Help for Headteachers
Posted on 31st May 2020 at 10:40
What’s your main priority when your school opens? Get things back to ‘normal’? Safety and security of your teachers and pupils? The emotional well-being of all in your school community? Are you worried about the future and what that will hold for your staff and pupils?
The re-opening of schools is certainly not an easy task for any Headteacher, and their Senior Leadership Team, to be considering in these unusual times. You are juggling the demands put forward by the Government (which seems to offer none of the reassurances school leaders want) versus the safety of your staff and students and the growing call for a well-being curriculum that allows all involved to process what has happened to them over the last few months. Now throw into the mix the negative portrayal of teachers in the press and morale of anyone returning to school being at an all-time low.
Support for Headteachers
Somehow you as Headteachers have to lead and manage your staff. However precious little is given to support you but many debates have been had across various forums about what you should or shouldn’t do. Whilst lots has been written, in recent days, about what children should be taught and questions to answer, no one has really looked practically at how that could be done. This article endeavours to give you some real-life possibilities.
What can you do the support your staff and help prepare your school for re-opening?
Give staff time to share their feelings knowing that they won’t be judged but they will be really listened to. Maybe start the first staff meeting off with a circle time activity that allows all staff to share their thoughts and feelings knowing that they have been heard.
Be emotionally honest. It’s easy to try to reassure everyone that all will be ok. Instead be honest, share your concerns but also what has been put in place to mitigate those concerns.
Recognise that many of your school community have experienced a loss and will need support. Whilst we have had a ‘we're all in this together’ mentality for weeks, loss of any kind will be personal and felt at 100%. Resist the urge to compare losses but instead appreciate that all losses cause feelings of grief. Staff and students will need to deal with these feelings.
Produce a well-being goodie bag to give to staff when they arrive including handouts of hints and tips ready to support them. You could use some of the resources we have produced recently to help you.
Have a well-being display in the staffroom or corridor with inspiration quotes and ideas on how to develop personal well-being. (Order our motivational A3 posters here.)
Consider the curriculum that pupils will be taught. Maybe focus on their well-being to help them adjust and allow them to share the things they have loved and hated during lockdown as well as the skills they have developed.
Reconnect with pupils and staff; a lot of relationships have been lost during lockdown and time will need to be given to them to develop these relationships again.
Consider how children may feel if they are taught in small bubbles and are not with their friends. Many of them may exhibit new behaviours. All behaviours are a form of communication and young children may be trying to show how much they miss their friends.
Losses for Teachers
Teachers want to be back in the classroom; that’s where they are at their best and where they thrive. No one goes into the profession for the holidays (which we actually work through) but because they want to give something back to society and educate the next generation. Throughout the last few months many teachers have talked about feeling lost or not having a purpose since schools shut in March. However coming back to work in such uncertain times are likely to create some unchartered feelings including feeling scared and anxious to be in the very place where a teacher thrives. Many are likely to feel a loss of control over the situation or a loss of security or a loss of their professional voice as others question their judgements. All losses create feelings of grief; the conflicting feelings caused by a change to any familiar pattern.
Establish an "Emotional First Aid" Team
Showing parents and teachers that you take loss seriously and make emotional well-being a top priority in your school will make life easier for everyone. One of the easiest and most effective steps you can take is enrolling a group of your staff in a Helping Children with Loss programme. This weekly programme provides staff with practical, feasible tools for supporting children (and each other) with loss in the school environment. You could then make your "Emotional First Aiders" widely known and let children and adults know that they are safe and available to those who need emotional support.
The job of the Headteacher and the Senior Leadership team is not going to be an easy one over the coming weeks and months. We can’t imagine how you feel but we hope that our Resources for Schools provide some guidance and quick, practical support for the coming days and weeks ahead. If you have special needs or requests for support, contact us and we'll be happy to help.
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