This is what teachers need: Smiles and Love

This blog comes from Headteacher of Parklands Primary School and Passionate School Well-being advocate, Chris Dyson (@ChrisDysonHT)

The biggest resource and the biggest impact on success in any school is the teachers and the TA’s. So wellbeing of this vital resource is paramount to a schools success. True you can be a totalitarian dictator and get performance through criticism, capability, pressure and shouting … but this has the effect of an increase of ‘stress’ on the teacher.

Stress = worry. Worry = anxiety. Anxiety = no risks. No risks = boring lessons. Boring lessons = lack of inspiration. Lack of inspiration = a negative experience for the students.. and a long, long, long year ahead.

At my school we pride ourselves in putting the children first. To do this, the most important resource to their potential being met is the teachers. A happy teacher is free to risk take; free to innovate without the need to be drown in paper…. or to be told by the SLT… “we don’t do it like that..”
True some non-negotiables have to be agreed but (for example)  planning being handed in the previous Friday? No! The best planning is completed after the previous lesson… that’s how things change for the better over 10 years.

A happy teacher is a teacher who can love their school and love their home life. So to promote wellbeing at my school, ALL staff who have an opportunity to attend Sports Day or the Xmas Concert or the celebration Star of the Week with their own children, they are allowed to do so WITH pay. It is little tokens like this that get that extra 10% out of the tank.

Wellbeing is seeing when staff are running to a deadline and need time out of class to complete them. The alternative is a grumpy teacher who is worried about completing a job while teaching the class, is this moving the learning on?

I build in regular ‘working from home for staff’ … why spend an hour getting into work when you can do it at home? Trust is very much part of the equation.

Rewarding staff with ‘days in lieu’ is another great tool for the wellbeing of staff. Staff who do residentials, staff who run our ‘pay as you feel cafe,’ staff who return a day early for ‘team building’, all get a day in return.

So if its a stag do, a hen do, a wedding, a visit from mum, Xmas shopping… or even a long weekend at Centre Parks – there is no pressure for staff to throw a ‘sick day’ in order to attend.

In just over two years, 21 staff have had 30 days off sick.

In 28 months , with the exception of a secondment for my DHT, nobody wants to leave.

Consistency remains and the standards rise. I open my school on Xmas Eve as only 10 / 304 children have visited a grotto before – so as a school we open and provide a disco as well as 400 Xmas lunches and a grotto full of 500 high-quality presents donated by businesses. I don’t even have to ask the staff to help – they just do it giving something back to the community.

Now I am the Headteacher in the most deprived Primary School in Leeds.

Two years ago, the school had had 5 Headteachers in the same year, and at 150 exclusions in a year, was the highest outside Tower Hamlets.

The staff needed empowering, the staff needed training in the new curriculum, the staff needed to feel part of a team. In short, the staff needed trusting and being believed in.

Just two years later and we are the number one Primary school that the White Rose Maths Hub and the Yorkshire and Humber Maths Hub sends visitors to see. We are the school which ended in the top 1% of schools in the country in last years SATs.

We are the school that gets to sit on sofas in our #bestseatsinthehouse Funday Friday assembly, eating pizza, drinking ice cold juice, whilst singing our karaoke song of the week – before having our Whole School Times Tables Knockout.

It’s a school where teachers smile, making the whole school smile. This is down to the number 1 resource a school has – the staff. I just pull the strings and let the inspiration flood out to the children. I don’t teach 304 children myself, my beautiful, brilliant staff do this.
By valuing every member of the team; teachers, TA’s, Learning Mentors, Office staff, lunchtime staff, cleaners – the works, the individuals value the children.

Respecting everyone in the team (EVERYONE is invited to all functions) means the team respects everyone.

If teachers are treated as the brilliant individuals and life changers that they are, success can be achieved without having to be a dictator – it can be achieved through smiles and love.

It quite simply is the greatest job in the world. It was when I was a student, it was when I was a teacher, it was when I was a DHT, it is now I’m a HT. I wouldn’t swap it for any job in the world.

In my years of working with School Leaders, I’ve learned that one of the most important skills any School Leader can have is the ability to effectively manage and nurture personalities and relationships within their school.

This is because quite simply, when school relationships are positive – the outcomes are often more likely to be positive too.

Conversely, when relationships are strained or neglected, school teams can struggle to effectively work together and staff can find themselves increasingly becoming disconnected from what the school and their leaders are trying to achieve. In turn, leaders can find themselves spending a large amount of their time dealing with people management issues, rather than focussing on the more strategic aspects of the role.

Yet in spite of this, many leaders have not received significant training or opportunities to develop skills that could help them to deal with difficult conversations, identify how best to manage and maximise the performance.

That’s why one of the key ways that we support School Leaders fulfil their vision is by offering a 4 Day Coaching Programme designed to provide Senior School Leaders with the knowledge, skills and confidence to apply a range of coaching skills that can help improve the performance of those they lead and manage.

Our four-day coaching programme that will equip you with the skills for:

– Managing difficult conversations
– Understanding how to get the best out of individuals with challenging behaviours
– Understanding yourself better and knowing how to draw upon your strengths to get the best out of others
– Developing your relationship management skills by helping you understand how to identify and respond to different personality types
– Nurturing a Coaching Culture in your School so that you can support members of your team

Find out More


6 Responses

  1. Indeed this is music to my ears. I find myself thinking’This is not rocket science! This is just about being a decent human being.’ Why do some leaders find that so challenging?!

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