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We launched the second phase of our National Teacher Enquiry Network pilot phase last night in a meeting hosted by the Catalyst Teaching School Alliance at the Bishop’s Stortford High School.
The launch was made possible by a grant from the National College for Teaching and Leaderhip. Teachers met to learn about our lesson-study-based Teacher Enquiry tools in order to carry out Enquiry Projects at The Bishop’s Stortford High School, Furneux Pelham Church of England School and Little Hallingbury Primary School.
Teacher Development Trust Chief Executive, David Weston, worked alongside Catalyst’s Simon MacNeill to brief the participants about the Enquiry programme and explain the concept of Lesson Study to those who were previously unfamiliar.
The teachers worked through resources to help them start forming an Enquiry Goal and start thinking about the appropriate mix of evaluation methods they would use in order to assess their progress. This sparked some in-depth discussion about how to refine ideas so that they would be measurable, including looking at specific characteristics of independent learning and resilience which could be developed.
This pilot is helping us to further refine and develop the tools for our new National Teacher Enquiry Network, a family of schools and colleges working together for better professional development. We would like to thank the National College for their continued support.
Teacher Development Trust
Programme Support Officer
1 year fixed term contract, full time
Are you looking for an opportunity to use your outstanding organisation, communication and research skills to take a young charity to a new level? Are you excited by the opportunity to work with a new educational charity?
This is a unique opportunity to influence education in England. The Teacher Development Trust (TDT) is a new, small charity based in London that is dedicated to improving the educational outcomes for children by raising the quality of teacher professional development. We’re working with schools and training providers to ensure that all training and consultancy is carried out in line with international best practice.
TDT launched in May 2012 and is forging partnerships with major education organisations and government agencies in order to develop a series of new quality marks as well as our national database of training opportunities (The GoodCPDGuide).
We’re looking for an enthusiastic and reliable individual to join our team in supporting existing programmes and researching and supporting the development of new programmes to raise the quality of training given to teachers.
This is a fantastic opportunity to work within a fast-paced start-up charity. We are looking for pro-active individuals with an interest in education, and a passion to join an organisation committed to making a difference to the lives of children and teachers.
- Supporting the Teacher Development Trust’s two main programmes: The GoodCPDGuide and the National Teacher Enquiry Network (NTEN)
- Relationship management and support: Supporting the organisations key stakeholders including providers, schools, mentors and teachers. This involves regular communication (email, phone and face to face), including responding to provider, teacher and school enquiries
- TDT, Good CPD Guide and NTEN events planning and delivery: This requires venue management, coordinating speakers, facilitators and Teacher Development Trust staff to make sure events run smoothly including owning all event logistics.
- Maintaining, Monitoring and Quality Assuring NTEN and GoodCPDGuide databases: Dealing with user queries and issues, running and updating activity reports on NTEN projects progress and update database as required. Ensure that the GoodCPDGuide is up to date, that providers are making regular listings and categorising appropriately.
- Teacher Development Trust Marketing and Social Media: Increasing the number and quality of providers on the GoodCPDGuide as well as increasing the number of reviews provided by teachers of the listing. Regular scheduling of social media updates, updating website news stories, co-ordinating appointments and deadlines for speeches and articles and proactively researching speaking and writing opportunities
- Administrative Support: undertake administrative tasks involved in the all of the above including diary management for the CEO.
Personal Qualities and Experience
- A strong commitment to education, the non-profit sector and improving educational outcomes for children
- Excellent interpersonal, relationship management and communication skills
- Ability to work with and relate to people from diverse backgrounds
- Analytical thinking and writing skills
- Administrative experience; excellent organisational skills and attention to detail
- Flexibility, ability to adapt to an ever changing, growing organisation and be self-motivated
- Computer/IT skills and knowledge of Microsoft Office, including Word, Excel and PowerPoint
- 1-2 years of professional work experience
- University Graduate with minimum of 2:2 degree
Teacher Development Trust is a small organisation based in Old Street, London. It provides a fast paced and exciting environment with a dedicated and supportive team.
