An extra dose of serenity please | Education Support
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Serenity - a headteachers experience of Covid half term

An extra dose of serenity please

27th October 2020

Headteacher Darren Morgan explores some of the problems faced by education staff. Read his three quick and simple suggestions to help you cope. 

Blimey! I think I can speak for us all when I say that it has been quite a half-term! 

In addition to all the pressures that Covid has brought to the table: planning for those who are at school, planning for continuity of the curriculum for groups of children should they have to self-isolate as well as planning for individual cases of isolation, I have had a particularly challenging time.

I have been trying to wade through long-running and stressful issues. It was as if I was standing alone in a clearing of a forest with all those who could help me hiding behind trees. I could see them, I needed them, I felt that they should be helping; but they weren’t. Instead I was left feeling isolated.

Additionally, I received a FOI request containing seven questions about Coronavirus. Answering one question alone meant pulling out over 400 pages of data, which then needed redacting. This was time-consuming and helped me to realise how simple it is submit such a demand without having an understanding of the implications it has for the human-being completing the request.

I am the headteacher of a large primary school; meaning that despite multiple separate entrances and exits to the school, we have over 1500 people on the pathways outside (which is next to a busy road) at two points during each day. I am sick and tired of continually reminding parents to stand against the fence and then in return receiving such negative non-verbal feedback that has sometimes crossed into verbal abuse, including comments such as Covid is (insert expletive here), “Covid doesn’t exist”, that I have an “ego-problem” and that the school shouldn’t be open. Associated with this, is the neighbours’ response to again having a busy street with some irresponsible parents parking, well, irresponsibly. Helpfully, the neighbours have come together on a Whatsapp group and agreed to not contact the police but to instead ‘harass’ the headteacher!

If I am honest, at the present time, I feel like each day’s problems are impossible to solve, and as a fully paid up member of the ‘super hero cloak wearing headteacher’s alliance’, this is quite a bitter pill to swallow.

Here is what I have found has helped:

Separate home and work

At the end of each day, overwhelmed, I get into my car. Once I get home I immediately begin my lengthy walk across 14 fields near my house. Without exception, by the end of each walk I have forgotten about the stress associated with the day and am able to spend my evening focusing on more pleasurable or productive aspects of the job and life. I have found that a barrier between home and school, particularly during stressful periods is a great tactic. It was for this reason that I previously devised disco badminton (which developed into disco table tennis) on a Friday night for staff who wanted to play.

Ask for help

At a recent governors’ meeting I took the decision to share with them the fact that I was struggling. I went into detail about what I was dealing with each day.  This was completely contrary to my usual approach as my insecurities lead me to generally have an approach of pseudo-invincibility. I am fortunate in that I work with an excellent governing body, led by a knowledgeable and empathetic Chair of Governors. They were nothing but supportive and were very eager to do what they possibly could to help.  I found the process liberating and helpful. The Chair has been superb in his support. .

I am aware that too many have Governing Bodies that have been so driven by challenge, challenge and more challenge that they have forgotten that headteachers are human beings. Despite this, if you are feeling anything like I have been recently, I would urge you to speak to someone, it could be a fellow headteacher, a family member or, of course, the Education Support helpline, which offers invaluable support for us all.

Accept yourself 

When growing up, my mum and dad placed a poem called ‘Serenity’ on the wall in the toilet and explained the importance of doing what you can about those things that you are in control of and letting go of those things that are out of your control.

To conclude, I wish to mention a strategy that has been developed at my school which is called ‘Bubu.’ ‘Be you’ concentrates on the importance of individuality and character, and whilst encouraging us all to develop, also celebrates everyone’s uniqueness. ‘Be us’ asks each member of our school to unashamedly bring their wonderful individuality to our team. This applies to me, and applies to you too. Don’t try to be someone else, lead in accordance with your own personality and approach. Be aware of your strengths, but also be accepting of your weaknesses, whilst maybe, going for a little walk. 

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

How we can help 

Teachers and 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.

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