Coronavirus: diary of a headteacher part 2 | Education Support
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Mental health and wellbeing of headteachers and school leaders

Coronavirus: diary of a headteacher part 2

24th April 2020

As school closures and lockdown continues headteacher Darren Morgan looks at what is causing educators the most anxiety at this time and the strategies he and his staff are using to cope. 

Whilst casually sifting through Twitter this morning I came across a newspaper article entitled; ‘Teachers need to show more courage and get back into the classroom.’ After my initial emotional response to the author’s lack of understanding and empathy, I reflected on the danger such opinions hold for our profession. 

Before considering potential solutions, let’s look at the issues causing such great anxiety and stress at this difficult time. I would suggest that the two main issues are uncertainty and insecurity:

Uncertainty

Understandably, the government is hesitant to offer too much in the way of guidance around timeframes and this has led to speculation. Everyone has an opinion, including the experts. Currently, it seems to be the hot topic. The reality is, not one of these self-professed experts actually know, it is just conjecture. The problem this poses is how we plan going forward and the impact this has on the mental health of us all.

Insecurity

Teaching is a noble profession, full of noble professionals. Educationalists work tirelessly and seemingly endlessly, to provide the very best for each child due to an inner sense of duty. Currently, the ability to do this has been taken away. Many are trying their best to fill their time to justify their roles and I would say, unnecessarily. Opinions, like those shared from the author of the newspaper article, add to insecurities and create dangerous and unhelpful consequences.

This is a unique time where intensity is reduced and the workforce can work to reduce their stress, to develop approaches that help them not only for now but also the future. There is space to engage in honest dialogue with colleagues, families and the Education Support helpline about any anxieties they may currently have and work through issues that may have been causing sleepless nights before and after the Covid-19 crisis.

Going forward

I recognise that there are many times when I get more wrong than I get right, which is why I benefit from a wonderful staff to help me each day. I thought it might be helpful to explain some strategies we have put in place to ease the current difficulties:

1. Communication

I think this may be the most important strategy to ease potential conflict and reduce stress. As a school, we’re using online communication to; discuss, challenge, agree and develop our approach, including;

  • SLT meetings
  • Whole staff meetings, including silly pictures
  • Departmental meetings (where colleagues can share with each other)
  • Online Tea Parties for parents (hearing their thoughts and concerns)

Throughout this time, we have communicated regularly, honestly and transparently with our whole school community. My parents accept that I am only human, which allows me to state that I am not sure if the approach is right, but we’re willing to change or give something a go.

Together we devised a well-considered approach around learning activities, values to develop during this period and dangers to everyone’s well-being during this time. It resulted in a fresh vision and set of aims so I filmed a video for all parents on You Tube to communicate it to the whole school community. I explained our approach and why we have chosen the route we have. Similarly, a pupil assembly was filmed which launched our revised philosophy.

As individual staff members, we filmed ourselves holding pictures with messages of hope and shared a video through the school You Tube channel. We felt that this was important to help fill the void presented by the lack of personal involvement provided by our staff.

SEN, vulnerable pupils’ and EAL parents are being supported via phone calls.

Crucially, I have presented ideas, discussed and some have been dismissed. It has been a team effort.

2. Strategy

One of the most challenging aspects for us has been understanding what working from home, for both pupils and staff actually looks like. 

Adults who work in schools are not used to working from home and it has been difficult to adapt. In addition to unusual routines, some are not resourced for it. We have discussed finding a balance between expectations and embrace the opportunity to improve our mental health by engaging in more mindfulness-based activities.

We have been honest and carefully considered what should be sent home. Kings Road has chosen to focus on learning through activity setting as opposed to remote teaching. We have signposted our parents and children towards knowledge sessions, such as online history lectures and very strongly suggested that families ensure that children are physically healthy during this time.

A time for space (or is it a space for time?)

This is a very stressful time for all. Please do not find opportunity to increase your personal stress due to uncertainty or insecurity. Use the space afforded to us all by the reduced intensity we are experiencing, to focus on your own mindfulness and to reduce your own stress. 

If you are feeling overwhelmed, please speak to a family member, colleague or someone outside such as Education Support. For me, I go for a daily walk and sit in my newly discovered personal place of mindfulness, where the sun shines on the river and makes a perfect sound as the water cascades over the pebbles. I will put a clip on my Twitter. Why not invest the newly available time this unprecedented situation has given us to have and find your own place of mindfulness?

Darren Morgan is a proud headteacher of a wonderful school and tweets @Moggy14

How we can help 

Remember teachers & education staff who are feeling stressed or anxious during these uncertain times can get confidential emotional support from our free and confidential helpline: 08000 562561.  And anyone in education who is in financial distress, can apply to us for a grant.

We are here for you. We will listen. We can help.

What can you do?

If you’re in a position to help others in these extraordinary times, please consider making a donation so that we can continue to answer the increasing number of desperate calls and grants applications we are receiving. Thank you so much.