Teach Well Toolkit: 2018-19

Bronze Award

Initial consultation via video conferencing with Wellbeing Consultant to identify school’s requirements •

Initial anonymised survey to teaching staff, support staff, admin staff, ancillary staff and site staff to identify sources of work overload and mental ill-health (Can be customised)

• Report of results, by categories of staff and all staff

• Draft of Wellbeing Action Plan for school to consider, modify and approve

• Anonymised termly monitoring survey. Can be customised to categories of staff (as above)

• Termly report of results, by categories of staff and all staff

• Comparison of results of initial survey with repeat survey after 12 months

• Report of results

• Draft proposals for action in Year 2 and Year 3 for school to consider, modify and approve

• Final consultation via video conference with Wellbeing Consultant to support the school in final planning of years 2 and 3

• School achieves Bronze Award and displays Teach Well Badge on website.

Silver Award

All features of Bronze Award plus:

• Initial face-to-face consultation with Wellbeing Consultant to identify school’s requirements

• Face-to-face termly visit by Wellbeing Consultant to support the school, following each termly report.

• Day workshop for up to 8 members of staff on ‘Leading on Workload and Wellbeing’. School chooses either video conferencing format or face-to-face

• Final face-to-face visit by Wellbeing Consultant to support school in identifying next steps for Years 2 and 3

• Membership of closed community of schools which have been awarded Teach Well status

• Strengthscope strengths-based profile and coaching session for one of your leadership team

• School achieves Silver Award and displays Teach Well School Badge on school website.

Gold Award

All features of Silver Award plus:

• Membership to closed and confidential online Brain Cell Mastermind for 6 months for school’s Wellbeing Lead to share strategies and receive support from other schools’ Wellbeing Leads

• Email support for school’s Wellbeing Lead for 12 months from Wellbeing Consultant

• 2 school places for Teach Well Fest

• Licence to provide staff with access to 8-week online Mindfulness Stress Reduction for Teachers

• Licence to provide students approaching examinations access to 8-week online Mindfulness Stress Reduction for Students course (Year 6, Year 11 and Year 13)

• Strengthscope strengths-based profile and coaching session for each member of your leadership team, including a 360 diagnostic to explore how the team works as a unit

• School achieves Gold Award and displays Teach Well School Badge on school website.

Book your Bronze, Silver or Gold Teach Well Toolkit at ww.teachwellalliance.com#teach-well-toolkit or contact Steve Waters: CEO at steve@teachwellalliance.com or on 07504 635 431

Why Pennywise has it so much easier than teachers


Steve Waters: 21st September, 2017

If you read my first blog here, you will know that I referred to Pennywise, the clown in the film ‘IT’, who reappears after a 27 year absence to terrorise a group of teens in a small town in the USA.  I won’t say more about the film or what a fear of clowns is called – I’ll let you read that for yourselves. 

There’s a whole lot we can learn about teachers’ wellbeing from Pennywise. You see, teachers are often putting a face on, wearing a smile, disguising how they really feel inside. Whereas Pennywise paints a smiling clown mask to hide his features, teachers often have to present an image of wellbeing by consciously adjusting their own facial expressions, tone of voice and body language. The less wellbeing they feel, the more effort it takes to project it.

It is rare that teachers say what they really feel in class. Because, if their learners knew what was going on inside their teacher’s mind, some would lose confidence, others would be confused, a section of the class might try to take advantage by misbehaving. Several more empathetic learners might be concerned, worried. The teacher would feel vulnerable, exposed, and potentially at risk of losing control. If you have ever cried in front of a class or seen another teacher cry, you will understand the ‘loss of face’ (note the metaphor) it entails.

The constant effort of maintaining this persona comes with a price. It takes a great deal of concentration, resilience and energy.  If it is repeated day after day, it is ultimately exhausting. I know. I’ve been there. When the thought of putting on an act with a difficult class at the end of the day seemed almost impossible – one step too far.  Actors will often tell you of the physical and mental demands of sustaining a role.  And they are not required to control, amuse, engage, teach, guide and relate to 30 learners at the same time. 

Pennywise has it made. He presents his clown face to the world without having to construct it. In the film, behind the grinning mask, his true feelings are hidden from the world…effortlessly.  If only it were that easy for teachers…

Steve Waters is the founder and CEO of the Teach Well Alliance which is committed to improving the mental health and wellbeing of teachers: www.teachwellalliance.com  You can contact Steve at steve@teachwellalliance.com







Senior leaders: managing workload

Jilly Berry Crop Cadiz balcony

Dr Jill Berry: Former Headteacher and now Educational Consultant and CEO: J Berry Associates. Jill tweets @jillberry102.

This article is based on the 3 minute presentation recorded for #SLTeachMeet Cambridge, March 2014  (YouTube video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8jLNZ7E_LUI&feature=youtu.be)

Managing workload is something that, in my experience, most teachers and school leaders struggle with.  There’s certainly no magic bullet.  Some would even say it’s impossible to get the balance between your professional and personal lives right, but that doesn’t mean you stop trying.  It may be a journey rather than a destination.

