Author Archives: lenabellina

Communication⤴

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Today has been a very strange day. I was lucky enough to go to Glasgow to attend the first training in Scotland for school leaders by Paul Dix from Pivotal Education. Paul was as expected; inspiring informative and very entertaining.

But I will talk about that another time. This post is about communication.

In our school we encourage pupils not to use their mobile phones during the day and where possible not to contact their parents unless absolutely necessary. There have been situations where pupils have sent a text, for example, that has caused concern to a parent and led them to phone in, only to discover that perhaps the wrong end of the stick has been got.

There are many times, however, when mobiles can be very useful, such as when we are on a school trip and the bus is due to arrive back early. A quick call home by pupils when we are half an hour away can avoid them having to stand around in a cold car park for half an hour.
Similarly, if a pupil has forgotten PE kit / inhaler/packed lunch, a quick text home can result in the parent dropping it off at reception with no fuss, instead of the pupil having to take 15 minutes out of class to go to the school office and ask them to make a call home etc, etc.

Most pupils use their phones very responsibly during the school day.

Imagine, then, how I felt when I checked my phone during a brief break this morning to see the following message from my daughter, who is also a pupil at my school:

The school’s on fire!!!!!

A hundred reactions and thoughts went through my head, including:
A massive panic about my children, our children, my colleagues.
“Someone has her phone and it is a joke”.
“I am not there so who has the high-vis jacket and is registering staff?”
“It CAN’T be a drill as prelims are on….”

After some messaging back and forth, I established that it was a real fire but that everyone was safe and soon after that school was being evacuated and pupils sent home.

I sent a message to my colleagues but did not call the school: I knew 100% that they would be fully engaged in managing the critical incident and that the last thing they would need would be me tying up their time or phone lines.

And soon emails, tweets and messages appeared from school to re-assure parents.

And I was re-assured.

Driving home tonight I reflected on how many text messages must get sent nowadays in the moments before real tragedies and how they must render loved-ones completely distraught.

Modern communication is fantastic and yet it can also lead us to over- or mis-communicate at times.

Tonight I will put my phone down and give my two a big hug instead.

I know as teenagers they might resist…. but it will tell them everything they need to know.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Happy, healthy and doing the best they can.⤴

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If you have read my previous posts, you will know that I am fairly single-minded about my vision; to help every young person in my care to be happy, healthy and doing the best they can. If I see that children are being deprived of the opportunity to thrive I will fight tooth and nail to put it right.

I want the world to be fair, safe and full of opportunity for every single child and so when things get in the way of that, I get angry and sad.

In school, we do the absolute best we can with the resources we have to support our children.

But we also need to know that they experience a life that is fair, safe and full of opportunity when they are outside of our environment.

We know that this will not be the case if they are out drinking alcohol from a young age.

We know that this will not be the case if they are taking drugs.

We know that this will not be the case if they are engaging in inappropriate sexual activity.

We know that this will not be the case if they do not have clear boundaries.

If we as parents cannot define the safe boundaries for our children then we need to ask for help.

There is no shame in this. We end up in this parenting role with very little preparation and if we are lucky enough to have had good role models in our families, then we probably do a good enough job.

But if we are struggling to get it right, we need to be honest and say so.

As a school leader, I don’t want parents to feel that they need to struggle alone. I need them to be honest and work with me so that we can create the environment both in and out of school that will allow our children to thrive.

It takes a village to raise a child. But we will only raise that child well if the adults in the village are honest, willing to work together and able to ask for help when they need it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Caring Professionalism. For#cultureofwellbeingDGinset 7.01.18⤴

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We work in a caring profession. The dictionary tells us so:
caring profession
noun
plural noun: caring professions
1. a job that involves looking after other people, such as nursing, teaching, or social work.

Yet sometimes it seems as though we have lost sight of the care in our profession.

A hint of why this is might come from the response by Kevin Courtney of the NUT to the reported drop in teacher training numbers this week:

Mr Courtney said: “It’s not the hours but the nature of the work – producing evidence for bureaucrats is taking hours of teachers’ time.
“The workload is not only causing problems with people leaving, but now with people coming into the profession.”

It is hard to be caring when you have to treat tiny children as if they are data producers.
It is hard to be caring when you are working ridiculously long hours to keep up with yet more changes in the exam system.
It is hard to be caring when you are having to cover for absent staff.

But caring is what we are about. I wrote this back in October: https://lenabellina.wordpress.com/2017/10/13/what-are-we-about/

In it, I said:
“What I want, or need, to say now, is that I don’t think most schools work.
I don’t think they can, unless we commit to a fundamental shift in what they are about.
Although they are first and foremost about teaching and facilitating learning, we also have to be honest and admit that they are about caring for and looking after the most precious things in other adults’ lives.”

I am a senior leader. I would like to run a school one day.
I know that there are certain jobs that I will never get because I wear my heart on my sleeve and I put caring first and foremost in what I do.
I know that some people see me as soft / a snowflake / progressive / unrealistic… and sometimes even unprofessional because I refuse to follow directives for the sake of it. Instead, I question decisions on the basis of whether they are in the best interests of the wellbeing of children and staff. I know that having shown myself as vulnerable and having been honest and reflective about wellbeing and mental health makes some wary of me.

But I stand firm in my belief that a commitment to caring is the thing that makes us ultimately professional and the thing that will eventually mean that education can move on and allow children and staff to thrive.
Children need structure, routine and boundaries if they are to develop agency and self-regulation. But show me the evidence that shouting , humiliation or high-stakes testing have a part to play in this.
If you want evidence that a caring approach towards children is far more effective than a punitive, controlling approach then don’t just take it from me, have a look at the following:

 

Read every single other post on this #cultureofwellbeingDGinset platform today.

Read this by the brilliant Mary Meredith (@marymered):

https://teenschooling.wordpress.com/2017/12/29/how-why-we-must-meet-the-attachment-needs-of-adolescents-in-school/

And above all, read Paul Dix’s fantastic book “When the Adults Change, Everything Changes”.

Caring professionalism also takes self-care seriously.

In the medical profession, there is a clearly-stated recognition that doctor wellbeing is essentialhttps://youtu.be/We2BqmjHN0k to patient wellbeing. The Physician’s Charter, latest updated in October 2017 by The World Medical Association, contains the pledge:
“I WILL ATTEND TO my own health, well-being, and abilities in order to provide care of the highest standard.”
(I know about all of this from connecting with the inspiring Michael Farquhar (@DrMikeFarquhar) on Twitter. Mike is a Consultant in Sleep Medicine and writes passionately about the need for sensible working and sleep patterns for doctors. Read more here: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/anae.13982/full )

We lack a similar pledge within our standards for teacher registration in Scotland. The only reference to wellbeing in our Standards appears in 3.2.2 “demonstrate a secure knowledge and understanding of the wellbeing indicators” and this relates to pupil wellbeing.

The education of our children is not something to be taken lightly.
Having teachers who are able to be nurturing, calm, positive, realistically optimistic and caring for children is vital. One of the greatest things we can achieve as adults working with children is to be positive, caring wellbeing role-models.

