Coaching & Leadership Development
The 5 Warning Signs of Burnout

The 5 Warning Signs of Burnout

    This blog comes from teacher and experienced leader of SEND interventions, Jo Steer (@Skills_w_Frills)   Maintaining a good work-life balance is difficult in any profession.   The wonders of technology have given us endless ways to blur the boundaries, meaning that we often take our work home, physically, emotionally and mentally.   Despite what some may think, educator don’t “own” work-related stress. But by golly we’ve earned a majority share. Given our excessive workloads, accountability measures and the fact that we work more overtime than any other industry, it’s no wonder that 67 per cent of educators describe themselves as “stressed at work”, with many showing actual symptoms of clinical anxiety and depression. The truly tragic thing is that we’re not surprised by this. To us, the language of stress, panic attacks and antidepressants has become commonplace and normalised. The risk of burnout   We accept and expect it. Some of us even seem proud of it, bragging about how little sleep we’ve had or how stressed we are, as if these things are synonymous with success. We tend to ignore the warnings from our bodies, committing ourselves wholly to the school timetable. We don’t stop when we’re tired, we stop when term ends (even if we’ve contracted a moderate version of the Black Death along the way). Of course, there will always be certain events that trigger an increase in this stress: exam time, data deadlines and OFSTED inspections. But if a bad day becomes a bad week, month or term, then you may be getting close to burnout. Here are the signs to look out for: 1. Restlessness   A racing mind, the need...
Imposter Syndrome – How to Silence your Inner Critic

Imposter Syndrome – How to Silence your Inner Critic

  This blog comes from teacher and experienced leader of SEND interventions, Jo Steer (@Skills_w_Frills) The term “imposter syndrome” was coined by clinical psychologists Pauline Clance and Suzanne Imes in 1978, to describe those who live with the fear of being found out and exposed as a fraud. This common phenomenon is said to have affected some of the highest achievers in the world: supposedly Albert Einstein, Maya Angelou and even Meryl Streep have experienced it. I’d wager that those feelings of self-doubt sound familiar to a large number of educators, myself included. A little anxiety and passing insecurity is natural, beneficial. Imposter syndrome is not. It’s more than that. It’s a persistent, nagging feeling that you’re somehow lacking or undeserving of the position that you find yourself in. It’s an inner monologue of “I can’t”, “I’m not X enough” and “Who am I to think I can do this?” It’s the discounting of positive feedback and the tendency to attribute achievements to luck, timing, resources or colleagues. As educators, we experience a continuous expectation to self-reflect, as well as listening to others reflect on our capabilities. These could be beneficial, if they weren’t so frequently combined with an unsustainable workload and unrelenting pressure, which can all too easily become fuel for feelings of insecurity and self-loathing. If this sounds familiar, the following could help: 1) Push back against perfectionism Imposter syndrome thrives on expectations of perfection, so a good place to begin is by recognising that this is neither helpful nor realistic. Let’s say you’ve just been promoted, so you begin comparing yourself to others in that role, picturing them to...
How Coaching supports School Performance

How Coaching supports School Performance

  This blog comes from the Executive Headteacher of two large primary schools in the London Borough of Redbridge, Kulvarn Atwal The easiest way to understand coaching is to consider it as an activity that enables you to explore a challenging aspect of your practice, something that you would like to improve, in greater detail. Coaching skills cannot be developed through a one-day course; they have to be nurtured over time.Through ongoing engagement in coaching, teachers develop both an understanding of the model and an awareness of how to use it to develop themselves and team members. As a school leader, I have seen the significant positive impact on staff and children working at the centre of a team of teachers who are now experienced coaches. The benefits are myriad, with boosts to professional learning, staff self-assessment and reflection, building of relational trust, improving communication with children and parents, and developing the emotional climate across the school. It enables teachers to understand exactly where they are in their learning, where they need to get to and how best to get there. (Indeed, that is the etymology of the word “coach” in this sense: a tutor who transports (as in a coach and horses) a student to greater understanding.) Schools are places of continual change and that – hopefully – means continual improvement. In recent years, the expected standards for children at each key stage in primary schools have been raised considerably. In order to respond to these, the thinking school requires teachers who are not fixed in their thinking and are open to continual individual and collective development. For us to achieve, we need...
The Art of Relationships-Led Leadership

The Art of Relationships-Led Leadership

  This blog comes from the author of A Manifesto for Excellence in Schools and CEO of Inspire Partnership, Rob Carpenter (@carpenter_rob) My first headship, at Bannockburn Primary School in Plumstead in 2003, saw me make more mistakes than I care to mention. It was also the period of my steepest growth and most valuable learning—starting with the headship interview. As part of the process, I was asked to lead an assembly and attempted to deliver the ‘long spoons’ story—Google it if you haven’t used it before, it’s a good one—just don’t do what I did! On this occasion, it resulted in 250 pupils scrambling for sweets across the hall, all health and safety protocols abandoned as governors watched in shock, clip-boards to hand. Remarkably, they still appointed me—something which I will be forever grateful! The first two years in post were a bit of a mess, to be honest, but they set me up to understand the power of relational leadership. Having taught through the introduction of the literacy and maths hours, I was obsessed with national strategy implementation—the flat-pack-furniture-approach to school improvement. This involved measuring anything that moved and lessons were timed to the minute. Teachers were judged and graded, depending on how slickly they could manipulate a counting stick or wave number fans around. Staff meetings were instructional—the milkman delivery method of training, rather than a design model. As for recruitment, I appointed teachers like football managers sign new players: SLEs, advanced skills teachers and expert professionals were all on my shopping list. Star signings were unveiled to parents, staff and governors with great fanfare. To...
The Importance of Authentic Leadership

The Importance of Authentic Leadership

This blog comes from the author of A Manifesto for Excellence in Schools and CEO of Inspire Partnership, Rob Carpenter (@carpenter_rob) The most common frustration vexed by schools I hear is “…if only we could…” Faced with increased pressure to demonstrate progress through pupil outcomes, primary schools have developed learned behaviours, sometimes losing sight of our need to do right by students and communities. We have retro-fitted school improvement to accountability frameworks; the measurement of learning has become the proxy for success. In blunt terms, we teach pupils to read nonsense phonics words because that is what we test. The impact has normalised the view that school improvement can only be measured through outcomes, rather than interactions. It is a misguided ideal, and as we are slowly learning, it hasn’t worked. An obsession with accountability has created an environment where unethical practice has become accepted—we view students as objects and over emphasise the importance of measurement as our proxy for success, a reverse engineering which retro-fits curriculum to fit an assessment framework. Earlier this year, I was asked by a leading school improvement organisation to deliver a presentation to a group of executive leaders. Having carefully planned a session around learning-focused ethical leadership, which was warmly received by delegates, I was more than surprised to open an email from the event team, questioning the focus of my session, admonishing me for over-emphasising the leadership of teaching and learning. They wanted to know whether future sessions could possibly concentrate on the more technical aspects of school improvement, including delivery of sustainable business strategy, processes and accountability frameworks. My response was unequivocal....