At senior leadership level this is a double challenge.  In addition to trying to get a workable balance yourself, you also need to be aware of how the staff in your school (teaching and support staff) are coping with their own workload, and to consider whether initiatives you may be introducing, or systems you’re changing, are increasing staff workload in a disproportionate and unreasonable way.  Helping others to balance their time and prioritise their work is arguably even more demanding than trying to achieve that yourself.

While accepting that this is a complex, sensitive and potentially controversial issue, I offer here five tips for senior leaders, including heads, who are trying to address the issue of their own workload management, and hope this is to some degree useful.

  1. Try not to be too hard on yourself about not getting the balance right.

Managing workload in a demanding job like teaching/school leadership is difficult, and the real no-win scenario is where you feel constantly guilty that you’re working so hard you’re neglecting your family, your friends and your health, while you still feel you’re not working hard enough to cope with the multifarious demands of your job.   Try not to be overly self-critical.  Accept that if you are aware of the issue and doing something to address it, that’s a good beginning.  Give yourself credit for not giving up on the challenge!

  1. Accept that you are in control.

This is potentially controversial and will, I’m sure, make some readers cross, but I really do believe that most of us work as hard as we demand of ourselves.  We do have choices, and decisions, and we can do things differently.  We may feel that governors, parents, other staff, even the students are exerting pressure on us, but often the greatest pressure is self-generated.  We need to be mindful of when our own expectations of ourselves are becoming unreasonable.

  1. Be clear about priorities.

It is all about priorities.  When someone says, ‘I didn’t do that because I didn’t have time’, and when you catch yourself saying that, think about what it means.  The time was there, but if you didn’t do x it was because you spent that time on y.  Time is finite and you have to make decisions about what you should spend it on.  What will give you the best return for the investment of your time?  What matters most?

  1. Know yourself.

Easier said than done, but being self-aware is critical, here.  Know, for example, when you’re really too tired to do a job well, and reschedule so that you can tackle it when you’re fresher.  Know when you are starting to jeopardise your health and well-being and take action/seek help.  And watch that perfectionist streak, if you have one.  It doesn’t necessarily lead to the most productive outcome, and you can risk your health and happiness unless you manage to get a grip on it.

  1. Make the most of holidays.

You will work hard in term time, and in holidays, too, there will be catching up and preparation to do.  But ensure you carve out some time in holidays when you can switch off and properly rest and refresh.  You should go back to school after a holiday feeing re-energised, rather than already drained and weary.  I’d advise against having constant contact with school.  You need to have time when you try not even to think about work, when you don’t respond to emails and check educational Twitter.  You need to take a break – and you deserve it.   It will make you more productive in the long run, and should certainly help you to feel more positive.

Good luck!

What on earth has Pennywise got to do with teachers’ wellbeing?


If you don’t know who Pennywise is, most of your older pupils will. Pennywise is the scary clown in the film ‘IT’, based on Stephen King’s novel and released this month. When he turns up, which he does every 27 years, red balloons also tend to materialise, floating disarmingly through the air. Since this cult film’s release, a number of people have dressed up as Pennywise, worryingly turning up in all sorts of public places, and red balloons have been tied to drain grids – you will understand why if you have seen the film.

Pennywise concentrates on scaring and threatening a group of adolescents (who, incidentally, give remarkable performances and make the film much more than just a horror movie). Members of the group are also bullied by older college kids, so they have a lot to cope with.

Clowns have a track record of being both unsettling and frightening – there’s even a word for an irrational fear of clowns: coulrophobia. While they’re supposed to make young children laugh, many children don’t find them funny. They shut their eyes or turn away when they see images of clowns or people dressed as clowns.

And that’s why Pennywise has something to do with teachers’ wellbeing. You see, we can be afraid of looking at our mental health and wellbeing because we’re scared of what we might see. We push it to the back of our minds, turning our heads away and trying to ignore what we might find. So, we block it out and keep going until…we can’t keep going any longer.

If you are worried about your mental health, it is vital that you talk to someone about it. Visit the Teach Well Alliance website and see if there are strategies or self-help books which might help. You can also join the Teach Well Alliance closed Facebook group and share your experiences with other teachers who will understand what you are going through. And the bottom line is this: if stress, anxiety or depression is making you ill, you must accept that you need time off. At that point, you, your family and friends – but especially you – are more important than your school, college or university. 

Mixed Race Woman Hands on Temples

The reaction of looking away is not confined to individual teachers. Unfortunately, it can be found in the response of some school leadership teams who are afraid of asking staff about their wellbeing because of the implications of what they might see. They are like a group of filmgoers turning their heads away when Pennywise and his evil grin appear on the screen, as if, by not seeing him, he won’t exist. In a way, it is not surprising. Teachers are not trained in mental health, and leaders are no different. Like Pennywise, it is frightening to cope with something you don’t understand – especially if it is happening to someone else.

But, like Pennywise, you can’t make the mental ill-health and poor wellbeing of teachers go away by refusing to look at them. At some point, they will emerge, come out in the open, be seen for what they are and threaten the stability of school community.

And, unlike Pennywise, they won’t take 27 years to make their appearance.

Steve Waters: Teach Well Alliance: www.teachwellalliance.com 15th September 2017