We offer 25 days leave per year (plus bank holidays)
Reports to: CEO
Location: Old Street, London
Duration: 12 months (with potential to go permanent)
Interested candidates should email the following to firstname.lastname@example.org by 5pm Tuesday 7th May
- Cover Letter – please reference why you want to work for the Teacher Development Trust and in the non-profit/education sector and how your work experience is relevant to this role. Please also state where you saw this job role advertised.
- 2 references (these will not be taken up until after interview)
Shortlisted applicants will be invited to a first round interview. Interviews will run during the week commencing 13th May 2013
Applicants who are successful at interview will be invited to a final interview at the beginning of 20th May 2013
Questions: Feel free to contact Shirley Gaynor on 07866 584 872 (to discuss the role and organisation before applying.
Starting salary is c. £20,000 depending upon experience.
The Telegraph reports that Michael Gove has declared that he wants to cut the length of school holidays in order to improve standards. I’ve plotted a graph of the number of hours that teachers spend teaching per year (from OECD TALIS data) against their average PISA scores. Draw your own conclusions:
You can download my data here.
Just had this contrasting but fascinating graph sent to me by @par_izglitibu
A personal blog by our Chief Executive.
Why are we motivated to teach? Research by Barmby for Durham University in 2006 interviewed 200 teachers and noted the top 10 reasons given for entering the profession (some gave more than one):
- Always had it in mind – 40%
- Enjoyed previous experience/had previous experience – 23%
- Use degree/Enjoyment of subject – 22%
- Work with children/young people/people – 19%
- Job satisfaction/rewarding job/interesting job/creative/enjoyment – 16%
- Financial considerations/incentives – 15%
- Dislike previous job/problem with previous job/change of job – 13%
- Fits in with lifestyle/family situation/flexibility – 12%
- Availability of jobs/Access to teaching available/training available – 10%
- Family member/friends a teacher – 10%
It’s very clear that by far and away the most common reasons for going in to teaching are altruistic (to help children) or intrinsic (to improve own quality of life). Only one reason given here was extrinsic (i.e. in response to external motivations) and that was financial considerations given by just 15% of entrants. It seems odd, therefore, to consider that financial motivations would play a significant part in changing teachers’ ability to teach, considering the main reasons they got in to it were to help children and make themselves happy. Indeed, there’s little evidence that teachers are just being too lazy to improve and need a good set of sticks and carrots to get them moving – quite the opposite. The most common reason for teachers leaving the profession is overly high workload, especially marking.
Performance pay isn’t a new idea, and it has been tried on many occasions around the world. There have been many, many different analyses which have shown that overall this has negligible effect on teacher performance, if any. Even the OECD’s top-down survey of different countries’ systems concluded that unless base pay for teachers was very low (and therefore making financial worries greater) then the effect of performance-related pay was either negligible or negative.
I have little doubt that in the hands of an experienced and outstanding school leader with superb judgement then a very selective use of performance-related pay to ‘nudge’ the occasional teacher where other incentives had failed may be helpful. However we also know that repeated use of external motivators (such as pay) will suppress intrinsic and altruistic motivation in the long run – a long-running theme of Drive author Daniel Pink.
So the evidence for performance-related pay is fairly conclusive, it’s at best an idea with very small benefit for a few and negligible benefit for most and at worst it is actively harmful. My frustration is that the sheer amount of upheaval, anger and resentment that its introduction will cause will divert schools’ attention away from those things that will make a difference such as professional development, strong-but-shared leadership, high expectations and effective behaviour management. All of these things actually can help teachers produce higher quality learning in their classrooms. The most important of these, in my opinion, is to create a culture of professional learning in your school in which all teachers take a professional pride in the continued improvement of the learning that they bring about in their classes. Indeed if you want to put an ‘effect size’ on it – fashionable now that everyone likes to talk about the Sutton Trust-EEF Toolkit and Hattie’s Visible Learning – then most studies would put professional development at around 0.6, i.e. one of the more effective interventions that could happen in schools. Of course it’s a nonsense to expect that any intervention in a school will happen without good quality professional development so clearly this has to underpin school improvement.
So, now that school leaders in England (including, oddly, those not judged to be Outstanding by Ofsted) have been given autonomy in this area my advice would be to be extremely careful in any implementation of performance related pay. It is a minefield, and there is strong evidence that headteachers’ attentions would be much better directed elsewhere.
