Last month (April 2017) I ran a survey to find out more about teachers' mindfulness experience. Due to limited time and resources I wasn't able to do it very scientifically so it wasn't random or stratified. However the results were interesting and provided a useful insight into the varying experiences.
39% of all respondents had never practised mindfulness and 50% over all never practised or did so less than once a month.
61% of the respondents were in Management Positions so I am not going to analyse the results from classroom teachers because there weren't enough to give any valuable data.
In the Government's Teacher Workload survey of 2016 - results summarised above - it was found that Middle Managers worked the longest, were more likely to say their workload was a problem. Conversely Senior Leaders were less likely to say their workload was a problem. As I said this is not a scientifically proven correlation but I don't think we can ignore the coincidence. Could it be that our Middle Leaders are the ones who need the most support? Contact us today to discuss how we can help your staff.
The survey will remain open - I would love to hear from more teachers. All responses will be kept strictly confidential.
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.
There is no doubt that the education system is in crisis and something needs to change. I am putting out a challenge here if you are ready to accept it. What needs to change is you, or rather your responses and view of the world. I know because I had to do it myself. There is actually nothing wrong with you, you are a divine wonderful being.
I was one of the statistics. I left full time teaching (the first time) after 3 years. I was having a difficult time in my personal life as well as being bullied at school. I hadn't been given the tools to cope.
However now I realise it was more than that. It was the sense of being caged, being restricted, feeling I needed to be perfect and that someone was always judging me.
Teachers have one of the most important jobs in the world to educate the next generation. However education is not stuffing their heads full of facts so they can pass exams. The word 'education' comes from 2 Latin words 'educare' - to train, and 'educere' - to lead out.
When I trusted my instincts and followed my heart, rather than the curriculum, the results generally took care of themselves. However it is a sad fact, which seems to be more prevalent among school leaders, that many teachers are afraid to do what they know best.
It has been proved scientifically that our thoughts shape our reality. So how are your thoughts and responses shaping the reality in your school or classroom? The thing is, everything you need is already within you. You don't need any government directives or OFSTED judgements to tell you how to run your school. You need to lead with love, from the heart. That takes real strength.
Many schools do not have a clear vision. Every school is a collection of unique individuals so no 2 visions will be the same. What is your vision, for yourself and your school? Do you need more clarity or just a non-judgmental ear? Coaching is about bringing the best out of you, not about telling you what you should do.
Contact us today to discuss how we can help you and to find out more about coaching.
It's a sad fact that most people live their lives in a reactive state. This is especially true in schools where you have several hundred disparate personalities thrown together. Things are starting to change, slowly, for the better with more schools embracing mindfulness and coaching.
However it starts at the top. I know from my experience of working in over 40 different educational establishments that it is very difficult not to react unskilfully when those around you are in this state. School leaders need to take ownership of their own emotional triggers and learn to respond appropriately. How many times I have seen members of SLT shouting at kids in the corridor, for example, I can't remember.
By practising meditation and mindfulness we become more aware of our mental states and emotions. We start to notice patterns and it is usually the same situations that will trigger a strong reaction. We then have a choice how to respond. How would it be when 'that' child from year 9 is sent to your office yet again if you responded with kindness and compassion instead of reading them the riot act? What is it about their behaviour that is making you feel this way? Can you identify something from your past?
It is not easy and takes practice. Everyone is doing their best with the tools they have been given and their current circumstances. If you are feeling stuck and frustrated and would like a non-judgemental listening ear then please contact us today to find out how we can help you and your school.
Teacher 5 a day has become a bit of a phenomenon on Twitter. I have heard teachers saying 'Oh no not something else to do.' Perhaps you like the idea in principle but struggle to make positive changes in your life. Here is what worked for me (and there's only 4 things here).
The picture shows my ‘choices’ bag. I returned from a retreat in October and I wanted to find a more creative way to stay ‘in the gap.’ This is the space between something happening and responding to it. Most of the time we react without thinking about it. I have been meditating and practising mindfulness for over 10 years now and one of the downsides is that I have become very aware of my less skilful habits! I am learning to be kinder to myself and so rather than beat myself up, replace them with better ones. It is much harder to stay with our experience when we are are feeling a negative emotion such as anger, sadness or boredom so we find may something to distract us – usually something addictive like social media, alcohol, cigarettes etc.
