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Sunday, 30 April 2017

What is your back story?

Teaching is an important profession and as cheesy as that sounds teachers really do have a huge impact upon the future of those that they teach. For a huge amount of teachers teaching is also a vocation, a calling, something they know they were meant to do. For those teachers who do not consider themselves vocational teachers teaching is still more than just a Monday to Friday, 8 hours a day job. The evidence for this can be seen all over social media and, if you look closely, in the pound shops and discount stores, in charity shops and in the stationary aisle of all well known supermarkets. 
But teachers are also real life people, people with lives outside of teaching, people with a back story. This is so often forgotten by politicians, by school leaders and even by themselves. Teaching is a profession that lends itself to an almost Jekyl and Hyde existence with teachers really living in that stock cupboard where their pupils think they live.
But in times when the importance of mental health and wellbeing are finally in the spotlight teachers need to feel free to share their backstory, reveal themselves as human beings, the people they really are warts and all. It is a scary thought I know. I can hear a lot of the teachers reading this inhaling deeply and saying 'What?' 'Are you mad?' 'No way!' But it is important for many reasons:

  • Teachers mental health - talking and sharing is one of the most powerful ways to maintain good mental health and wellbeing. That means talking about themselves, their feelings, thoughts being honest 'I'm having a bad day today' not talking about resources, books etc. 
  • Sharing a back story with others helps remind them that teachers are complex human beings like everybody else, with many vast and varied experiences outside of teaching and that these experiences can enhance what they do, not diminish it. 
  • It enables others to feel free to share their story opening up a really valuable dialogue which can lead an open, understanding culture. One that values, understands and recognises teachers on good days and bad.
  • Back stories do not just relate to mental health but also physical health and can be all manner of things from climbing mountains to deep sea diving. They are varied, complex, happy, sad, individual and often inspiring.
It is important to remember that having a back story does not make for a weaker person or a bad teacher. It actually shows that they have got where they are, as a result of or even despite of, their experiences. This is a powerful message, an example of the values set out in schools all around the country: Determination, hard work, resilience, compassion, kindness, teamwork ... and to their pupils they are rock stars. 
So what's your back story? Check out my other twitter handle to get part of mine @pituitarydi

Saturday, 1 April 2017

Finally Got My Mojo Back

This blog has, in part, been inspired by #teacher5aday. 

I have been tweeting and blogging professionally for a few years. I see Twitter as professional development. It has provided me with hundreds of ideas and no end of inspiration. I have connected with fellow teachers from around the world and have been privileged to get an insight into their classrooms. My blog was a way of sharing my thoughts and ideas. It was intended to share the things that mattered to me about teaching, the things I was doing in my class that I hoped would help my fellow tweachers. It was a hopeful, upbeat forum brimming with ideas. 

But then everything changed. I stopped blogging. It is only now, looking back, from what was a very dark time, that now thanks to @martynreah,  #teacher5aday and @mr_patel100 and @thebodycoach that I can finally blog again. 

So what went wrong? Firstly the huge changes that have happened in education that meant I felt cynical about the future. It all started with a man called Gove! I am sure you get the gist. Then an event in my school which resulted in a very, very difficult 18 months for our whole school community. Next Twitter itself, Twitter  can be such a positive place but can also at times be judgemental, isolating and very negative. Finally, my own physical and mental health. I have lived and struggled with hypopituitarism for the past 12 years. It is a challenging condition which has many side effects including weight gain, fatigue and depression. 

So what changed? Well Gove changed a lot and then left and we just have to get on. I still love teaching, I love having my own class and I have to keep going for those in my care, making the best of things for them. The problem in school was resolved eventually and an  exciting new head joined our amazing team. Twitter has improved hugely due to the #teacher5aday initiative which supports and encourages teachers positivity and well being,  @mr_patel100 provided a months worth of memories which connected teachers in a positive way via #memorymarch and @martynreah is now following this up with #stressawarenessmonth. As for my health, I have always had a 'this isn't going to beat me attitude' I have rarely taken a day off work believing that if I did I might never get back. It has been tough. But I have for the past year been seeing an amazing psychotherapist @seanorford, he has transformed my thought processes and put me on the road to rediscovering myself. Finally I came across @thebodycoach and his lean in 15. I have lost over a stone, I exercise daily, eat healthily and whilst I still have hypopituitarism, which will always be a battle, I feel better more positive and happy about myself . 

 I have a wonderful family, I work in a great school with a close team, so the future looks brighter, I can and will blog again!