Do you need some support around your own well-being? Then check out some of the great groups on Twitter such as @HealthyToolkit (https://healthyteachertoolkit.wordpress.com/) or @teacher5aday.

Dr Suzanne Zeedyk, a research scientist who specialises in the impact of attachment and connection, talks about our society undergoing a “revolution in kindness” towards children.

Join that revolution. Dare to care too.

 

 

 

 


Nothing new.⤴

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A revolution.
A revelation.
No resolutions.
I am not a shirker of resolve but sometimes my resolve is too great. So, for 2018, a decision simply to consolidate.
To make more solid that which has been started.

To become more solid.
To keep on…
…working to improve the opportunities whereby all children can learn
…fighting against injustice
….speaking the truth
….writing
….learning
….listening
….loving
….hoping for recovery.

Not a better version of my Self but good enough.

Wishing peace and contentment to you and yours.


Staffrm Transfer 15 – A Black Dog, Self-Care Sunday, WomenED Unconference.⤴

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A black dog.

#wellbeing

Lena Carter · 4 months ago

Sometimes life takes the wind out of your sails.

Our lovely black dog was run over on Wednesday and died.

We had friends over for dinner and our attention was not in her when she decided to take off for an adventure. Of course, we have done the what-ifs and the self-blame and the remorse but the reality is that it was an accident.

There is now a big, black dog-shaped hole in our lives and we are terribly sad. I know that we have been here before, both with pets and people and that we will feel better. But that does not really help.

I remember that during my training as a therapist, I came across the idea that, far from making us desensitised to death, every bereavement triggers the memory of all of our previous losses.

We need to sit with our sadness, allow it and not censor it.

My son spent almost all of yesterday inconsolable. Nothing I could say seemed to help. I talked of the fact that life is both good and bad, happy and sad. I spoke of rainbows and sunshine after rain.

But mostly I hugged and wiped tears and encouraged him to sleep.

Because sometimes what is needed is sleep and time. Sleep can certainly be the “balm of hurt minds” referred to in Shakespeare’s Macbeth:

“Sleep that knits up the ravelled sleeve of care
The death of each day’s life, sore labour’s bath
Balm of hurt minds, great nature’s second course,
Chief nourisher in life’s feast.”

We’ll get there, I know.

But the black dog is very much with us all for the time being.

#selfcareSunday

Lena Carter · 3 months ago

Having been prompted by my wonderful @HealthyToolkitHT friends, I am writing a post on what I will be doing to look after myself today.

First of all, I stayed in bed until 8. Not asleep, granted, but I took time to lay there and breathe to combat the worry-monkeys who wanted me up and doing at 6. Mindful breathing and three good things exercises always work now.

I have moved on a lot from here:

staffrm.io/@lenabellina/05CwLB…

Secondly, I am writing this from my exercise bike, as I simultaneously pedal and type. For me, a bit of gentle exercise each day is crucial for keeping my vestibular system in order and sending some happy-making dopamine to the right bits of my brain. (Apologies, scientists, but that is my understanding of why I need to do it).

Thirdly, I have left today free of any other commitments so that I can do some work for the week ahead. Yes, for me this IS self-care, even though working for self-care may seem counterintuitive. I have a lot to do at the moment due to staff issues at school and I am only going to keep on top of running my school if I plan well and stay calm.

But my mission to look after myself actually started yesterday. I took 5 minutes at the start of the day to email some colleagues in my authority to ask for some help in doing the work I have to do. Nothing demanded of them except “can you email me a couple of power points, please?”. By the end of the day they had sent what I need, so that part of today’s work will take just an hour instead of three.

And then yesterday I spent the whole day shopping and at the theatre in Glasgow with my daughter. This re-charged me and my brain and was the proper switch-off needed so that today my brain will work better again.

I have a colleague at work who feels it is condescending when he is told to “work smart” instead of “work hard.” I am afraid that for me, it is the only answer.

Also from my bike, (10 mins to go), I am making important connections with my personal learning network through Twitter, @staffrm‍  and other blogs. I have just read this:

tim.blog/2014/02/13/anxiety-tr…

which is a great read in this thread.

So, that’s me, in my own idiosyncratic, self-caring way.

How about you?

Un-unconference

#womened

Lena Carter · 2 months ago

I should be at the Womened Unconference this weekend.

After wanting desperately to be there last year, I had planned and booked early this year. Hotel and train sorted, plans to meet up with people made, workshop sessions provisionally chosen.

But I am not there.

The last week at work has been really challenging. Long days, high adrenaline situations, tensions to diffuse, children in crisis. The usual stuff of school leadership.

When I got in at 8.30pm on Thursday ready to pack/do the jobs I usually do at the weekend/plan for work on Friday, I realised that perhaps I was being a bit over-optimistic.

And then my husband reminded me that my son was having teeth out on Friday. And I realised. I couldn’t go. The thought of not being there to give him the comfort and support needed after such a painful and potentially traumatic event made me stop in my tracks; I had teeth our for braces when I was about my son’s age and I remember the experience to this day. And it made me realise that I have allowed my priorities to get a bit skewed of late. I have left too much to my husband in terms of home and family. I have allowed the life-work balance scale to tip too much to the side of work.

Although the Unconference would not have been work, it would have prevented me from being with my family when they need me. And in all honesty, it would probably also have prevented me from getting the rest I desperately need this week-end. Six hours on trains, two nights in a hotel and the mad excitement of meeting so many role-models and friends are probably not what I really need today.

So I am at home. Not long ago, the me sitting here would have felt a failure. I would have been beating myself up for not showing up. For letting Hannah down. For not being the superhuman-superwoman that the other women who have shown up are. But today I am not feeling like that.

One thing that being part of #womened has shown me over the last year is that no-one who really understands what #womened is about will judge me for not being there. There is no space in the incredible, supportive network for judgement that might allow our already critical inner chimps to start a party.

Hannah has asked us to reflect on what #womened has done for us over the last year and so my contribution to the Unconference is to tell you this:

1. It allowed me to connect with Mal Krishnasamy and be coached by her over the past year. For me, this has been transformational.

2. It allowed me to connect with Hannah and Caradh and make steps towards creating a #womened network in Scotland. Ours have been baby steps but a phenomenal group of women came together in May and have stayed connected via the #womenedwednesday hashtag.

3. It has helped me to find my tribe, to find my voice and to become more of the authentic leader I need to be. I would have loved some real hugs and real connection today but the virtual support from connections through twitter, staffroom, facebook and email has kept me going over the past year.

4. It has helped me to become about 110% braver.

5. It has made me feel proud of myself.


Staffrm Transfer 14 – Jane Eyre Part 2, Wellbeing Digimeet, Jukebox June, Destiny, Food Meditation.⤴

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Jane Eyre Part 2

#womened

Lena Carter · 6 months ago

Last weekend I went to see the amazing National Theatre production of Jane Eyre. I have already written about it here staffrm.io/@lenabellina/gUueiq…

But for #womenedwednesday, I wanted to write another short thought burst.

