapeze artist

Time to say goodbye

I'm totally behind the whole growth mindset thing and in my first two years of headship I know that I have got better at many many things but... I have not, in all my years of teaching, got better at saying goodbye to our leavers. I feel privileged as a head, to still be the Year 6 form tutor but... every year I feel it and it's creeping up on me already this year. Not only do I need to prepare a speech for our Year 6 leavers but I have to prepare myself to deliver it without completely embarrassing myself. The journey from Nursery to Year 6 is not only traversed by the pupils but by their teachers, and letting go of children whom we have seen grow and change over so many years is a wrench. The term 'in loco parentis' is hugely relevant. I am so proud of my leavers and so very excited for them about their futures but goodness me will I miss them! It's not very fashionable to talk about love in schools but without it where would be and who would be? Tough times are ahead for me at least... AGAIN!

Fighting the ZZZZs

Tired is definitely NOT just a state of mind. When you are battling a hidden illness that regularly and repeatedly floors you with chronic fatigue, hearing things like that only serve to contribute to the intense frustration you already feel. When you choose sleep over most other activity in order just to function the fight is real. 
However, if you subscribe to the following quote: 'I don't stop when I'm tired, I only sleep when I'm done' then fight you must. Even when a single late night leaves you reeling and even when you have to keep your weekly appointment with the chiropractor just to cope with the working week. 
People who suffer from chronic fatigue aren't weak or seeking sympathy. They battle every day against what they most feel like doing (giving up) in order to enjoy the simple things in life that many of us take for granted (a fulfilling career, a family life, a social life) Often they don't tell people what they are dealing with except those closest to them in fear that people will think less of them. 
Hats off to everyone who shines when they feel least sparkly! Remember the word diamond originates from the Greek 'adamas' meaning unconquerable and indestructible.