First of all I would like to thank everyone who has taken part in my survey thus far. Although it has not yet closed I would like to highlight this response as it validates what I have said in previous posts about people with limited experience offering 'mindfulness' training. If the person who wrote this is reading and would like to get in touch with me, feel free. I am happy to talk to you about this and address your concerns. If you don't want to that's fine but please get some professional help.
'We have had compulsory mindfulness sessions at school, but these have led to me suffering increased anxiety and I have asked to be excused from future sessions. The sessions have been led by external 'mindfulness professionals'. It should not always be assumed that mindfulness sessions are a good thing & they should be optional.'
This is a perfectly normal outcome as most of the time we walk around in a reactive state and suppress that which is painful and grasp onto pleasure. As we go deeper into our experience difficult emotions we have suppressed may resurface. If you have an inexperienced teacher they may not have the ability to hold the space and point their trainees in the right direction. I am now steering away from the word 'mindfulness' and calling it self mastery instead.
Part of my training involves a compulsory one to one session with the head teacher. This is not optional and if they do not want to engage I will walk away. I have actually turned down more work than I have taken on. The reason for this is they need to understand what is involved and what may happen in the session so they are best able to support their staff. I also encourage them to take part in the training too.
The best way to explain anything is from experience. I have been meditating and working on my own personal development for about 11 years now. In August 2014 my ex husband died suddenly and unexpectedly aged 51. My youngest son was only 17 at the time and my ex was still paying maintenance for him. I contacted his employer to see if there was the possibility of any financial help. They told me there was a death benefit payment and as he hadn't expressed his wishes how it should be allocated all potential beneficiaries, including myself, should provide as much information as possible.
The decision wasn't made until September 2015 because they were waiting for all the information about the estate from his second wife. In the event I did not get anything. I realised it wasn't about the money but the fact I felt I hadn't been heard. I spent the next 2 weeks mostly in tears, I couldn't work and I didn't contact them while I was in that state either. I realised the real reason I was upset was not about the money, although that would have helped! It was the fact I had not dealt with the abuse I had undergone in my marriage. When we separated I had just completed my teacher training (because I needed a way to support my family) and was about to embark on my NQT year, I had serious health problems and the following year I was diagnosed with coeliac disease as well as having 3 young sons to take care of. No wonder I left teaching after 3 years! I had put myself last but I didn't know any better at the time.
So this time I turned towards my experience instead of trying to 'put on a brave face.' I was lucky I had savings and could afford to take some time out of work. I sought help from a domestic abuse organisation and they reassured me that what I was going through was perfectly normal. I allowed myself time to heal. I was so grateful that I now had the tools to deal with what I was going through. Ironically ever since that time people have commented how well I look.
Only last month I was on a 10 day retreat where I spent much of the time in tears. Strong emotions had surfaced and I was facing the fact I have come through much of my life believing I am unlovable. No wonder I ended up in an abusive marriage!
So I have no idea what that respondent has gone through in his or her life but that 'mindfulness' session has undoubtedly touched on some raw emotions that they had suppressed. So I hope that you now understand why I am critical of many of these courses that are on offer. Please do your research thoroughly before entering any 'mindfulness' training for yourself or your staff. Feel free to contact me if you have any questions or concerns. I will not try and sell you anything..
Just this morning I saw this resource on TES. I am sure the author has a lot of personal experience and is acting with good intentions as was the person who taught my respondee. The trouble is we don't know what we don't know and we are potentially opening a whole can of worms here. Tread carefully.
'Political correctness is fascism pretending to be manners.' George Carlin
I live in West Sussex in a predominantly white area. I recently visited a school where 99% of the children were white, not all British, about 10% are Polish and other European. I was appalled though when I met the SLT and they were all black women.
