The well-being of staff must be an area of concern for school leaders; however, there will inevitably be some aspects of well-being that are outside of your control. It often felt that most of the private confidential work I did as a head teacher was dealing with personal rather than personnel issues.
Bereavement, issues with elderly parents or children and chronic or acute illnesses are sadly part of people’s lives. As a school leader, people will turn to you for practical support at a difficult time and sometimes ongoing emotional help. Other external pressures linked to changes by government or Ofsted visiting all have a significant impact on a person’s well-being. Feeling overwhelmed by these issues is understandable but it can’t be used as reason not to act. Stephen Covey talks about areas of concern and areas of influence. The two are different; you will tend to have a large number of concerns which you cannot influence as a head teacher. Worrying or becoming frustrated about this serves little purpose. Just focus on those things you can impact on and slowly increase the areas you can influence.
Sat opposite a member of staff trying to sensitively ask them whether s/he has a problem with drinking or depression, for example, whilst offering understanding and support, is not something many leadership courses prepare you for. Your concerns may be totally unwarranted and the member of staff may be understandably upset or angry. The upset or anger could equally be a defensive reaction to a problem being outed or her/his denial of reality. It is so difficult to tell and it sometimes feels easier to bury your head in the sand. As a leader you have to accept that you are employed to do what is right not what is easy.
Stress, depression or dependency can have different roots but in trying to address them we need to move from a reactive approach to something much more systematic. The key lever for improving staff well-being which leaders can pull is that of reduced workload. At this time of year as nativity plays are in full rehearsal and mock examinations are being sat, marked and analysed it can feel like the workload will never end. We’re really trying to attack workload in a more systematic way but I have that sinking feeling at the moment. Never one to quit I’m wondering what would be the impact of turning all monitoring into feedback for teachers – cue tomorrow’s blog post.
#SaturdayThunk is based on something I’ve been thinking about, discussing, working on or has been topical that week. The thunk is designed to be bite sized and will deliberately be kept short. It will take one small issue or an aspect of something much bigger. The intention is for it to be read in two minutes as you’re relaxing or busy running around on you day off.
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