Increasingly the well-being of pupils is being given greater priority in our schools. With a growing number of teachers and school leaders recognising that investing in the well-being of our pupils can help secure a positive return on their attainment and, in turn, school performance.
This has in part been driven by numerous studies – not least by Public Health England in a 2014 report, which found that “pupils with better emotional well-being at age seven had a value-added key stage 2 score 2.46 points higher (equivalent to more than one term’s progress) than pupils with poorer emotional well-being”. Meanwhile, successfully attaining GCSEs (five or more A*-C) was shown to be strongly correlated with higher levels of life satisfaction amongst young people.
Whilst the findings of such reports have been widely accepted by schools, I can’t help but wonder why the fundamentals of well-being are so rarely considered when it comes to those who are responsible for teaching and leading our children.
Why the duty of care that we show towards our children is not extended as comprehensively as it should be towards our teachers and school leaders?
What we are neglecting to see, is that the capacity that educators have for bringing out the best in our children, cannot be sustained if their well-being is not made a priority. High levels of performance can only be maintained when our teachers and school leaders are given professional development opportunities that help them to:
– Deepen their self-understanding
– Develop their emotional resources
– Sustain a sense of purpose and vocation
– Achieve greater alignment between original ideals and current realities
i.e. when we quite simply ‘take care of the person in the role’
What happens when we neglect the person in the role?
To underestimate the importance of taking care of the person in the role, is to forget, indeed it is to misunderstand what the role is asking of educators. Its asks, particularly if you are a school leader, that you not only drive school improvement, but that you meet the emotional needs of others, who may tussle and argue with directives for improvement.
It is a role that demands an enormous amount of emotional energy to be expended. Many educators, particularly those in leadership positions, end up carrying a huge emotional debt, becoming increasingly overdrawn and with no readily identifiable means for bringing their emotional account back into credit.
When this happens, fault lines appear in systems, processes and operations that had once firmly supported good teaching and learning. When these fault lines widen, everything collapses. School Leaders disappear, teachers leave and results take a nose dive!
We have enough evidence in the system; the recruitment crisis, increased rates of burnout and early attrition to tell us that high standards cannot be maintained when we neglect ‘the human resource’ on which so much depends, and make well-being a side issue.
So … how do I maintain a healthy focus on school improvement and meet the needs of Staff and Pupils?!
I am sure you will have heard it said, if you’re on a plane and an emergency unfolds, put your ‘Oxygen Mask’ on first. Remember this when the challenges of school life come hurtling at you! Put your Oxygen Mask on first!
Don’t become so preoccupied with trying to help secure everyone else’s oxygen mask that you forget to secure your own. You are not going to be much help to anyone, let alone yourself, in a pre-comatised state! Do not allow yourself to be hindered by your selfless desire to do well by your pupils and others, that you neglect the meeting of your own needs.
Instead take the time and care to secure your oxygen mask, then you’ll be in the best position to secure the foundations upon which healthy school relationships are built and school improvement measures sustained.
How do I begin my duty of care to myself?
A good first step would be to take a few moments to reflect on the changes that have occurred under your leadership. Maybe make a list of the ones that have been most challenging and ask yourself:
– What did these school improvement measures ask of me?
– What behaviours did I have to adopt to see them through?
– What was the impact of these behaviours on myself and my relationships with others?
– Are these behaviours still relevant for my school, my context and where we are now?
– To what degree have these behaviours supported my own well-being?
– Is it now time to let go of past behaviours and develop more nurturing ones?
When we ask ourselves these type of questions, we begin a process that facilitates us moving to a place of greater congruency, self- knowledge and self- acceptance. The inner dissonance is lessened and we have a greater sense of what it really means to be well.
Changing the Narrative of School Leadership
Working as a coach with school leaders I’ve witnessed first-hand the emotional cost for school leaders when their emotional needs are not properly met; anxiety, self-doubt, poor decision making and a diminished sense of personal and professional fulfilment.
This can’t continue. Active steps must be taken. Our profession needs to change and show that it knows how to best support our school leaders. So that they can not only survive, but also thrive in their attempts to deliver the best outcomes for our children.
Meanwhile, for their part, our leaders must be supported to take care of themselves!
One of the key elements of this is learning to ask for help, and realising that this is an act of courage, as much as it is an essential act of kindness and compassion towards oneself.
Whatever our goals, whatever our ambitions, we need help to fulfil them. So that when the going gets tough, as it always does, we don’t fall down and remain on the ground, but are supported, so that we can get back up again and, with renewed focus and energy, carry on towards our dream.
So if you want to take charge of your well-being and be supported to best meet the needs of those in your care, I am now offering free “Coaching for The Soul” calls for school leaders to enable you to do just this.
This call will provide you with a confidential, safe, non–judgemental space to spend 30 minutes discussing how you can:
– Achieve a greater sense of clarity about your direction as a school leader
– Gain a clearer perspective on any challenges that you may be facing
– Identify positive steps for moving forward
If you’re keen for support and guidance in your current situation, please do book now!