No, this didn't really happen but can you imagine the outcry if I had posted such a thing? Yet it seems it's perfectly acceptable (not in my book though) to be horrified in a reverse situation. No one chooses their race or gender so to demonise today's men for past history is crazy in my book. We need to change conditioning. Children are not naturally prejudiced, it's something they learn. So by pointing out our differences they begin to pick up on them. You may have seen an article that went viral recently where two 5 year old boys had the same haircut so their teacher would think they were twins, one was white and one was black.
75% of teachers are female and only 38% are headteachers are female. When I became a teacher I had no interest in going for a leadership position because my family came first. In my primary school the head was a man, in my secondary it was a woman so I had no illusions that I couldn't be a head teacher if I had wanted. I wanted to be the best classroom teacher I could be, do my job well then go home to my children. I speak to many other women who feel the same way. There are jobs that attract more men and others that attract more women. Let's be grateful that we now have a choice but never should anyone be able to feel that they are not confident or unambitious because they don't want to be in SLT.
I have worked with good leaders and less skilful ones. I have been bullied in teaching and non-teaching jobs - both by men and women but more often by women. So it's time to chuck that chip off your shoulder and look at what we really are - amazing human beings with unlimited potential.
You may have seen my recent post about why I am no longer taking part in the DfE coaching pledge. Apart from the fact that it devalues coaching professionals I cannot stand by and endorse a programme that excludes 50% of the population because they are the wrong gender. Yes women may have been discriminated against in the past - and there is still a way to go to close the gap on unequal pay etc. - but the way forward is not to discriminate against men.
I would love to coach some more white, male school leaders. I also don't mind if you are black, purple, yellow, orange and female or something in between. I also don't care what your preferred bedroom activities are. You are a precious human being and I love you for that.
Contact us to receive some more love today!
I am pleased that the Department of Education is slowly getting its act together and is recognising the benefit of coaching. I recently signed up to the pledge as a coach. There were a few teething problems - they didn't receive my original application and when they finally put together the list the documents on the website wouldn't open. Now it all seems to be working - in theory. The list of people offering their services is now available for all to see.
I am based in the South East but not necessarily limited geographically as I also coach by phone and Skype. I was concerned to see how few people in the South East who have signed up to the pledge have any coaching qualification. There were even fewer (5 I think in the South East including myself) who are members of a professional coaching association. I have no doubt that many of the people on the list would make great mentors but coaching is completely different. Anyone can call themselves a coach as the profession is as yet unregulated but I believe it's down to us to have the integrity to be honest about our capabilities. I have never held a leadership position in a school and I would never claim to have that experience.
I suppose it comes down to the old adage of you get what you pay for. Most of the people said they worked with the GROW model. There is nothing wrong with that but there is so much more to coaching! I am now learning to value myself and I am no longer going to offer my services for free. I spent a year qualifying as a coach to be accredited by the EMCC (European Mentoring & Coaching Council) to pass their rigorous standards. Most of the course was developing our own self awareness, something that is still sadly lacking from ITT but I have a vision that one day it will be given equal consideration to pedagogy. I spend time on my own personal and professional development every day as well as still attending courses, retreats and workshops to further my own self awareness.
I now feel that by being part of this programme I am devaluing my services. The DFE is also devaluing our profession. My qualification is akin to a postgraduate certificate. I want to fully commit myself to being the best coach I can be and give teachers the experience I wish I had had. I am therefore removing myself from this pledge as I feel it compromises my professional integrity.
It's a bit like someone applying for a job as a teacher because they have helped their children with their homework. Would you employ them? I am concerned that, like mindfulness, coaching is becoming the latest fad in education with anyone and everyone thinking because they have had a bit of coaching or they've been on a workshop they can do it.
How much do you value yourself or your staff? Using an unqualified coach is likely to be ineffective at best. I believe you would be better off using a senior member of your team as a mentor. If you are serious about coaching then the investment will pay off. If you would like to discuss the differences between coaching and mentoring to decide which is best for your staff then please feel free to contact us for a no obligation consultation.