Jane has been described as a feminist icon, a girl and woman who shows outstanding resilience and achieves success against the odds. The play version opens and closes with the line “it’s a girl” the first time heralding Jane’s birth and the second the birth of her daughter.

Jane’s story gives hope to women everywhere that they can challenge convention and find contentment if they follow their hearts. There is no convenient marriage to a pastor for her because she refuses to compromise and accept less than she will be satisfied with.

However, the story gives hope to men everywhere too. I read the book of Jane Eyre aged 13 and cannot remember my reaction back then to Mr Rochester. Possibly the play version portrays him in a way that the book does not. But in watching the play, I felt equally inspired by his story as by Jane’s because he too fights against convention and shows a vulnerability that must have been uncommon for a man of his era. He is certainly flawed and has made some potentially catastrophic mistakes in his life. Possibly the hardest to forgive is his attempt to marry Jane without telling her about his marriage to Bertha and were it not for the subsequent reversal of fortunes, we may judge him rather more harshly.

But as it is, he is presented as a sensitive, vulnerable and above all loving man who breaks the mould of masculinity, recognises his flaws and follows his heart.

Yes, then, in Jane Eyre we find a female role model who shows

strength and fights to become all she can be. But we also get a glimpse of the type of man who will support a women in that fight and allows her to be the passionate, flawed and authentic.

That’s pretty #heforshe if you ask me.

Oh crikey, is it my turn?

#wellbeingdgmeet

Lena Carter · 6 months ago

#wellbeingdgmeet

So first of all, I have to say that I am pretty amazed to see my name in the line-up of people contributing to today’s incredible wellbeing digimeet, organised by my heroine @cerasmusteach‍

(Imposter Syndrome addressed and quickly moves on.)

I write a lot about wellbeing. Teacher, pupil, parent, mine. I know a lot about it. I have experienced a lack of wellbeing for parts of my life and witnessed the same in many others.

I have regained wellbeing and helped others to do that too.

I have talked a lot, trained a lot and I can produce initiatives with the best of them.

This was a good one:

staffrm.io/@lenabellina/Qr1Wl1…

And this was another:

staffrm.io/@lenabellina/Y6JP80…

And this, just this week, got a lot of positive feedback:

lenabellina.wordpress.com/2017…

Last year I got really engaged over mental health and stigma:

lenabellina.wordpress.com/2016…

In fact, most of my blog posts relate to wellbeing initiatives in some form or another.

But here’s the thing.

Initiatives don’t get the job done. It is the spirit and culture in your school that matter. It is your behaviour that matters.

A year ago I wrote a post about the things we need to consider, if we choose to take on the huge responsibility and great honour of shaping the lives of children.

Today, I adapt this slightly and offer you my humble opinion on the five key questions to which we need to be able to answer “yes”, if we are to help create a genuine culture of wellbeing in our schools.

1. Do you like children and are you able to love each one as if they were related to you and may rely on you to be their turnaround adult?

2. Are you self-aware and self-reflective and have you worked on your own mental wellbeing?

3. Are you trauma-informed and do you understand that your behaviour can impact on the mental health of others?

4. Are you genuine in your belief that recovery is possible and that showing vulnerability is not a sign of weakness but of strength?

5. Do you take time to listen when someone asks “can I talk to you?” or look for the signs that they want to talk but perhaps can’t?

Life is complex. But that is its simplicity. If we understand that, we can experience and promote wellbeing.

Life is not perfect. Bad things happen as well as amazing things and we can’t always control events around us. There are good feelings as well as bad. But we can have control over our thoughts and our actions if we work together to understand, deeply, who we are.

We need to encourage children to see this. We need to talk about it and help them to live with complexity. Not to scare them, not to induce anxiety. But to prepare them for life and to help them understand what awaits them.

#JukeboxJuneHT plus one

#wellbeing

Lena Carter · 5 months ago

On Saturday I stood in a park and had my faith in humanity and the world completely restored.

Music is an incredible tool that can connect us on a deep spiritual and archetypal level with others. Those of us who took part in @HealthyToolkitHT’s #JukeboxJuneHT will know this.

For an hour and three quarters on Saturday I danced, sang, wept and connected as Green Day shared songs of hurt, hope, loss and love.

Billy Joe Armstrong reminded us of why he is truly a legend; he inspired the crowd to sing along and to join him in demanding “no racism, no sexism, no homophobia…” and more. He spoke of the magic and strength of London and the need to stay positive after the recent atrocities. And he encouraged us to put down our phones and live in the moment.

Perhaps his strongest message came when he pointed out how all of our lives our messy and difficult but that we can overcome the difficulties by sharing and connecting with one another and celebrating the magic of life.

In the incredibly beautiful “Ordinary World”, we hear the question

“Where can I find the city of shining light

In an ordinary world?”.

London was that city on Saturday and the music and connection made it so.

It was the best start to a holiday ever.

Destiny

#wellbeing

Lena Carter · 5 months ago

So Prince William is going to “embrace his destiny”, give up flying air ambulances and commit himself full-time to royal duties at the age of thirty five, according to BBC radio 4’s Today programme.

What a loaded phrase. I rather like it. Perhaps it would make a good school motto: “Embracing our destinies together”.

But what would it really mean?

What was the destiny of that babe born with blue blood? To become King? To experience the breakdown of his parents’ marriage? To fly an air ambulance? To lose his mother at a tragically young age? To become an advocate for mental health awareness?

What is my destiny? What is yours? What is the destiny of the next pupil you will teach?

To be anyone, go anywhere, do anything?

I was determined not to become a teacher. My parents and aunt had been and I grew up knowing the reality of the job and the strains and stresses that go with it.

But maybe it was determined that I would become a teacher because of my nature and nurture.

When I’m feeling tired or low, I slip into trying to believe that there is something pre-determined for me, in the stars, decided by some celestial force.

Alternatively, I find myself tempted to assign determination to my genes, an inalterable DNA road-map that I won’t be able to re-write.

It would be easier that way; to be able to relinquish responsibility and to deny that I can do anything about it.

But I know, once I have shaken off my fatigue, that I have and can make choices. That even when things are difficult, I can find ways to achieve them. That even when my mindset is causing me problems, I can find ways to shift it and get back on track.

For the last couple of weeks, I have felt like turning my back on education. I have felt like a victim, not a saviour. I had lost some of my enthusiasm. Maybe that is just a natural part of being a teacher on holiday; a part of the period of introspection referred to in this wonderful article: www.tes.com/news/school-news/b…

But the enthusiasm has returned now.

My destiny is to help children and young people embrace theirs.

I can’t wait to get back at it.

Food meditation

#appetiteaugustht

Lena Carter · 4 months ago

I have written this as part of @HealthyToolkit’s August focus on food and eating.

It is a variation on a mindfulness meditation and may be useful if you  are struggling to manage your relationship with food or hunger.

Notice how you feel. Are you hungry? Do you know what for?