The DfE has opened the applications for the new National Scholarship Fund which provides grants of up to £3500 to subsidise half the cost of CPD covering specialist or subject knowledge within English, Maths, Science or SEN.
Applications must be completed online and submitted before midnight on 29th April 2013 (now extended – used to be the 25th).
The Teacher Development Trust welcomes the new focus from the Department for Education on the importance of professional development for teachers. The Secretary of State for Education, Michael Gove, wrote to our Chief Executive last week and said:
“As you will be aware from your recent conversations with Ministers and officials, professional development for teachers is a central priority for my Department. We are actively considering how we can encourage all teachers to take part in more professional development opportunities which have proven to have a positive impact on teaching and learning. We are particularly keen to help teachers to make better use of educational research. Organisations such as yours will play a crucial role in ensuring schools have access to support they need to achieve this aim”
“The merged Teaching Agency and National College will be known as the National College for Teaching and Leadership, Education Secretary Michael Gove announced today. The National College for Teaching and Leadership is a single agency focused on promoting high-quality teaching and school leadership. Its remit will also include continuous professional and leadership development and supporting school improvement.”
We welcome this renewed focus on the importance of CPD which improves teaching and learning and look forward to seeing policy and government resources applied to this challenging area. Given that so much CPD has been so poor, and had so little impact, improving practice and provision is a seriously difficult task but an important one. Our mission is to work with all education stakeholders to improve the learning in our schools by helping schools, training providers and government to design and implement evidence-based approaches to professional development. We look forward to working with the DfE and new National College for Teaching and Leadership to achieve this.
This article, by Teacher Development Trust Chief Executive, David Weston, originally appeared in the Teaching Leaders Quarterly. This is one of the articles in our National Teacher Enquiry Network Easter 2013 newsletter (sign up here).
Improving the teaching profession
Teaching is one of the great altruistic professions. We join it to help others: to nurture their talents, to overcome the disadvantage of their backgrounds, and to share with them our joyful love of learning. We grow as teachers as we become more successful at helping our students and yet the recognised career pathways in our profession take us, in general, further away from the reason we joined in the first place.
Measuring great teaching
It is always controversial to try and define ‘great teaching’ because it is equally (if not more) controversial to attempt a definition of a ‘great education’. Unlike medics with their stark binary measures of life and death, we can only deal with proxies such as exam grades, but it’s important that we keep fighting for clarity around teacher quality if we want to be rewarded for being good at our jobs rather than simply taking on ever-longer lists of responsibilities.
Teacher quality is an unclear and often-contradictory area in research. While some studies suggest that good teachers can be spotted from characteristics of leadership, perseverance, sense of mission and prior academic achievement, the evidence is weak. Subject knowledge appears to make little difference in most areas, and there are few practices that every great teacher appears to share. Single-person observations have been shown to be relatively unreliable and even measures of ‘value-added’ in test scores appear to be unstable and poorly correlated with quality of teaching.
Nevertheless progress is being made in this area. The multi-million pound research project, Measures of Effective Teaching carried out by the deep-pocketed Gates Foundation showed that when student perceptions are mathematically combined with value-added indicators and two or more observation-ratings from trained observers then we begin to reach a reasonable level of reliability. With ever-improving understanding of how to judge teaching quality we now need to focus on how to help teachers improve.
How to foster great teaching
Three ways of looking at this problem produce identical conclusions. The first is to consider the growing body of literature on general expertise that suggests that mastery is gained through thousands of hours of deliberate, focused practice combined with clear feedback, expert advice and time for reflection.
The second is to look at the literature around how effective practices identified in research become embedded in every frontline practice. In medicine, education, criminal justice and social care the conclusions are consistent: sustained cycles of implementation over long periods, constant interaction between professionals, rigorous and on-going evaluation, feedback, adaptation and refinement.
The final approach is to examine the growing research around the types of teacher professional development that result in improved outcomes for students. Once again this shows that these processes are sustained (at least 50 hours in repeated cycles), supported and challenged by experts, targeted at improved learning outcomes (rather than solely on changed teacher behaviours), collaborative and constantly evaluated.
