Recently, I’ve read this post by Rachel Jones which was triggered by this by Martyn Reah. Workload and well-being is interesting and a hugely personal, complex beast. It’s totally to do with personal perspective, and that’s where this post is written from, so before you crucify me, help me learn. If I’m totally honest (as someone who grew up with domestic violence, had a sister give birth at 14, my mother wanting to leave this life and other such things) is to stop moaning and take positive control. One, really influential thing that I learned once was this:
This was powerful and increased my well-being. It saved me from really dark places. For example, I couldn’t control my father’s very poor choices, but I can control not seeing him for a decade and ensuring he has nothing to do with my son. Now, this isn’t a bleeding heart column, nor do I want to come across as an emotionally-arid monster. What I will say though, is that taking control is the most important step to increasing well being. Now, before you read any further, it may be worth looking back at the following three posts from 2009, Google and 2013. Workload and well-being aren't new issues, and we are delusional if we think that they are unique to teaching. Many issues stem from personal choices, however, if a majority are feeling the strain then it’s within our power to change the system. As a school leader, it’s part of my moral purpose. Although that doesn’t mean, indeed can’t mean, we don't challenge poor practice.
Now, I know that teaching is affected by the misinformed and muppet-istic decisions of others, especially the politicians, and that those decisions have an impact. By my logic, we could all decide to leave teaching and get other jobs. However, there are loads of well qualified people out there and stuff and other such issues. On the other hand, if there was a severe recruitment crisis, then the Government would certainly have to sort it. I’ve considered leaving teaching many times, and my faith in what we do and why we do it has been tested many times. Like a priest, I’ve questioned my faith in state secondary education many times. Many of those reasons come down to well-being, so I take it very seriously which is why the current spotlight is most welcome. However, the professional and personal are interdependent. Now, I would work in any old job, but I remain because I love this job and see the incursions into it by external (and internal) muppets a challenge and the reason that I need to stay.
Part of #teacher5aday is to share what we do under the following hashtags. This is a blend of what I do and what I see I should do better. It’s focused on the personal stories rather than plans.
Part of this is connecting with family that live 300 miles away as well as the family that live under my roof. In terms of teaching, connecting with those that I work with is important. I try to speak to every person I line manage, for example heading down to the IT support team to wish them a good weekend on a Friday. I’ve even been known to give up some coffee or write a post card to say thanks. The personal is better, with good news confined to emails and bad always a conversation. I try to ensure that I always give other staff ‘5 minutes’ and don’t mention how busy I am or look as if I want to go. I can always catch up with work at some point. At least I try. Encouraging others to see nativity plays is also important. I need to get better at this.
Speaking with the zeal of a convert, the single best thing I’ve done in the past three years is start running and re-engaging with mad challenges again. Since January 2012, I’ve run 3000 miles. In 2015 I will complete a 50 mile ultra marathon and I do harbour plans for an ironman. The first post of 2014 was about running and read this from December 2012 after my first year of running. It provides me with thinking time and quality David time. It allows my inner David to come out to play. Of course, this sometimes means that some work stuff isn’t done, but prioritisation means that critical tasks are always tackled. It has also improved my social life (I like my own company and am quite shy really) and allowed me to fit it around my family.
I need to be better at noticing others and encouraging them to talk through issues. I also need to be better at noticing good practice around me.
I like learning difficult things. Taking time off from the echo chambers is good – my new job is excellent as I’m challenged all of the time. Indeed, my core values are always being tested and developed. This is a good state of affairs. I read a lot, recently about Che Guevara after putting myself up for a couple of future talks. I believe in learning the hard way, and I know that I enjoy stress and ‘leadership in a crisis.’ I know that well-being and workload is an area that I need to learn a whole lot more about. I’m trying to set up a well-being group at work. I’ve started by contacting all of the teachers who have the most contact time. Let’s see where that leads. I know that I need to learn from them about the impact of my actions.
I enjoy my work through the Geographical Association and Royal Geographical Society. My well-being is improved by keeping in touch with my subject roots. This year, I’ll volunteer to lead a uniformed youth organisation (The Air Training Corps, not school, transformed my life), probably the Scouts as my son starts there. I’m also leading a couple of school visits and have some mad plans about a far flung expedition. There’s also TeachMeet Pompey and the first TeachMeet at the GA Conference. I like volunteering, as other volunteers have enabled me to get to where I am today. Perhaps 2015 will be the year I actually join Sussex SAR and I will volunteer as a race marshal at a race in 2015. A couple of weeks ago I volunteered to go without coffee for an assembly and even volunteered to kill Santa as part of last year’s CSI Santa.
So, what else can I do to improve the well being of others and myself? A big thank you to Martyn for the initial post.