Is the hunger in your stomach? In your mouth? In your mind? Breathe and hold the feeling. Think about what you need in order to feel satisfied. Do you know?

Take a fresh pea pod. Hold it in your fingers. Look at the imperfections on the outside of the pod and then split it open. See the bright, fresh green of the perfectly shaped peas and take a moment to breathe. Marvel at the sheer magic of a world that can create those peas. Slowly take one of the peas and put it in your mouth. Explore the shape, the texture and then bite on it and notice the flavour. Can you taste it? Maybe not.

Chew, breathe and then take another, maybe two or three together if you like. Notice how they taste, how they feel.

Breathe, notice and focus on what you are feeling and thinking in this moment.

Notice how you feel. Are you hungry? Do you know what for?

Is the hunger in your stomach? In your mouth? In your mind? Breathe and hold the feeling. Think about what you need in order to feel satisfied. Do you know?

Take a wrapped sweetie. Hold it in your fingers. Look at the colours and designs on the outside of the wrapper and open it. See the sweetie inside and and take a moment to breathe. Marvel at the sheer magic of a world that can create that sweetie. Slowly take the sweetie and put it in your mouth. Explore the shape, the texture and then bite on it and notice the flavour. Can you taste it? Maybe not.

Chew, breathe and then unwrap another sweetie, maybe two or three together if you like. Notice how they taste, how they feel.

Breathe, notice and focus on what you are feeling and thinking in this moment.

Neither the peas nor the sweeties are “better” foods in this moment. Neither food is a reward or something you have deserved. They are both there for you to taste, to enjoy or not to enjoy. They are both marvellous creations from this marvellous world.

But neither the peas nor the sweeties are as marvellous as you are.

Take a breath. Notice how that make you feel. Neither the peas nor the sweeties are as marvellous as you are.

Notice how you feel. Are you hungry? Do you know what for?


Staffrm Transfer 13 – WomenEd Scotland, Proud, Love is the Answer, Wellbeing, On Acting Like Adults (Jane Eyre).⤴

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#womenedScotland

#womened

Lena Carter · 7 months ago

I have had an absolutely brilliant day.

I was involved in co-facilitating the inaugural national Scottish #womened network meeting in Glasgow and it was the most wonderful, motivating and energising experience.

Our aim was to explore the ways in which #womened can be promoted and further developed in Scotland and we put every minute to maximum use in achieving this.

In spite of my complete inability to stick to time, Caradh (Pert) kept things on track and we skipped nimbly from presentations to a carousel around the 8Cs to more discussions and some inspiring, moving and 10+% braver #leadmeets from Christine Couser, Gillian Hamilton, Jacqueline Risk, Elizabeth Gowans and Amanda Corrigan.

We explored our “why”, our “what” and our “how” and we looked at how our national approach to supporting women and men leaders will be similar to and different from others.

I am exhausted tonight but I am also glowing as I reflect on what was shared and what we as a group achieved. We have bonded as and we have produced a plan. Our first campaign will be online and we have launched #womenedwednesday, thanks to the brilliantly creative Joyce Matthews.

I reflected a fortnight ago about what #womened means to me:

staffrm.io/@lenabellina/SWQCAh…

Today was an incredible opportunity to explore clarity, communication, connection, collaboration, confidence, community, challenge and change.

There are exciting times ahead for leaders and potential wo(men) leaders in Scotland. Today was a tremendous start and we owe huge thanks to Caradh and Hannah for making it happen.

Proud

#womened

Lena Carter · 7 months ago

Pride comes before a fall.

Don’t count your chickens before they’re hatched.

Why is it that these two sayings have influenced me so much in my life? Why do a feel a crippling sense of superstitious fear that whenever I achieve something, I should talk it down and underplay it, lest something happens to spoil it or take it away from me?

Is it because I come from a line of grafters with a Protestant work ethic and a secret conviction that fun is a sin?

Is it part of that particularly British quality that means that self-deprecation is valued above self-confidence?

Is it just me?

I spoke at the WomenEd Scotland event last Saturday about this issue and about the fact that I manage to be able take the idea of delayed gratification to the extreme and that I never seem to get to the point where I feel a success; once any goal that I have sought to achieve is in my grasp, I set myself another one and rarely allow myself to take the time to celebrate or enjoy my achievements.

A while back I went on a long car journey with my daughter and we bought sweets to help us get through the boredom. At the end, half a packet of liquorice allsorts remained and I squirreled them into my bag, vowing to treat myself with them the next time I did something worthy of a reward.

But three months on and they still remained untouched. My internal jury didn’t feel that the work on the school timetable had merited a reward. Nor the presentation given to local Head Teachers on supporting pupil and staff wellbeing during challenging times. Nor the day-to-day juggling of work, family and domestic chores.

But that jury was overruled by the WomenEd Scotland contingent who supported me in allowing myself an allsort. They aren’t the best choice of sweet to eat when talking to an audience, but no-one minded too much.

The wonderful WomenEd Scotland tribe also helped me to see, through honest discussions and stories shared, that it isn’t just me and that too many of us undermine and sabotage ourselves when we are doing well.

It is time for this to change.

In a profession where we know that children respond best when they are praised and rewarded, it does not make sense to deny ourselves praise when we succeed.

I finished the timetable today. It is an amazing achievement, given my limited training, lack of prior experience and limited time. I am very pleased with myself and I want to share that with you.

Tonight there are no allsorts left. And tomorrow, I might just buy myself another pack.

Love is the answer.

#wellbeing

Lena Carter · 7 months ago

This week I gave an assembly for my third year pupils about all that they have achieved in the last year.

I repeated the message that I have given several times this year:

Each one of you is an individual. You are each on an personal pathway that needs to be right for you and that will help you to be the best future version of you that you can; we may have future tree-surgeons and brain-surgeons in the room, future musicians and magicians and so there is no one size fits all. Success for one pupil may look very different to success for another.

Having read something in the week about the fact that the “I failed at school but am a millionaire” Richard Branson-style stories aren’t really helpful to schools or pupils, I added the proviso that, however much we may doubt their ability to judge all types of achievement, qualifications are important currency. We therefore need, over the remaining years of school that remain for our third years, to get them as qualified as possible, whilst ensuring that they are happy, healthy and doing the best they can.

I then briefly addressed each pupil personally.

Some pupils were praised for their outstanding marks in specific subject assessments. Others for turning a corner in terms of motivation or attitude. Others for coming to school every day after periods of absence. Others for sporting or musical achievements. And others for being overwhelmingly positive, helpful or responsible.

Some got a combination of several of the above.

It was an incredible privilege to share the amazing successes of the young people with whom I work.

And it felt particularly apt to do so ahead of our minute’s silence to show respect for Manchester.

I ended by talking to them about the tragedy. I reminded them that the world is full of wonderful, loving, positive people like them and that hatred and negativity are in the minority. I urged them to fight despair with hope and to reflect on the words spoken by Harry Styles the night before:

“We have a choice, every single day that we wake up, of what we can put into the world,” Harry said. “And I ask you to please choose love every single day.”