These lessons are unambiguous, and yet the vast majority of teacher professional development remains superficial, isolated and one-off, and almost always lacking the sustained challenge and on-going evaluation and feedback that is called for. As a result, teachers rarely make significant improvements in skill and schools barely ever undertake the rigorous analysis that would enable them to notice. Indeed some research suggests that as few as 7% of schools attempt to evaluate the effect of Continuing Professional Development on pupil attainment.
A need to reform career structures
With such a lack of emphasis on rigorous improvement in teaching quality it is perhaps little wonder that career progression is centred on the easily quantifiable: how many additional responsibilities, what magnitude, and how many people are being line-managed. Teachers are rewarded for taking on longer lists of tasks instead of being recognised for their teaching prowess. Attempts to introduce recognition for general and specialist expertise (in the form of Advanced Skills Teacher, Excellent Teacher and Chartered Teacher statuses) did not catch on in any widespread and systematic way – even at their peak only 1% of the teaching population were ASTs or ETs. The results of this imbalance are clear. Around 4 in 5 teachers at or beyond their 4th year of teaching have taken on some form of administration or leadership responsibility.
Teachers got in to the job to help children learn and grow, so when they are forced to take on ever more managerial tasks to get any sense of growth there is an inevitable tension. Indeed, the main reasons cited for leaving the profession (ignoring issues around personal circumstance) are workload and stress along with wanting change and wanting new challenge.
Moving in a better direction
We need to ensure that we can nurture and retain the talent in our profession while improving outcomes for pupils. It seems very clear that in order to do that we need to make significant changes to career progression and professional development:
Firstly reform professional development so that it is focused on helping pupils learn and so that it is collaborative, sustained, evaluated, and aimed and achieving teaching mastery.
Secondly we need to introduce new models of career progression where administrative and leadership roles are only one of three main strands, the other two being a succession of increasingly senior general teaching practitioner levels and a similar succession for specialist teachers (e.g. mathematics, geography, literacy, SEN, assessment, etc.). These levels of skill could be linked to membership of the new proposed Royal College of Teaching, perhaps something like this:
Royal College of Teaching Membership
General Practitioner Strand
Certified Classroom Teacher
|Senior Teacher (e.g. Chartered)||Department or Year Leader||Senior Specialist (e.g. Chartered)|
|Master Teacher||Senior Leader||Master Specialist|
|National Leading Teacher||National Leader of Education||National Leader of Specialism|
There are some encouraging signs that the system is gradually moving in the right direction. Teaching Schools are a welcome addition to the education landscape by ensuring that clusters of schools can develop specialist leaders of education, focus on research and development, carry out collaborative professional development, identify untapped talent and potential and find more opportunities for progression within a large and more flexible alliance. Moves for a Royal College of Teaching suggest that there may be changes to the career structures in the coming years, and the combining of the Teaching Agency and National College for School Leadership hint at a renewed focus on improving professional development by the Department for Education.
The sooner these strands come together the better. Other countries such as Korea, Canada, Singapore and Australia are much further along the path of CPD and career reform than we are, but our need for great teachers to reduce educational inequality is even greater given that the gaps in attainment between our most and least disadvantaged pupils are larger. It’s time for organisations across the educational spectrum, whether charities or unions, schools, subject associations or government agencies, to come together and move decisively toward a better and more effective teaching profession.
You can sign up for free Associate membership of the National Teacher Enquiry Network for more articles like this using the form below:
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The Institute of Physics Stimulating Physics is a national programme of CPD, funded by the DfE. The Network’s Project Manager, David Cameron, explains how this high-impact programme works. This is one of the articles in our National Teacher Enquiry Network Easter 2013 newsletter (sign up here).
The Stimulating Physics Network is a project which works with over 400 schools across England to develop the teaching and learning of physics. Funded by the Department for Education and managed by the Institute of Physics in partnership with the network of Science Learning Centres, the Stimulating Physics Network is a strategic teacher development network of unprecedented scale and impact. The Stimulating Physics Network has been operational on a national scale since 2009 and, in the schools where the project has been working longest, teachers have seen an average 70% increase in the uptake of physics A-level by boys; and a remarkable 200% increase in the number of girls choosing to study physics A-level.