In my choices bag - I was going to use a shoe box but then I found a good quality designer paper bag - are coloured index cards. On the yellow different meditations, the pink different forms of exercise, the blue different writing activities and the green different inspiring ideas of something to read. I keep it by my bed and I pick out one of each colour as soon as I wake up. I am not one for a day to day routine so this works for me because I love stationery. Also because I don’t know what I am going to choose it makes each day’s activities different. It can be hard to stay motivated especially when you are busy. Another reason it works is that naturally I have only put things I enjoy on the cards. There would be no point me putting going to the gym on a pink card because I know that would never happen so I have written yoga, going for a walk or bike ride or swim.
Sometimes they don’t all happen so I remember to be kind to myself as life gets in the way. However in less than three weeks I have established a daily writing habit, something I was struggling to do before. If you struggle to get motivated and are looking for creative solutions please feel free to contact us to see how we can help you.
We are now more than halfway through half term. I hope you have taken (and are still taking) time to reflect and are not worrying about schemes of work and returning to work on Monday. Yeah right!
Really though, have you ever thought about what your true purpose on Earth is? We only get one life and are you making the most of it? Teaching and inspiring others is a great vocation but it is only since I left teaching I have realised the real reason why I and many others left. Yes it is stressful but so is running your own business - doubly so.
No the real reason I, and I suspect many others, left is that I was not living my true purpose. We are not put on this earth to serve Governments and spend our lives trying to accumulate more stuff. Yet that is at the crux of our education system. Only we can change it from the inside. Reflect on your best lessons - the ones where you felt happiest and the kids came alive. I bet they weren't focused on learning outcomes or targets; more likely you were all having fun. I'm not talking about hedonistic fun here - rather singing, dancing, being connected to nature, telling stories, painting pictures and engaging the imagination in creative ways.
Things are slowly starting to improve - we have forest and beach schools for example. But it isn't enough. Today's children are different. They are more knowing and realise that there is more to life than SATs and GCSEs. Do you have the courage to help your staff and pupils develop as individuals? Perhaps you are unsure how. More than likely you are afraid too. Change is always scary even when it's for the better. Let us lend a listening ear. We know it is lonely at the top but we are here to help. Contact us today and start living your true purpose right now.
While I was working as a supply teacher on and off for 10 years I noticed that as time went on teachers were going off sick for longer periods of time and with more serious conditions. There were also more problems with recruiting and retaining staff and teachers leaving midway through the academic year. A report by BBC News shows that on average each school spends £168 a year on each pupil for extra staffing. The NAHT reports schools are spending thousands of pounds to agencies on recruiting new teachers.
However it is not all doom and gloom. Investing in your staff's well being will pay for itself many times over. A school in London invested in coaching for their staff and not one teacher resigned last year. Another in Bristol created a coaching culture and their last two OFSTED inspections have been outstanding.
Last year I was running a workshop in a school and teachers reported back that using a technique I taught they were sleeping better. So even if one member of staff has a better night's sleep and has one fewer day off sick our mindfulness course has paid for itself.
If you are not able to attend due to time or physical location please contact us to see how we can help you save money.
There are only a few days left of the school holiday and if you haven't started working already you are no doubt thinking about it. As a school leader though have you thought about your vision for the year and how you are going to inspire and motivate your staff? How self-aware are you? Do you know how much your conditioning and beliefs affect your behaviour?
All the exam results are in now. Regardless of whether they were better or worse than expected it is important to remember everyone, teachers and pupils alike, were doing the best they could given their circumstances. I have worked in schools where on the first day back the head has projected their frustrations onto the staff. How do you think that is going to affect them?
So before rushing back take some time to think and reflect on the last year. How have you grown and developed as a person in that time? What do you still need to work on? Remember as the leader you have the most influence on your school and it starts with you. If you are not in a leadership position yet you are still leading your class(es).
Learning to act more mindfully and being aware of how your thoughts and emotions drive your behaviour will help you and your staff and pupils. To find out more about how we can help with coaching and workshops contact us today.