The importance of connections for school leaders

Relationships among teaching and non-teaching staff in schools can be integral to your success as a teacher or leader within a school. Trust among colleagues, collegial relationships, and widespread buy-in and support.

A well-shared vision for what you would like to achieve can have a real positive impact on your career, but how can you harness this?

I have just moved job; a nice sideways move from a lead pastoral role to a Head of Curriculum role, nothing too dramatic, but I had not counted on one major obstacle: my entire support network had broken down.

table comms

All those years cultivating relationships around the school, from the administrative assistant who handles the photocopying to the exams officer, the data manager and the facilities lead, all really important people who have helped me be the success that I am to this point.

School leaders need a network, setting up and maintaining a system of support to help them meet the many challenges of the job. For some school leaders, it is counter-intuitive to think that they might need to ask for help. But in order to thrive, it is vital that school leaders reach out for support, but how do you achieve this?

Connect and identify

Firstly, find a connection and identify who you can trust to discuss the various challenges whilst providing advice. These relationships are important for any school leader. Connecting with colleagues in your school offers you an opportunity to discuss your situations and scenarios with someone who understands your context. Having that go-to person enables you to find the movers and shakers within the organisation.

Elliott et al. (1999) for instance found in their study that there were certain contextual factors that led to teachers maximising their effectiveness in schools, including established well-developed communication networks and strong administrative support for curriculum initiatives.

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Cultivate culture by reaching out

These relationships and support mechanisms do not occur naturally as they need to be cultivated. It was noted in particular that when teachers felt confident, valued and trusted they were more likely to engage. In my context, I have a large faculty to manage, including an array of established teachers, under-performing staff, NQT’s and long term supply.

Time-manage

I manage many time-consuming activities such as lots of questions, ego massaging and general day to day support, but insist on developing a friendly and supportive relationship with key people from the beginning. This is either by inviting them to lunch, introducing them to others in the school, offering to help locate supplies, and so on. These go a long way toward reducing patterns of isolation and building teacher-teacher trust.

Support your networks

SLT can support relationship-building between new and returning faculty by creating opportunities throughout the school year for teachers to meet and get to know one another. Create—and support—meaningful opportunities for teachers to work collaboratively.

Too often, schools are structured in ways that prevent teachers from working together closely. Authentic relationships, however, “are fostered by personal conversations, frequent dialogue, shared work and shared responsibilities.

bubble communicate

Make relationship-building a priority

As a faculty, select a small but diverse group of teachers to do some initial legwork: locating an assessment tool, measuring teacher-teacher trust in the school, talking to faculty about perceived strengths and areas of concern, and investigating relevant professional development strategies.

Peer coaching, mentoring, team teaching, professional learning communities, and networking are all models that can be used to strengthen teacher relationships by bringing individuals together around issues of mutual interest and/or concern.

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About our Community Expert

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Richard Endacott

Career Development Lead

Richard is a history Teacher by Training and for the last few years been head of sixth form. His specialism is leadership and career development in the classroom.

10 ways to look after your wellbeing as a teacher

Having spent up to two days a week in schools for the last 18 months I have seen how much pressure teachers are under daily and I can only begin to imagine how much it could affect your personal wellbeing.

You are shaping the lives of thousands of children every single day and believe me I truly think that is the most important job in the world. I cannot stress enough how important it is to not feel selfish to say that you need time for yourself or create habits that are just for you.

brain and heart

I have put together 10 tips that I really think will work specifically for you, even if you try one, it is all about starting somewhere!

1. Acknowledge your importance

Know that you are the most important person in that classroom. When you are feeling motivated and energised the children will feel it and you deserve to feel like that.

2. Accept that we feel different every single day

I teach Yoga 6 days a week (on average) and I keep an energy diary to work out how I am feeling. Even a scale of 1-5, that simple, so that you can start to understand how things in your life are affecting you daily and perhaps where you may need to change some patterns in your life.