I love my job, even at the most difficult times.

Wellbeing

Lena Carter · 6 months ago

Today I have been reflecting. I have been reading the things that others have been saying about the events in London last night.

Once again, we are urging each other to fight hate with love, negativity with positivity and despair with hope.

I wrote this after Manchester:

staffrm.io/@lenabellina/W2AyeK…

To be honest, today I don’t feel hopeful. I feel sad, angry, exhausted after trying to be relentlessly positive.

But I think it is ok to say that.

When I studied psychology some time back, I remember reading ideas about how we need to express are darkest, negative, shadow-side feelings that we experience as well as the positive emotions and thoughts.

If we don’t, they will find a way of coming out in ways that may be harmful to us or others.

Life is both light and shadow, sunshine and rain, ups and downs.

So today I am down and allowing myself to be.

I will watch the concert for Manchester and I will weep and grieve.

Life is sometimes cruel and we need to allow ourselves to hurt.

And tonight, though we would never have anticipated it, the tears will be for London as well.

And then tomorrow I will move on.

On acting like adults.

#nurture

Lena Carter · 6 months ago

I went to see the incredible National Theatre Touring production of Jane Eyre yesterday.

It was everything I hoped it to be and more from a theatrical perspective.

So many messages were explored and communicated about being female, being male, being human; about morality, religion and sanity.

But also about Attachment, Adverse Childhood Experiences and about the crucial importance of Nurture in childhood.

Although of course Charlotte Bronte would never have heard of these new fashionable, capitalised terms.

We see in Jane a little girl who has had the most traumatic start in life through the death of her parents.

This is then exacerbated when she is sent to live in kinship care with an aunt and her cousins who reject and abuse her.

There are so many times in the story where we see how things might have been different for the looked after Jane and her emotional development. Perhaps the most poignant for me in this performance was the point in the play where Jane returns to see her dying aunt, Mrs Reed. The aunt is trying to defend her dislike of Jane as a child and to justify it by invoking sympathy in light of the fact that Jane would often fly into violent rages and attack others.

In the play, Jane’s response was to answer “but I was a child.”

In the book we read this:

“My disposition is not so bad as you think. I am passionate but not vindictive. Many a time, as a little child, I should have been glad to love you if you would have let me.”

(Jane Eyre, Penguin Classics, 2006).

The attempt by Mrs Reed to turn herself into victim and blame Jane for a natural response to the distress she has suffered is sharply exposed.

But how much have we adults moved on since Mrs Reed?

How many times must we remind parents that love is a far more powerful tool in influencing a child’s behaviour than punishment? That meeting the needs of a child is not spoiling but rather supporting the child into an emotionally secure future?

Mrs Reed may have argued that she had Jane forced upon her but the reality is that she had a choice, as an adult. Jane as a child did not.

How many times must we remind ourselves as teachers that no child is bad and that we are the adults in the relationship whose paid job it is to support and care for all the children we encounter? If we don’t want to have that responsibility, we have the choice to find a different job where we don’t. The children in our schools don’t.

Jane is a success story, a poster girl for the looked after child who survived and thrived in spite of it all.

But 170 years on from when Charlotte Bronte so brilliantly launched her into the world, why aren’t we doing better?

How many of those labelled criminals, terrorists, or delinquents might have spoken Jane’s words?


Staffrm Transfer 12 – Optimism, Jigsaw update, Happy 2nd Birthday Womened, Shhhhh, The Way not the What.⤴

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Optimism

Lena Carter · 8 months ago

This week a tweet asked me to consider what I am feeling positive and/or optimistic about in relation to education.

1. Online connections. Through Twitter, Womened, Staffrm, HealthyTeacherToolkit and Teacher5aday in particular.

2. The capacity of those in schools to solve problems and support one another.

3. Children who are endlessly inspiring.

4. History and all that it can teach us.

5. Four more days of the holidays.

Jigsaw update.

Lena Carter · 8 months ago

So, a jigsaw update.

Back in February, I wrote about my extreme jigsaw activity and the fact that I viewed doing a 1000 piece Star Wars jigsaw as good preparation for embarking on writing a school timetable.

staffrm.io/@lenabellina/zFRfN3…

I think that the learning I gained by doing the jigsaw has indeed helped me with the Herculean task of timetabling thus far.

1. My brain is finding it hard to switch off from trying to find timetable solutions, as it did when doing the jigsaw.

2. I have not exactly needed specialist clothing but I have needed to put my glasses on (usually kept for driving out of vanity) as hunched over the computer and squinting is not a good look.

3. A night’s sleep and fresh eyes really do help make what was impossible become possible.

4. My tendency to catastrophize has been exacerbated. I have been heard to utter “that’s IT! It can’t be done!” several times a day.

5. Time and patience are indeed very important.

6. And asking for…. and accepting.. help are crucial.

Thank heavens for a man called Alasdair who gave up a day of his holiday to teach me and for a man called Steve. I am married to the latter and I had forgotten that he was once a demon timetabler.

I have a long way to go. But I have started and I have learnt a lot. 6 weeks ago I was insanely jealous of people who talked about COS, SETTS, schematics, triples and pairs and knew what they were.

I have joined their ranks.

That we will have a working timetable on May 30th when we need it is still no certainty.

But if we don’t, it won’t be for lack of trying.

Happy 2nd birthday #WomenEd

#womened

Lena Carter · 8 months ago

So, the wonderful Hannah Wilson set me homework

Q1. HOW HAS YOUR ROLE AS AN ASPIRING OR EXISTING LEADER BEEN CLARIFIED?

Connections made through #womened and other platforms have helped me to stay true to my vision of authentic and passionate leadership and helped me explore and be challenged in my thinking. In a small rural community it can be difficult to find kindred spirits but the #womened tribe is full of them!

Q2. HOW HAS COMMUNICATING  YOUR LEADERSHIP EXPERIENCE AND AMBITIONS DEVELOPED YOU?

I sometimes struggle to articulate my vision face to face and in my workplace. Communicating online and via blogging has allowed me to communicate and rehearse what I want to say in a safe and nurturing space before going into a possibly more challenging arena.

Q3. HOW HAVE YOU CONNECTED WITH #WOMENED?

My #WomenEd connections to date have been virtual: digimeets, Twitter conversations, Yammer connections and coaching. I was lucky to meet some of those I have met virtually at Northern Rocks last year but it was a long trek. That is why we are bringing the face to face connection opportunities to Scotland!

Q4. HOW HAVE YOU COLLABORATED WITH THE CONNECTIONS YOU HAVE MADE WITH #WOMENED?

I suppose that the main piece of collaborative work to date has been the work I have done through being coached by @malcpd. It has been a privilege to work with her towards outcomes that will benefit my school through my leadership.

And now, of course, I am collaborating to develop the Scottish network!

Q5. HOW HAS YOUR CONFIDENCE BEEN BOOSTED?

I am the opposite of Hannah and always lack confidence. #10%braver has helped me hugely with my chimps and my critics and the positivity that been expressed about my blogs has been a real source of support at times of doubt.

