And so, the holidays are finally here. Across classrooms, staffrooms and social media, much of the talk has been of a work-free Christmas: a chance to recover from a long term and enjoy some much-needed downtime with friends and family. With Covid disruption continuing, and the potential of a new variant spreading, it’s difficult to know what the next term will bring. What is certain, is that educators will need to continue to adapt to best support students. But, with workload and resources tested to their limits over the last 21 months, how can leaders make sure that practitioner wellbeing and mindfulness is at the forefront? With a difficult year ahead, below are just some examples of the steps leaders and managers can take to make sure that teachers won’t burn out.
Evolution, not revolution
With TAG and CAG processes dominating the headlines in 2020 and 2021, there have been seismic changes to education over the last 18 months to 2 years. With such massive changes continually being made, the impact on teachers and leaders has been obvious. With online platforms such as Microsoft Teams and Google Classroom vying for supremacy, and a host of revision/ independent study/ flipped learning resources also looking to make inroads with schools and colleges, many practitioners are suffering from innovation fatigue. There are so many new strategies, innovations, programmes, timetables, pieces of tech and feedback mechanisms to use and embed into daily practice – for at least the remainder of 2021/22, it’s time to press the ‘pause’ button.
This isn’t to say that innovation should grind to a halt, just that it is now time to perfect what is being done, and not continue with any wholesale changes. By all means, remove what is not working, but introducing any new strategy or innovation in-year is likely to mean that it will fail.
The remainder of 2021/22 would better be used by consulting with practitioners and leaders (what works? What doesn’t? What should we continue to do in 2022/23? What should we get rid of?) and looking at strategic planning for next year.
Those who fail to plan…
So, if there are to be no whole-sale changes, what do we do when changes are forced upon us? Whether this takes the form of another lockdown, or simply the spread of another variant of Covid, it is likely that changes will happen through this year, as they have for each of the last two. It is equally as important, then, that leaders and managers are prepared for whatever may happen in the coming months.
With this in mind, looking back over the last 2 years is surely the best preparation. As mentioned elsewhere, with so many changes occurring over that time, there will almost certainly be elements of the last 2 years which can be used as a Plan B, for whatever occurs in the next few months. Another lockdown requiring remote learning? No problem – use the planning, resources and materials that have previously been used to continue to support students. Using this approach to resolve the coming challenges will not only mean that practitioners will be well versed in how to respond to any coming changes, but also that communication will be as clear as possible.
With workload likely to increase with any changes brought about by Covid, it’s important that leaders and managers are able to adeptly prioritise and only distribute and delegate those tasks which are absolutely vital. But how can they do this? Simple – triage. Covered recently by an ER doctor in a fascinating TED Talk, triage is the process by which doctors identify the level of priority each case is assigned. Following a RAG rating system, this system works by instantly prioritising all new patients based on risk of non-treatment and urgency of injury: a heart attack would fall under ‘red’, with a broken finger likely to fall under ‘green’.
If leaders can do this before passing tasks on to practitioners (and practitioners can then do this with their own ‘to do’ list), workload becomes much more manageable (something which is likely to be very necessary in the coming months).
Regardless of any changes we may see within education over the coming months, staff wellbeing and mindfulness must remain a priority if we are to retain experienced staff and recruit practitioners in the quantity we are likely to need over the next few years.
About the author
Jonny Kay is Head of Teaching, Learning and Assessment at a college in the North East. He has previously worked as Head of English and maths in FE and as an English teacher and Head of English in Secondary schools. He tweets @jonnykayteacher and his book, 'Improving Maths and English in Further Education: A Practical Guide', is available now.