We believe that the Stimulating Physics Network represents a model for supporting teachers in all subject areas, particularly those teachers at an early stage of their career or those teaching outside of their subject specialism. The Stimulating Physics Network sets the benchmark for facilitating effective CPD and for developing local, regional and national professional networks, for rehabilitating the culture of a subject within schools, and for engaging school leadership in teachers’ professional development. At its heart, the Stimulating Physics Network retains a focus on pupil learning and outcomes, and developing the pupil experience.
Origins – the need for the Stimulating Physics Network
The need for the Stimulating Physics Network came from a chronic shortage of specialist physics teachers in English secondary schools in the 1990s and 2000s. The Institute of Physics estimated that 500 schools had no science teacher who could be considered a physics specialist. It is likely that in a school where there are no – or even just one – specialist physics teachers, the ‘culture’ of physics can be lost. By this we mean, a lack of professional dialogue in prep rooms and staffrooms, and an unwillingness to try new ideas and approaches in teaching. Either way, the reality was that the number of pupils who chose to study A-level physics across England fell from about 45,000 in 1985 to below 30,000 in 2005. This figure is now rising, but is still lower than the other sciences.
Much is now being done to remedy this issue, and the Institute of Physics has been at the heart of recent changes – most significantly the introduction of Teacher Training Scholarships, administered by the Institute of Physics, which aim to attract high-achieving graduates and career-changers into physics teaching. These approaches have been successful in attracting more specialist physicists into the classroom than ever before. However, the previous and long-running shortfall in physics teacher recruitment means that many pupils in English schools are still taught physics by teachers without an academic or ITT background in physics.
Objectives – enhance pupil experience through teacher development
The Stimulating Physics Network works particularly, but not exclusively, with these non-specialist physics teachers, to develop their pedagogical content knowledge and confidence. The stated objectives of the Stimulating Physics Network are: to raise the profile and perceived value of physics in schools; to support the professional development of physics teachers; and to develop pupils’ perception of physics as exciting, accessible, aspirational and relevant to their lives. We take an increase in A-level physics numbers as the ‘thermometer’ that these objectives are being met.
Project operation – a team of TLCs
The Stimulating Physics Network is built around a team of 35 ‘Teaching and Learning Coaches’, or TLCs, who together provide coverage from St Ives in Cornwall to Ashington in Northumberland. Based from home, each TLC supports 12 schools in their local area, working flexibly to meet the schools’ needs. Schools either request to work with the Stimulating Physics Network, or are invited to join on the basis of historical data of physics A-level numbers. Each school is designated an ‘SPN Partner School’ for a period of two years, and a bespoke programme of support is drawn up between the TLC and the Head of Science. As the relationship between TLC and Partner School develops, this support is refined down to the level of individual teachers’ professional learning needs.
Quality CPD based on a common resource
Each TLC is a highly experienced and expert physics teacher, with a background in supporting other teachers as a head of department, deputy head, AST or local authority adviser. Each TLC develops a particular repertoire, but all work from a common core of material, the ‘Supporting Physics Teaching’ (SPT) resource. SPT is an authoritative package of material developed by the IOP and university-based experts in physics education, covering not only the most effective teaching approaches to various topics, but also the pedagogical challenges, the common misconceptions amongst pupils and teachers, and the underlying ‘narrative’ and ideas.
TLCs are specifically coaches, rather than trainers. A TLC workshop in a Partner School builds from the SPT resource and deploys effective approaches in professional coaching: providing support without judgment, encouraging discussion between colleagues, challenging preconceptions, enabling each teacher’s own professional learning, and always, always retaining a focus on the pupils’ learning and outcomes. TLCs don’t write lesson plans, but instead work to facilitate a culture of reflective practice and enquiry amongst a department. Each TLC is working to make themselves, and the project, redundant.