Q6. HOW HAS THE COMMUNITY INSPIRED, EMPOWERED AND NURTURED YOU?

Something inspires me every single day. I feel completely and utterly blessed and privileged to get all this support.

Q7. HOW HAVE YOU BEEN CHALLENGED?

I have been inspired and encouraged by my #womened tribe to aim high, follow my dreams and be authentic…..but sometimes those around me aren’t as enthusiastic about me.

In my youthful London days I might have moved on, found another setting or simply sought out a different group from those around me to connect with.

Now, with family commitments and a sense that this smaller pond is home, I need a different approach.

Q8. HOW HAVE YOU CHANGED PERSONALLY AND/ OR PROFESSIONALLY?

I have become more patient and reflective but retained my passion for making a difference and being the best version of myself.

I have also had the confidence to be me and not hide behind the me I think I “should” be. There is still a way to go but I’m hugely grateful to #womened and all my other online connections for helping me start the journey.

Thanks so much to Hannah for the inspiration. You are a true legend.

Shhhhhh….

#womened

Lena Carter · 8 months ago

As you know, I teach Drama.

As you know, I like to talk.

As you may know last term I worked on project about bullying with my S2 classes. It was wordy- lots of talk, dialogues and a chat-show finale. And it was hard work: challenging, emotional and at times upsetting.

And so this term I have reverted to the polar opposite. I have dug out my 1994 “Theatre of Silence” unit.

In it, we talk about non-verbal communication and the 93% emotional intelligence statistic and we look at Mr Bean’s “Sandwich”, Laurel and Hardy’s “Sugar Daddies” and slapstick/ silent movies and Samuel Beckett’s “We Three”.

But this week I took a risk. I did a bit of 10%braver.

When each class came in, I greeted them without words.

I registered with gestures and mimed the instructions to the warm up and other tasks.

They continued to speak and that was fine.

We did a warm up. We then watched Mr Bean and I communicated that I wanted them to work in pairs and devise a short comic piece involving 2 characters on a park bench.

They had 10 minutes to practice and then performed them and got feedback from me.

Here is what I noticed:

I slowed down. I noticed them, looked and listened with intent.

I saw a beautiful smile, a worried look. I made eye contact.

They slowed down.

They talked but the atmosphere was much calmer than usual. They listened to and watched me more but they also listened to each other more.

They worked really hard to understand me.

Several took on the role of interpreter and said what they thought I meant until I confirmed they had got it.

Their performances were funny, sophisticated and demonstrated learning.

5 minutes before the end I began to speak, summarising what had happened.

I have set them homework: to try taking half an hour over the weekend where they communicate without talking.

There is much to be said for not saying. In terms of behaviour management, I was forced to remember the power of silence and the need to use more than words.

I could never have done this a year ago when I walked back into school after secondment and had to build trust and relationships. We have come on a long journey, the pupils and I. And we have such exciting times ahead.

The way not the what.

#womened

Lena Carter · 7 months ago

I am sitting in my garden in the sun. I am feeling a sense of nervous excitement because the week ahead holds a lot in store.

On Monday I will present next year’s school timetable to staff. In Scotland the exam season is upon us already and the new year begins at the very end of May.

I am far from finished with the timetabling but I want to get the basic structure to staff now, so that they can maximise the time freed up by the exams over the coming weeks and start planning for new classes.

I am new to timetabling but as the daughter and wife of former timetablers, I know that my pride in what I have created will be short-lived and that once staff see it, I will be inundated with complaints.

All the more so if it turns out that what I have created does not actually work….

On Friday I will be presenting to a secondary head teacher’s group on how our school has responded to the deaths of three young people in our school community in the last year.

Nothing I say will be particularly new or innovative…but it will be an authentic reflection on how to help staff and pupils when the worst happens….three times.

And next Saturday I will be co-facilitating a #womenedScotland networking event in Glasgow.

I am equally terrified and excited because I have never done anything like it before. If all else fails, I may try presenting through the medium of mime……https://staffrm.io/@lenabellina/DV6sYuwd5G

Challenges. Exciting ones and ones that I know are within my capabilities. But keeping calm and retaining a sense of confidence in myself over the next week will be the biggest challenge.

This week I did a farewell assembly for my fourth years and we said goodbye to seven pupils who are not returning next year. I felt proud, emotional and like a mother duck watching her ducklings paddle away to the stream that flows out of the pond.

My parting advice? That life is amazing and challenging. That we need to make the most of the ups and be resilient when there are inevitable downs. That you need to be your own best friend because you are the only one who is guaranteed to be with you until the end. And that, to quote Bananarama, Fun Boy Three and a lot of mindfulness gurus, “it ain’t what you do, it’s the way that you do it.”

I will heed my advice this week. My way will be focused, calm and modestly confident. The way not the what is the key.


Staffrm Transfer 11 – Hard Work, Emerging from the Chrysalis, Wellbeing, Another End of Term, What Would You Do?⤴

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Hard work

#resilience

Lena Carter · 9 months ago

Last weekend I had a fantastic opportunity and I came away from it feeling validated and empowered. I wrote a #digimeet‍ blog about it here: https://staffrm.io/@lenabellina/Pg3kPHJDHC

The last five days have been, by contrast,  the sort that can take the wind out out of your sails. I just went to list the various issues that have arisen….but then I deleted the list because I realised that they are nothing more than the bread and butter of being a senior leader in a rural comprehensive.

I am feeling completed shattered tonight and once again I have lost my voice.

I am also feeling cross with myself because I upset someone at work due to a misunderstanding. Of course I apologised but it is not a good place to be in. I have had a little cry about that.

At my innermost core, though, I’m ok. There have been high points amongst the challenges and I know that I have got through much worse before.

An amazing group of pupils made the tower in my headline picture in one of my classes this week and the image reminds me of why I do what I do: to get people working together to learn, find solutions and  aim for the stars.

This weekend I will regroup, lick my wounds and prepare myself to start again next week.

Emerging from the chrysalis.

#wellbeing

Lena Carter · 9 months ago

After some hard weeks, Easter is in sight.

Today I was hugely re-junivated when I bumped into some of the people who inspire me the most in my authority. We didn’t have much time together but the glimpse was enough.

Tonight I have written these words to the staff at school:

I don’t know about you but I am tired. It feels as if it has been a struggle to get through the recent weeks with winter bugs threatening (and sometimes winning) and huge amounts to do. As a staff, we have faced a number of challenges (both professional and personal) and we need to take care of ourselves and of one another.

We have perhaps the most important job there is; parents entrust us with their children and we help them learn and develop into young adults who make the most of life and make sensible choices. It is both a huge privilege and a huge pressure to do our job and we can’t do it to the best of our ability if we are unwell, either physically or mentally.

Taking care is very important.

There are just two weeks left to go until the holiday, lighter mornings and evenings, fresh growth appearing.

