Last week we held our first Office of the Deputy Provost all day retreat. My office contains the Office of the Registrar, Learner Support Services, and the Centre for Learning Accreditation (at the moment, it will expand, more on that another time). We had games, … Continue reading Not retreating
“Lost time is never found again” Benjamin Franklin.
Teaching is a hard job, it is incredibly demanding. Before you start, I know we get great holidays but we can’t deny the massive wellbeing issue we have with teaching staff across the country. I can’t remember a day of my teaching career where the school hasn’t had to cover a staff absence. A lot of that absence is due to stress related factors which are all caused by the job.
In a recent report Scottish teachers were found to have among the highest contact times in the world. Contact times being the time spent teaching classes and being in front of children. If you add to this the findings of a recent survey of 12000 teachers that our teachers go even further by working way more than their contracted hours to provide the best possible experience for young people.
This is having a big impact on the mental health of teachers and this workload issue is now the biggest priority for our teaching unions. It was reported early in 2019 that nearly 4000 teachers in the UK were signed off with stress and stress related illnesses and 75 percent of Scottish teachers frequently feel stressed due to their workload. This is a real issue in our profession.
If we want to improve schools and attainment then maybe we should consider the wellbeing of staff and how they spend their time. This study from Briner and Dewberry outlines that staff wellbeing is the key to a schools success.
Time is our most valuable resource and how we spend it has a direct impact on the quality of our lives. Time is a big issue in schools and it is often wasted by teachers and school leaders. How many times have you sat through a staff meeting and began listing off your to-do list and how much better life would be if you could just go and get on with it.
Time in front of classes is invaluable and time well spent. Providing, of course, you have planned for a meaningful learning experience and the students have left with more than before. It is not here where we need to tackle how we spend our time but it is with the rest of our hours that we need to be more selective.
So what are the biggest killers of time in our profession and how do we go about tackling them.
Meetings. Who wants to go to them and how many times have you left a meeting feeling it is a waste of time. Far too often meetings are a waste of time, are dominated by one or two personalities, fail to produce decisions and are costly in time and money. However this doesn’t have to be the case. Here is a very small list of recommendations on how to make better use of meeting times:
- Avoid lunchtime meetings where possible. Everyone is entitled to a lunch and should have one.
- Think about alternatives – why not try a google doc everyone can edit in their own time and share ideas.
- If you must have a meeting share the agenda and required reading 48 hours in advance.
- Consider if everyone has to attend the meeting. You could invite a small number and have them cascade the information.
- Appoint a chairperson, timekeeper and snack bringer. The timekeeper must ensure you stick to time.
- Make the meeting 30 minutes or less and don’t waste a second of time. Make time your prisoner.
- Send out a summary of the meeting so that agreed outcomes are actioned.
Emails. They take time to write, read and action so it is important that they are used properly. We can’t get away from emails as a quick and easy way of sharing information but they shouldn’t be something you check every time you have a second. There is way more to life than an email. So what can you do to take back control of emails:
- Set times that you allocate to reading and responding to emails. Perhaps when you arrive at work, for 15 minutes at lunch and 15 minutes at the end of the day.
- Only respond to emails when it is impossible to speak directly to the human on the other end.
- If you use apps I would highly recommend Boomerang. You can pause your inbox (meaning no emails will be received during paused times) and you can boomerang emails so that they can be delivered back to you at a specific time.
- Never, ever send an email in the evenings. That is your time to be present for your family and loved ones.
Marking and Reporting. Until this year I would spend hours of an evening writing reports to be sent home to parents about how young Simon is getting on in my class, often using the copy and paste tools. This is unfair on pupils, parents and more importantly teachers. Could we find a better way to report. My school has and it is much quicker, user friendly and involves the young person. If you want to know more check out http://www.didbook.com. As for marking, I have spoken about this before where I advocate for replacing it with Verbal Feedback. You can check this post out here.
It is important that we streamline what we do and make everything we do for the right reasons especially if we want our schools to be high performing and happy places to work. First and foremost every action we take must improve pupils outcomes and secondly they should ensure a teachers wellbeing is a top priority. After all a happy teacher is a good teacher, surely?
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Getting bullied at school because of your sexual orientation is just SO wrong. It is your right to be educated without fear and your school has a duty to look after you. But the sad truth is that prejudice against being lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans still goes on, and it takes its toll on young people’s mental health.
The good news is that a group of young people at LGBT Youth have been campaigning for change, as Zee – one of the young campaigners – explained to Reach. Zee has even had the chance to speak about the ‘Mind our Health!’ Campaign on STV. Zee is passionate about making sure more LGBT+ pupils don’t go through the same thing as this young person, who shared with the campaigners that “I am recovering from depression and anxiety… mainly because of bullying at school.” Here’s what Zee told us about the campaign:
“Mental health issues affect young people more than adults, and even more so for those with an LGBT+ identity. LGBT+ young people often find it very difficult to access mental health services because of the stigma they face both for being LGBT+ and having mental health problems. Our research shows that doctors often mistakenly believe that it is young people’s LGBT+ identities that cause mental health issues, when really the root of the problem is the discrimination that they face. LGBT+ young people aren’t always unaware of their rights when accessing support services, and are unsure as to whether the service that they are accessing is treating them fairly.
With our campaign work we want to educate teachers, doctors and politicians on how to make sure mental health support services are LGBT+ inclusive. We also want to make sure that LGBT+ young people feel safe and confident accessing help.”
If you’ve got questions about your sexual identity and coming out, or need to talk to someone about relationship issues, bullying or sexual health, you can have a 1-t0-1 online chat in private with a youth worker at LGBT Youth.
There is also lots of good advice on the LGBT Youth website, and there’s a ‘HIDE ME’ button in case you want to quickly move away from the site in case you don’t want other people to know.
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If school is stressing you out, check out the advice from Childline on things you can try to help you cope better. Our fave tip? Try breaking down a big problem into smaller ones you can solve one at a time. Then it doesn’t feel like so much to deal with…
It seems like everybody’s talking about how Scotland can get better at supporting people’s mental health. The Scottish Government have a new plan – called the ten-year Mental Health Strategy.
We like the way See Me Scotland explain why having a plan like this matters: ‘We all have mental health and the results of this strategy must be that when we are struggling, we feel safe and supported to speak out and get help, in any area of our life, without the chance of being dismissed or judged.’
The Mental Health Strategy has lots of plans for making mental health support for young people better. Here are some of the things it sets out to do:
- To review the mental health support that pupils get in schools.
- To look into counselling in schools and other places for young people.
- To think about how Personal and Social Education (PSE) lessons at school could do more to get pupils talking about mental health and teach them about where they can get info, advice and support.
- To get better at supporting young people with their mental health issues early on, before they get worse.
What do YOU think of the Government’s Strategy for Mental Health?
The Scottish Youth Parliament (SYP) have been campaigning about many of the issues talked about it in the strategy for over a year with their Speak Your Mind campaign and their report Our generation’s epidemic. MSYP Lewis Douglas recently told Reach that after talking with almost 1500 young people, MSYPs had found that “one in five young people did not know where to go for advice and support for a mental health problem. Young people also said that, as well as embarrassment and a fear of being judged, a lack of understanding about mental health is a major barrier to talking openly about the issue.”
The good news is that there are already schools that are doing some great things around mental health. For example, we just read about how pupils at Castle Douglas High School staged a take over at their school for a week to get people talking about mental health and how to challenge stigma.
Castle Douglas pupils used See Me Scotland’s What’s on Your Mind?’ pack to do their own lessons on mental health with younger pupils at the school. Genius! No wonder they even got their story on the telly… Check out what they had to say here.
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