Beyond the school, TLCs help to develop networks of physics teachers, communities of practice for mutual support and lasting professional development. In addition to local networks based on each TLC’s portfolio of twelve schools, there are regional networks facilitated through ‘SPN Teacher Days’ which are organised through the regional Science Learning Centres and hosted by supporting schools. Additionally, all physics teachers can access the national professional community of physics teachers through the TalkPhysics site, hosted by the IOP and supported by the Stimulating Physics Network, which has over 7,000 registered users.
Multiple points of contact: benefits of being an SPN Partner School
An SPN Partner School can access multiple benefits to support physics teachers and develop pupils’ experience of physics. All are provided at no cost to schools or teachers, and the support for each school is worth about £5,000 per year. Since April 2012 the TLC team has facilitated over 21,000 teacher-hours of CPD across the country. Over 92% of teachers attending these workshops felt that their confidence in the classroom would improve as a result. Each Partner School receives an average of 43 teacher-hours of CPD each year. In addition, one or more non-specialist teacher at each Partner School can attend an ‘SPN Summer School’, a four-day residential event of intensive CPD led by a team of eight TLCs and hosted at either an Oxbridge college or the National Science Learning Centre in York.
SPN Partner Schools can access a range of pupil engagement activities. These include the large-scale ‘Ever Wondered Why’ shows, which TLCs deliver to year-group size audiences and feature regularly in local media and online. TLCs can also help to deliver talks focused on careers linked to physics, A-level and GCSE masterclasses, and projects on the physics of music concerts. In all these cases the TLC works with the school’s physics teachers, linking the activity back to the teacher’s CPD, ensuring the capacity to deliver similar activities in the school will remain once the engagement with SPN has ended.
SPN Partner Schools can also register for a new competitive project for Year 9 pupils based on the discovery of exoplanets, where pupils are supported remotely by A-level physics students in other schools across the country. This project is particularly aimed at seeding science clubs, again ensuring a lasting legacy for pupils beyond the span of the project’s partnership with a school.
Subject-focused mentoring for early career physics teachers
With a recent increase in funding from the Department for Education, the Stimulating Physics Network has been able to expand its activities to include a mentoring programme for early career physics teachers – ‘Stimulating Physics Support’. The network of 26 SPS Mentors complements the work of the TLCs in Partner Schools by providing individual, personalised support and subject-specific development for 400 new physics teachers each year. Teachers are registered to the programme in their initial training year, and benefit from three years of guidance, support and local events and workshops specifically for early career physics teachers. The SPS Mentor challenges each teacher to develop their practice progressively; SPS is unprecedented as a mentoring programme in terms of its scale, focus and the fact that the support is sustained to the end of the teachers’ second year as a qualified teacher.
Effective approaches in coaching and mentoring
The Stimulating Physics Network is not successful because of its structures and systems; it is successful because it explicitly puts into practice what the evidence base has shown to be the most effective approaches to teacher development and professional coaching and mentoring.
Hobson has shown that having access to an expert coach who stands apart from any hierarchy of appraisal, assessment or performance management is particularly effective in teacher CPD and vital to developing confidence and trust in the coaching relationship. Hattie’s meta-analyses of the most effective CPD in terms of pupil outcomes characterises the practice of the TLCs and SPS Mentors: CPD is conducted over an extended period, drawing on external experts; teachers are engaged sufficiently to deepen their knowledge and develop skills, and prevailing discourses and misconceptions are challenged; the CPD facilitates teachers talking to other teachers in networks; and an unwavering focus on pupil learning is maintained.
Hattie emphasises the importance of support from the school leadership for effective CPD, as does Viv Robinson. The Stimulating Physics Network ensures the engagement of the school senior leadership from the outset. All SPN Partner Schools sign a formal Memorandum of Understanding with the Institute of Physics, which requires the headteacher’s signature as an expression of the school’s commitment to work with the Stimulating Physics Network to develop the teaching and learning of physics. This strategy has been very successful in maintaining the engagement of the Partner Schools; since April 2012 the project has recruited over 300 Partner Schools, only one has withdrawn from the project in that time.
General implications for teacher development
The experience of the Stimulating Physics Network, which was developed in response to a specific problem of teacher supply and falling A-level uptake, shows the need for strategic-level support for national priorities. Some challenges in education are best met by a coordinated approach with the support of government and subject associations or learned societies.
