If you don’t look after yourself, who will?

Resilience is often described as a personal quality that predisposes individuals to bounce back in the face of loss or challenge. Resilient leaders, however, do more than bounce back—they bounce forward. Resilient people take actions that respond to new and ever-changing realities, even as they maintain the essential operations of the organisations they lead (Reeves & Allison, 2009, 2010; Reeves, 2011).

The notion that teachers need to extend their sphere of influence beyond the classroom and into school-wide leadership activities without giving up teaching is, in the rarefied world of those who tell schools what to do, a relatively recent phenomenon; however, those of us who serve or have served at the chalk-face (or touchscreen-face for those most recent recruits) know that teachers are, and always have been, leaders. First and foremost, they lead learning their classroom. They may also lead a subject, a year group, a phase, a department or a team – and not just on the old-fashioned administrative sense of the word – but in the inspirational, influential, creative and visionary sense of the word. Teachers are leaders of their peers, whether or not this is reflected in their official job title or qualification, both in the workplace and in the wider educational community, including that of social media.

It is widely held that happy teachers = happy students = happy outcomes. But how, in the face of the current educational climate of economic challenge, loss of resources and continuous change imposed from above (all of which are pretty much guaranteed to challenge the resilience of individuals, teams and organisations), do we keep teachers happy?

As a senior leader in a school, I can tell a colleague to go home at 4pm once a week until I am blue in the face, I can facilitate their attendance at their child’s assembly or graduation and I can provide any amount of good wellbeing advice and opportunity but although, to coin a hackneyed phrase, I can lead a horse to water, I can’t make it drink.

Of course, good and resilient leadership is key, but practitioners must also take responsibility for playing a part in maintaining their own wellbeing.

In the interests of full disclosure, I must admit that, while I have greatly improved at nurturing my own wellbeing over time (particularly since the advent of the #teacher5aday, thanks to @MartynReah and supported by many others to numerous to name check here) I do not always manage to walk the walk – something on which I continue to work.

As a result (I assume, Martyn?) of my participation via Twitter in #teacher5aday, I was invited to take part in Pedagoo Hampshire on 26.9.15 and, while I do not profess to be an expert in the field of resilience and wellbeing (unlike some of my fellow presenters who have actual qualifications in the field!), it is something to which I am strongly committed as a school leader and felt is an area to which I wanted to contribute. I have been lucky enough to have participated in some excellent Resilient Leadership CPD in my local authority and have started the process in my own school – drip feeding ideas and facilitating sessions with inspirational speakers – so my learning conversation is drawn from these experiences.

As part of my topic, “Resilience & wellbeing for teachers: where can you find it?”, the plan is (at the moment) to explore not only where our resilience might come from but also how we can use that knowledge to support our wellbeing. I am fortunate to be sharing the session with Heather Lucas @HLucas8 (one of those clever people with a specialism in this area and qualification in Psychology) and I hope that you will be able to take away some useful ideas from our shared conversations.

As ever the teacher, if you are coming along to our session it would be useful if you could have completed, or at least given some thought to, a life chapters exercise. You can find a template at http://www.crowe-associates.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/1562_Life-Chapters-Exercise.pdf)

Next, consider the following questions:

  • What impact have your childhood / parents or carers / early life had on you? On your career decisions?
  • What were / are the expectations placed on you as a child / young person / adult?
  • What effects have marriage / relationships / family had on your life and the decisions you have made?
  • How did you make your career choices? What helped you decide to move on from earlier jobs?
  • What key themes and patterns do you see emerging from the story as you have told it?

These things are personal and private to you, but a useful starting point in exploring where your wellbeing and resilience comes from and how you can nurture and grow it into the future.

I hope to see many of you on 26th September!

(PS. Get your tickets here: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/pedagoohampshire-tickets-17552608324?ref=enivtefor001&invite=ODExMzU5NS9tcmVhaEBlZ2dhcnMuaGFudHMuc2NoLnVrLzA%3D&utm_source=eb_email&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=inviteformalv2&ref=enivtefor001&utm_term=attend)


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