I know that I am ready for the holiday but I also know that I need to think ahead so that when it comes, I am not so exhausted that I don’t enjoy it. I owe that to my family. Over the next two weeks, I am going to try and get myself ready for the holidays. I am going to make an extra effort to rest, breathe, relax, notice, have fun and cut corners. This fortnight will not be about driving myself into the ground and committing my last few drops of energy to work before collapsing in a heap next Friday week.

Why don’t you join me?

In addition, I thought it might be fun to share some book recommendations ahead of the holidays so that staff who like to read might get their holiday reading sorted in good time?

Mine is ‘The Goldfinch’ by Donna Tartt.

From Goodreads:

The Goldfinch combines vivid characters, mesmerizing language, and suspense, while plumbing with a philosopher’s calm the deepest mysteries of love, identity, and art. It is an old-fashioned story of loss and obsession, survival and self-invention, and the ruthless machinations of fate.

I have not quite finished it but am rationing myself as I have found it utterly captivating.

If you have a recommendation, please email me and I will include it in next week’s bulletin.

Continuing with the wellbeing crusade…

#wellbeing

Lena Carter · 9 months ago

It is interesting that some staff in my school did not appreciate my call to wellbeing strategies last week.

So my Friday thoughts to them tomorrow are short and sweet:

Some of you got in touch after last week’s Friday Thoughts saying that my suggestion of slowing down in a week where folio and coursework uplifts are due was poorly timed.

I appreciated hearing those thoughts and it made me reflect. However, I hold to what I said and I would suggest that it is precisely in our busiest weeks that we need to take most care of ourselves.

Let’s be honest, as teachers we are always busy. There is always more we could do. There will always be external pressure on us. But we have to learn to manage workload and look after ourselves – and each other – if we are to survive.

I found a good website that offers some useful thinking on this and you can find it here, if you are interested: www.helpguide.org/articles/str…

“A man who works regularly in a systematic fashion never feels overworked or tired. He knows his limits and is able to do in fair time, all that he undertakes. It is not hard work that kills a man, but irregularity or lack of system kills.”

Mahatma Gandhi. CWMG Volume 91 page 135.

Another end of term.

#womened

Lena Carter · 8 months ago

I was going to start this post by saying that I am at the end of probably the most challenging term of my career. That I am exhausted, that I feel almost overwhelmed by the dramas and demands of my job.

But the joy of blogging is that evidence shows that I have been here before. I have felt that sense of being beyond tired, over-challenged, over-stretched…… And the reality is that I have survived before and I will survive again.

I don’t think there is anything wrong with being tired after working hard; it is a bit like the tiredness you feel at the end of a long walk or run. The ache in your legs shows that you have put effort in and need a rest before the next exertion.

We are in a difficult place in schools just now. But has it ever been different? I don’t think so.

The reality is that there are always challenges but there are also always positives, however small. It is hard if the things that we judge to be positives are not viewed as such by others who are looking for hard evidence and hard data. It is hard when we are surrounded by those who want to weigh the pig instead of looking at it to see if it is thriving. And it is hard when others take more perverse pleasure in being critical and apportioning blame than in celebrating small successes and seeing a glass half full.

Small things to celebrate include:

*The hello in the corridor from the pupil who never says hello.

*The pupil who is there every day for a week after not having been.

*The class which produces the most sublime anti-bullying drama after a short year of studying the subject.

(Now don’t get me wrong. My learnt (not natural) tendency is to ALWAYS see the negative first….. But I know now to fight against that because it is not a helpful way of being and if I can’t look for solutions to problems, I am part of the problem.)

Life is amazing and it is awful. It is sunshine and rain. Every life has its ups and downs. As teachers in a school community, we will be touched by the ups and downs of the lives of every member of that community: the pupils, staff members and their family members beyond. In a large school that can equate to thousands of lives.

Being a teacher will never be without challenge and drama. We have chosen a vocation that makes us engage with lives in all their wonderful and terrible reality. But we have also chosen a vocation that allows us the privilege of helping children to navigate the opportunities and challenges of life.

Personally, I wouldn’t want it any other way.

What would you do?

#wellbeing

Lena Carter · 8 months ago

We have had friends visiting this week.

Old friends. The type you don’t see for a long time but then feel as if you have never been apart.

Like an old pair of shoes that still fit perfectly even though you haven’t worn them for a while.

We walked, talked, ate, played games.

On one walk we played a game that involved answering the question “what would you do if you didn’t have to work? If money was not an issue?”

It is a good game and it is an important question to consider if, like me, you are wondering a bit about where your life is going.

So, my answer?

I would do something where I know I am making a difference to the wellbeing of children and young people.

I would re-train as a dramatherapist and spend some of my time working therapeutically with children.

I would run a youth theatre and teach drama.

And I would write and talk about these things.

And maybe set up and run my own school where these things were at the core.

What would you do?


Staffrm Transfer 10 – May The Force Be With You, Poorly, Teenagers, Chimps, To Go Boldly…..⤴

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May the force be with you.

Lena Carter · 10 months ago

The jigsaw.

At Christmas I did a couple of jigsaws. In the past, I have always loathed them. My hatred was such that I never managed to put it aside in order to be able to do them with my children, even though doing jigsaws is seemingly a key part of childhood development and the acquisition of fine motor skills.

I do remember feeling incredibly guilty when our lovely child minder told me how good my three year old was at them. Like her Cumbrian accent, she clearly had not got that from me.

For some reason, at Christmas, I got slightly hooked on two round bird jigsaws at my mother in law’s house. And having bought my son a 1000 piece Star Wars puzzle for Christmas, I decided to give that a go this February break.

Those who know me will know that, as part of my new acting post at school, I have to write the school timetable this year. I am petrified about it as I have done training but never actually produced a timetable on my own. In my talks about options to pupils, I have explained that creating the timetable is like creating a huge jigsaw that carefully matches pupil desires with staffing and accommodation and trying to get the best fit possible.

In my head, this jigsaw was a metaphor for that process and I superstitiously told myself that if I could do it, I could do the timetable.

I have an inordinate amount of work to do at present but, having put in 13 hour days for the past month, I was determined not to give my days off over to work.

And so, a gentle jigsaw distraction.

Three days on (and approximately 16 hours) and I have learnt a lot.

1. It is not work that causes me stress. It is the challenges I set myself in my head. Who would have expected that thought of a jigsaw would wake me in the early morning two days in a row, anxious and champing at the bit to get on with it?

2. Jigsaw building requires specialist clothing. My back is wrecked and my knees and elbows are raw.

3. Looking at things with fresh eyes has huge benefit. The impossible becomes possible again.

4. I catastrophize. A lot. “It’s going out the bloody window!!”. “There must be pieces missing!!” “I AM DEFEATED”. “SEE, I TOLD YOU I CAN’T DO A TIMETABLE!!”

5. There are some things that just need time and patience.

6. It is ok to ask for help. Although I did the lion’s share, the bits I did with my children kept me going and really helped.

A ridiculous waste of time? Maybe.

But a good opportunity to reflect on how my mind works and why the how of doing is often as important as the what.

And also an excuse to feel thrillingly, childishly and overwhelmingly proud of what we have achieved!!!