The Stimulating Physics Network has proved itself an effective model for developing the teaching and learning of physics in hundreds of schools across England. The project has attracted interest from ministers in the Welsh Assembly and the Republic of Ireland, and from a range of organisations associated with science education and teacher development generally – including the Historical Association, Teach First, the Nuffield Foundation, the South East Physics Network, the Ogden Trust and of course the Teacher Development Trust. We are very keen to share our experiences with others, and work to develop pupils’ experiences in a range of areas. We are confident that the model that has proved so effective in this case does not need to be limited to physics education… a Stimulating History Network? Why not?
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Kathryn Lovewell is a former teacher who is now a consultant in wellbeing and emotional resilience. This is one of the articles in our National Teacher Enquiry Network Easter 2013 newsletter (sign up here).
Teaching is the best job in the world. Watching your students grow and blossom is the reward for hours of prep, marking and meetings. This is the life blood that feeds our heart and makes us want to get up in the morning and do it all over again. The sad thing is that the “juice” is often squeezed out of teachers and teaching. The pressure of targets, league tables and exam results dilutes the magic that is the very nature of a great teacher.
Teachers are on the frontline. If they are not “fit” to cope with the never-ending, ever-changing series of demands and pressures they face moment to moment, they will not provide the quality teaching and learning experience expected of them. They will not be the great teacher they aspired to be when they entered the profession.
The ill effects of stress on teachers are obvious and easily recognised. A stressed teacher will have increased adrenalin pumping through their body. Their heart rate will be higher than normal, generating high blood pressure as a measurable symptom. They are likely to be more easily agitated, less tolerant, quick to judge and of course feel fatigued and run down. They will often be rushing or at least feel rushed inside. Their body will not be the only mechanism to signal high levels of stress. Their mind will be full, racing and possibly turbulent. Negative thoughts are likely to be rampant and the inner critic is usually at the helm. They will have little or no head space. Their creativity will be stunted and their ability to think clearly will take great effort. Their emotional landscape is potentially in tatters. Self esteem can plummet and low morale is common when teachers are out of balance.
According to the Health and Safety Executive, teaching is among the top five occupations affected by work-related stress, with 70% of teachers and lecturers saying their health has suffered because of their job (Labour Force Survey). Former Primary Head teacher, John Illingworth is just one casualty of chronic stress rife in the education system. He believes “Depression, anxiety and burnout have become the teachers’ diseases…” The Teacher Support Network survey stated “Working in education is bad for your health!”
Unlike many other professions, teachers are constantly exposed to emotionally provocative situations and have limited options for self-regulation. When a student is blowing a gasket, they are usually given the option of taking time out, catching their breath or leaving the classroom to cool off. A teacher cannot do this. A teacher must stay in the room, no matter what the circumstance or however unpleasant the situation. They must stay in charge, take the higher ground, rise above the provocation. This is enormously draining, emotionally and mentally. Left unaddressed, this chronic stress will produce deadly outcomes. Teacher suicide is now 40% higher than the national average.
The ill effects of stressed teachers on learning are equally obvious. Learning is less likely to take place if the teacher isn’t well. If the teacher feels physically ill they will be distracted by their symptoms. Something as simple as a headache can have serious implications on learning outcomes. Headaches are a common problem for many teachers – have you ever tried to explain an important point to a friend or colleague when your head is thumping? It’s hard enough one to one. Try one to thirty. Learning is very difficult if the classroom is not managed well and behaviour is hard to manage when a teacher is struggling to stand up – literally and metaphorically. Poorly managed behaviour is a recipe for disruption in the classroom. Learning is repeatedly interrupted, stilted or stopped altogether.
Effective communication is limited or non-existent. It is far harder to access the parts of the brain that enable clear communication when stress is the overriding force in the mind/body. Learning is less likely to be positively facilitated if the teacher is under par. When teachers resort to shouting as a means of communication, there is little doubt that productivity, respect and control (both self-control and classroom management) is lost. This is not quality teaching. There is no space for fun, creativity, rapport building, healthy interaction or learning. Teachers and students both lose. Relationships are key to productive, progressive learning. You know from your own family, that without happy healthy relationships, there is no hope of honest, open communication, respectful attitudes, kind behaviour or constructive support. There is no room to grow, develop or understand how to be assertive rather than reactive,aggressive or passive aggressive.
