Tag Archives: Wellbeing

#WalkCreate: a different view of a research project⤴

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I try to keep both sides of my professional practice separate, but there are inevitable intersection points. This is post is one of those. As you know, dear reader, during lock down last year, walking became a really important part of daily life. Partly because it was the only thing you could do, particularly in the first lock down. Making time to get away from the screen and get outside became increasingly important to well being too.

Walking has always been a part of my daily routine. I’ve always tried to walk to as many places as possible and not use a car or public transport. But it did take on even more significance during lock down, and my daily walks along the Forth and Clyde Canal where I live inspired an unexpected and enriching source of inspiration for my artistic practice. I created a couple of digital stories about it last year – another intersection point

Walking Publics/Walking Arts  is  a  research project  funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council  exploring the potential of the arts to sustain, encourage and more equitably support walking during and recovering from a pandemic at Glasgow University. Part of the research is “to understand how artists from across the UK have used walking as part of their artistic practice, adapting existing work or using walking as a resource for the first time during COVID-19. What can we learn from artists and how can their expertise be shared to support more people, and more diverse people, to enjoy walking?

I participated in a short survey for artists and I’m delighted that the project has created an online gallery showcasing the varied responses the project has received. It’s been refreshing to be involved in the “other side” of research, and there a few more things that the team have been in touch with me about too which is quite exciting too – great to be asked about a different type of citation!

It’s a really fascinating project and well worth checking out the online gallery and the rest of the project website too. Walking is so important for well being that we need to continue to explore its impact, and also not allow ourselves to get out of the habit of walking as we transition from lock down to whatever this “new normal/flexible working” scenario is.

Mental Health Training⤴

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As a personal tutor with pastoral as well as academic responsibility for a group of students, I took advantage of an online CPD session on mental health run by colleagues form the University disability office and counselling service. This was principally to refresh my skills and understanding but as always with these things, there were new things we were challenged to think about.

The mental health continuum

One of these was the mental health continuum, a helpful way of thinking about how people may have a range of mental health from good to bad, yet also be somewhere between ill and not ill: it is possible for people to be ill and yet who seem to be coping well with it: perhaps by using strategies or medication to help them manage and function. Equally, people who are not ill may be suffering with stress or as a consequence of life events. I find this little device (my quick sketch above) great to normalise the range of health people may have and to help keep this idea to the fore when talking to tutees in future.

We were reminded of the range of support services available in the University for students: I have experience of these from several years of supporting students on the very intensive experience that PGDE can be, some of whom have brought with them their own stories and experiences and who have needed continuing support. This has not always been optimal in my experience, where specialist services are required but I do know that in the main, my colleagues in places like the Chaplaincy and the disability service have done and continue to do, superb work on behalf of the students. Where the resources of the University are limited, we were advised that things like private counselling may be available on the students’ parents’ health insurance, for example.

Where the limits of support are reached, it can be easy to characterise the support offered as being part of “the illusion of inclusion” (cf. “ethics washing”, see this post for details). This may be cynical: the University is rich but it wouldn’t last long if every student drew too heavily on its resources. I am put in mind of the old caveat1:

“… in serving a friend or Brother in time of need, without detriment to ourselves or connections.”

As always, we do our best, whether those we serve realise it or not. As part of that, our skills need to be at least good enough not to make things worse: so, this course included reminders about using non-verbal skills of engagement and listening; of not reacting; of respecting boundaries. The advice included lessons from the past year, paying attention, for example, when talking to students online to look at the camera, not their eyes on your screen. I came to this awareness early last year because I often use two screens, and situate the conference window on the display that has the camera. It is easy to let the tech fool you into a misalignment with the other person’s reality.

The session overran, unfortunately, which meant that a number of us had to bail before it ended, but there was time to engage with a couple of (fictionalised) case studies, which was helpful. It was valuable, nonetheless, and will hopefully help me support my continuing students and the new cohort arriving in August.

References

  1. From the Working Tools of the Entered Apprentice, Emulation Lodge of Improvement. (2015). Emulation Ritual (13th ed.). Lewis Masonic. 

Is time the great killer in our profession?⤴

from @ Becoming Educated

“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?

 

#ownyrscope⤴

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I have just had an idea. Maybe someone had it before but if not, the copywrite is with me.

It is called #ownyrscope. In it, you write a short description of what you hope destiny will bring you in the week ahead. Then share it on Twitter.

With the power of positive thinking and referring to your #ownyrscope each day, you will make it so and influence your destiny.

Make sure you join in each Saturday and use the hashtag.

Here I go:

Wk b 18.4. Will have new energy + vision. Will travel lots. M +Th will be hard + require digging deep but W will be phenomenal. #ownyrscope


Preparing learners to face the future with a SMILE⤴

from @ Pedagoo.org

“Our task is to educate their (our students) whole being so they can face the future. We may not see the future, but they will and our job is to help them make something of it.” ~ Sir Ken Robinson If you agree with Sir Ken Robinson, then you’ll also agree that education serves a […]

A 5-point plan for teacher #wellbeing by @TeacherToolkit⤴

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Here is my 5-point plan for improving teacher wellbeing across England. “No business organisation with a 40% attrition rate would last long in any sector.” Context: Staff wellbeing is not a peripheral issue. ‘Indeed, it should be a moral imperative for all senior leadership teams and their governing bodies.’ In June 2014, I visited Education … Continue reading

#CreativeTheory in pictures by @TeacherToolkit⤴

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This is what @TeacherToolkit has been up to over the past week and why I continue to support three very important issues in education. During the academic year, especially during the summer term, teachers are released from some of their timetabled teaching commitments and as a result, I am now able to gain some benefit … Okumaya devam et

Support teachers in the face of growing challenge by @TeacherToolkit⤴

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Today, on Tuesday 17th June 2014, I visited Education Guardian to attend a roundtable discussion. The topic: “Promoting wellbeing:  How can we support teachers in the face of growing professional challenges?” The discussion set, was to explore what factors affecting teacher wellbeing and what school and education leaders can do to ease the pressure. Having … Okumaya devam et