Now, any suggestions for the next one….?

Poorly

#wellbeing

Lena Carter · 10 months ago

I am ill. I have a raging sore throat, swollen glands and head cold which has left me dizzy and with a strange ringing in my ears. To add insult to injury, I have hurt my back through coughing.

But I don’t do ill. So yesterday I went into work, took lots of painkillers and drank lots of coffee and soldiered on. No other option with staff off left, right and centre and no-one else to cover their classes.

Today I have tried to carry on too and have cleaned the house and done the washing, hobbling and sneezing for Britain…

But now I have realised that enough is enough. The sofa is the only option for the rest of today.

I hate to admit defeat but I am defeated.

Lemsip. Duvet. Hot water bottle and rest.

And probably a bit of much-needed reflection on why I have let myself slip so far backwards into martyrdom again……

Teenagers…..

#nurture

Lena Carter · 10 months ago

The more I work with teenagers, the more I am inspired and intrigued by them.

My Friday thoughts to staff today were as follows…..

I have been involved in a lot of workshops with our pupils in making wise choices recently . A slight frustration has been that, in spite of the interventions, some of our pupils have not seemed to be able to heed the messages and have still been engaging in risky or short-sighted behaviours. I have been reflecting on some of the work I did while on secondment around teenage behaviours and wanted to share with you some of the ideas of Sarah-Jayne Blakemore, a neuroscientist who specializes in the teenage brain and has appeared in the following TedTalk:

http://www.ted.com/talks/sarah_jayne_…

Her research shows that the teenage brain is still developing and changing.

Key issues raised are:

• Peer influence (the crowd) is very influential

• Risk taking is key part of being a teenager

• The pre-frontal cortex, the bit that deals with planning and consequences, takes much longer to develop than the reward centre, the part of your brain that makes you want to take risks and have fun, which is particularly developed in teenagers.

She says:

“I’m not an evolutionary biologist, but it makes sense when you think about the need, the drive to become independent from one’s parents, to go and explore the environment, and to affiliate with your social group during this period of life. One thing I’m not saying is that risk taking is bad, or that peer influence is bad. It’s probably an important and adaptive process that we all need to go through in our transition between childhood and adulthood.”

Relationships in the teenage years are complex – teenagers need to rebel and partially un-attach from parents/carers in order to become independent, they need to attach to their peers, they may even need to attach to a baby as a parent or as a childcare worker….

There is a lot of biological and psychological confusion!

This is not about excusing inappropriate behaviour but about helping teenagers and those who work with them to understand some of the influences on their behaviours. Developing self-regulation skills and the ability to make safe and informed decisions are key aspects of teenage learning. Mistakes will be made as this learning occurs and it is crucial that adults are there to provide boundaries and provide a safe space within which risks can be taken.

Perhaps remembering this when we feel frustrated with our pupils may help…….

Image courtesy of Pixabay.

Chimps

Lena Carter · 9 months ago

Friday thoughts to staff after workshops  in school:

I was incredibly privileged to be able to sit in on workshops with Tony from Tree of Knowledge this week.

I thought that it would be useful for you to know the key messages so that we can re-inforce them. Inputs from external providers only really have impact when they are integrated in the work of a school. There is a real power in being able to make connections between the different learning experiences that pupils have.

This workshop was based on the psychological models developed by Steve Peters and ideas expressed in the book “The Chimp Paradox.” More here: www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2014/…

Tony talked about how pupils need to develop awareness of their motivations and emotions. He explained that, whilst we may want to show a happy side to others, it is important that we are honest with ourselves when we are feeling stressed or upset. He talked about the three types of stress that we experience:

Real stress (eg when we have a crisis or need to escape danger)

Good stress that is motivating (eg the stress that Usain Bolt feels when about to run in front of millions.)

Silly stress. The things that we get anxious about in the modern world that really don’t matter – eg wrong colour lids on pens.)

He explained that stress affects the body in the same way, whether it is real or silly; cortisol increases, we cannot sleep, eat, enjoy things.

We need to learn to control our stress and to be aware of what matters and does not matter.

Tony also talked about the idea of us having a ‘chimp’ brain which is the impulsive emotional part of us that we need to train and keep in control. (Steve Peters idea.)

He explained that we ALL have this chimp brain but that successful, happy people have learnt to control it and keep the chimps in the cage when necessary. If we don’t the likelihood is that the chimp will escape and do damage.

The answers to doing this form the acronym NEAT:

Normal- see your chimp brain as normal and do not try and deny it.

Expect – know what you are likely to feel when you experience certain triggers and then manage the feelings.

Accept when the chimp is out of the cage and recognise it.

Talk and train – ask “why am I feeling like this, what triggered it and what can I do next time?”

He explained that once we are highly emotional it is hard to calm down and be rational and that we need to work on not getting to that point by knowing our triggers.

One pupil asked “so when I am being bad, can I tell the teacher it is not my fault, it is my chimp?”

Tony said no, you ARE your chimp and need to take responsibility. Being emotional is not an excuse. Growing up is about taking responsibility and being emotionally intelligent and resilient.

To go boldly…..

#iwd17

Lena Carter · 9 months ago

#iwd17‍ #digimeet‍ @misswilsey‍

I have spent the weekend at a conference with some amazing and inspiring people. I was incredibly scared before coming and filled with doubt and fear. The chimps were screeching:

What do YOU possibly have to contribute?

How are you going to avoid them seeing how little you know?

Why don’t you just pull out?

To hush them, I wrote a blog before I went (https://lenabellina.wordpress.com/2017/03/03/four-countries/)

This helped me to go into the weekend feeling bolder and confident that perhaps I DID have something to say.

The weekend has been phenomenal. I don’t think I made too much of a fool of myself, or that much we discussed was at variance from my own thinking. I had some moments of self doubt and sheer fear, such as when I had to stand up in front of the assembled group which included Sir Tim Brighouse, Graham Donaldson and (the real) David Cameron and explain Scottish Education. But I found my bravery and did it, albeit with a quavering voice and some mistakes.

The opportunity to talk, share, collaborate and co-create with some incredible people was inspiring and life-affirming.

One small blip came when one of the participants asked me about my blog and advised that I should perhaps avoid being so honest about some of the challenges I have faced, if I want to be a head teacher. I have written about this before but the exchange sent me into a bit of a panic. I considered going and taking down my blogs straight away.

But I haven’t. Because actually, the bravery I think I need to show now is to continue being me. Being the authentic, flawed but constantly reflecting me who will learn from both my successes and my failures.

I have said it before but if being a head teacher would involve compromising my authenticity then it probably is not the job for me.

One of the key themes of the weekend was about education needing to be honest about what its core purpose is, what is working and what is not.

My brave next step will be to strive to be an authentic leader and not to fall into the trap of being the leader that I think others might see as acceptable.

I am so grateful to have the amazing tribe of supporters whom I have found through @womened‍ , @healthytoolkit and the online edusphere.

I only hope that I can sometimes reciprocate and provide them with the type of support that I have found invaluable.