Stress weakens the immune system. Low immune system means sickness. Sickness leads to teacher absence. Long term unaddressed stress equals long term absence. Teacher absence generates extra workload for colleagues, a disrupted curriculum and inadequate learning. Financial implications are obvious. A school with low staff retention rates generates low levels of quality learning. This is costly for the school’s budget and reputation, the tax payer, the remaining staff and most importantly the student.
Teaching at its best arises from healthy teachers who are well rested, open minded, clear thinking and compassionate towards the challenges of learning. A Mindful teacher is fully present, able to support and encourage whilst simultaneously challenge their students to reach beyond expectations or self doubt. Relaxed teachers are flexible teachers. Flexible teachers are more likely to be resilient. Their ability to bounce back after interruption, disruption or situations out of their control (Jonny setting off the fire alarm, Jenni crying because her mum is seriously ill or Oli punching Ryan for looking at him “funny”) is the key to managing the inevitable stress of holding the energy of groups of young people and endeavouring to engage them in subjects that may not rock their world.
Quality teaching is the result of having an underlying structure that supports both the learner and the teacher. If the structure does not allow space to breathe for those within in it, the inhabitants are sure to suffocate. Well-being for teachers (and students) is not a fluffy, nice to have. It’s not a luxury for the end of term and it should not be seen as a bolt on or added extra. Well-being in schools is a fundamental pre-requisite for healthy, constructive and productive quality teaching and learning. Both students and teachers need to be supported, fit and well to be inspired and inspiring.
Felicia Huppert, Professor of Psychology and Director of the Well-Being Institute at Cambridge University describes how economic growth is not the only indicator of progress for many governments. Citizen well-being is now growing to be accepted as equally important. Well-being is not just about happiness. It is much more than this. It is about living life well, developing ourselves and our full potential; developing relationships with ourselves and others and contributing to our society, our world. This is “flourishing!”
The UN High Level Meeting on Happiness and Well-Being (April 2012) advocates a new economic paradigm with well-being at its core. Why would education not do the same? Flourishing teachers inspire students to flourish. Flourishing teachers create the foundations for learning to flourish. Flourishing leaders in education enable teachers to live a balanced life inside and outside school, which in turn delivers an implicit message that teachers and their well-being are valued and valuable. Flourishing schools provide the bedrock for balanced perspectives, balanced approaches, balanced attitudes and balanced living – for all. What are you doing to ensure your teachers are fit, well and flourishing?
You can read more about Kathryn’s work in her new book, Every Teacher Matters. There is also further information on her website: http://kathrynlovewell.com/
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Welcome to the National Teacher Enquiry Network Easter 2013 newsletter. In this issue:
- The Stimulating Physics Network, David Cameron, Manger of the Institute of Physics’ Stimulating Physics Network, explains how their national network works.
- Point of view: we should have less cross-curricular CPD, Tessa Matthews, English Teacher and blogger has a strong view about effective CPD.
- Point of view: in defence of cross-curricular CPD, Alex Quigley, Subject Leader of English at Huntingdon School and blogger, puts the opposing case.
- Why is well-being for teachers so important?, Kathryn Lovewell, former teacher, now a well-being and emotional resilience consultant, explains why it is important to pay attention to teacher stress and happiness.
- Improving the teaching profession, David Weston, TDT Chief Executive, considers some potential ways to improve the structure of the teaching profession.
We would also like to announce two new audit & consultancy services – look out for our special Early Bird discounts for those booking before May:
- Optimise your professional development, TDT can audit your school’s CPD policies and practices and help you engage staff and improve pupil learning and attainment using best-practice approaches.
- Optimise your Pupil Premium spending, we can evaluate your school’s Pupil Premium spending and advise you on the research-led approaches to reducing the attainment gap for children on Free School Meals while incorporating outstanding CPD to ensure all staff get engaged.
Please click the links for more information and get in touch if you have questions. You may be interested in browsing additional article from our October half term, December and February half term newsletters.
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