3. Breathwork is your new bestie

Seriously. Even close your eyes in the classroom while the students are on a break and take 10 deep breathes. Try to make the exhale longer than the inhale so that it works with your parasympathetic nervous system and calm you down.

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4. Create your own excitement

Create something first thing in the morning that you cannot wait to do! Something that inspires you to get up in the morning… maybe it is reading an amazing book for 5 minutes, meditating, doing a HIIT workout, something that you can do for 5 minutes that YOU deserve.

5. Know that you’re not alone

Know that being overwhelmed, not getting enough sleep and feeling anxious are all normal feelings that we all experience. After speaking to so many teachers I know that this is actually very common and I want you to know that you are doing GREAT. When I feel like this, I write things down no matter what time of day, and allow my emotions out onto the page and then look at it a couple of hours later for perspective.

6. Time block

This is my secret love. I am self-employed and my days can literally run away with me where I am “busy” but have accomplished nothing. I even block out time to have breakfast, when to shower etc. I know your day is laid out but once the school day is over, it is YOUR time and I think trying this out and blocking out time for self-care will truly make a difference.

palm tree

7. Move your body in some way every day

I do Yoga every day and cannot even begin to talk about the benefits and how much it will change your life (really) but I also get it’s not for everyone. Find something that works for you and that you enjoy, and just do it.

8. Do you

Set yourself a monthly goal that is nothing to do with work. Maybe it is to do a hike you have always wanted to? Or read a book a month that is pure fiction? Something just for you!

9. Talk to people

If you are feeling overwhelmed please do not hide away, share it with people in work, friends, us, we are here for you every step of the way.

10. Sleep

I cannot stress how important this is, you have to make sure you are resting enough, it is the key to recovery and mental wellbeing.

Breathe, drop those shoulders and remember you are doing just great!

 

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About our Community Expert

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Kirsty Raynor

#TeachFit programme lead

Kirsty is a yoga teacher on a journey of empowerment, building confidence and pushing the boundaries of what traditional yoga is and can be.

She leads the TeachFit Yoga workshops in our partner schools.

Email in School – Helpful or a Menace to Workload?

Electronic mail or email was invented in the late 1960s to mid-1970s. Originally invented to help us communicate better, today you would be forgiven for thinking that emails are unhelpful and a workload burden.

In 1993, I recall sitting alongside my head of Department, observing him pulling up a wooden stool, perched in front of a PC like a meerkat, working on a makeshift desk inside a woodwork-store-come-office; happily satisfied to be typing an email to another colleague who worked in the same building.

Sending a message electronically was quite the revolution at the time, particularly in schools. Gone was the need to walk to the staffroom and post a memo in 30 or 40 different pigeonholes.

Hand email tablet

One email now did the same job and I remember him feeling quite smug about the fact that he no longer needed to waste time chasing colleagues or bumping into the grumpy deputy headteacher who may give him another job to do, or remind them about all the ones that we hadn’t yet completed.

Such is the life of those who choose to work in schools, as a new teacher I looked on with a sense of wonder.

Email Research

Fast forward 30 years and today, with the outburst of social media, mobile devices in everyone’s hands and applications with notifications 24/7,  you can start to get a sense of why so many human beings are wishing to disconnect.

Time and time again, research into teacher recruitment and retention sites that teachers, working in independent and state schools in England are working in excess of 50 to 55 hours per week just to keep up with the day job. With most full-time teachers tied into the classroom to deliver 20 hours of teaching per week, and with an endless pile of marking, assessments and lesson planning to do, trying to keep on top of an endless supply of email messages, as well as communicate or answer countless questions or poorly-worded messages, is it any wonder that we are all cracking up?

Over the last five years, I have conducted research into my email behaviours have started to see how I could optimise the way in which I work. Aside from the obvious responses to emails on my personal devices, I started to think about how I close tackle my ‘inbox’ with automated messages, delay delivery, or simply stating a period of the day in which I would or would not read or reply to emails.

Hand email

 

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