This term when it eventually crawls to an end will have lasted for 15 weeks. The upcoming term (thankfully), will only be 11 weeks.
For the first time in my 10 years of teaching I am noticing a real sense of severe exhaustion. To be honest, I do not feel anymore physically tired than I normally do after a typical 65 hour week. (Which includes my 2.5 hour commute to and form work.) But, I am definitely feeling more mentally tired. This is resulting in me being grumpier than normal. Me being less patient than usual. Me not being as jovial, as supportive or as enthused as one may expect.
This naturally affects our young people that we teach. Who are also feeling even more petrified of their home situations than they would before any other holiday?
Christmas, irrespective of your faith is about giving, receiving, sharing? It is about being together, as a family. Before I met Kelly, (whose parents house we go to every christmas now). My family and I as a traditional Muslim household all had a family meal together. All of us would be off work, so we used it as an opportunity to relax, unwind and enjoy each others company. (They still do this!)
However, what about those students whose parents will not be there for their children? Do not automatically assume it is the disadvantaged students this applies to only.
Christmas thought: Never substitute presence with presents. pic.twitter.com/CoDlEGjXQ7
— Amjad Ali (@ASTsupportAAli) December 1, 2015
Also, what about those parents who will be angry at their children? Drunk/high? HAVE to work really difficult hours?
Or any of these for the students experiencing one of more of these difficulties- click here to read more…
Society has created the idea that we must be happy and loving/loved during the Christmas period. If we are not, then there must be something wrong with us, right? Imagine hearing as a child other children moaning about having to spend time with their families and their extended families. When you can not and do not.
What about hearing others say they hate getting presents they will not like!
Or, about all the presents they will be getting.
That is tough!
We can empathise? Can we sympathise?
Ultimately, this is how many of our students are currently feeling. Multiply that with us feeling grumpier, well run down and more stressed than expected. That doesn’t create a good mix.
So, my plea in this final week; be more accepting than normal, be more calm than normal, be more loving than normal? Because, for some, you may be all they have. For those that will not win the christmas dinner served by SLT, the Christmas movie/cinema night, the attendance award, the outstanding effort prize and so on. They are also children, who need affection and a sense of achievement.
Here is a great website that you can suggest to your students. Print their posters out and leave them above/alongside/on mirrors, in toilets, in subtle places. Do not create a noticeboard, where it is obvious that you are looking for support.
Changes are difficult for many of us, but especially for an autistic child, so if you are planning a christmas quiz, a party, something else, then pre-warn them. Let them know! If your students’ have ADHD and you are planning on filling the students up with lots of sugar too. Then be prepared!
What about us?
There are many practices we have been putting in place to help staff feel valued before the end of this term.
- Christmas Dinner– We off a free christmas dinner for all staff with the students at the end of term. All the usual trimmings- crackers, hats and so on! Our chicken is all Halal so, all faiths can participate!
- A support staff special lunch (they can also attend the above christmas dinner!)- We bring food to them, we invite them all together and sit and enjoy each others company.
- An unsung hero and going the extra mile award. The head asks for nominations from all staff and rewards each nominee and the two winners. The power of a thank you is so vital. It is one of many butterflies that Sir Tim Brighouse shares with us.
- I asked staff what resource they would really like in their departments and after a suggestion of a visualiser, @IPEVO kindly donated us these USB/VGA HD document cameras, which I am giving to each faculty. (Every little helps!)
— Amjad Ali (@ASTsupportAAli) December 11, 2015
- Staff shout out board has continued to be updated! Although I seem to just get abuse on it! 🙂
- Free Flu jabs for all colleagues! These were organised from 7am to 5pm to give everyone the chance to get one done!
- We have a qualified HR manager who is available for all staff and we offer counsellor and supervision sessions for any colleague that may require it.
- Say Thanks. Sir Tim Brighouse used to spend two hours of week writing to his staff across his schools saying thanks.
- Authorised leave– for family occasions/graduations/weddings etc. This is ultimately up to the Head Teacher. We have an extremely supportive one here, who will help recognise these milestones/qualifications! The option to make up time in leiu, take unpaid or flexi time is vital in an organisation.
- Weekly Staff Tea– here each department(s) including SLT, all make cakes, buy treats and serve tea to all other colleagues. This is held in the staff room, every Friday at the end of the day. It is always well attended and gets extremely competitive! We also have a Staff room committee that collect an annual £10 staff fund, which ensures end of term drinks, nibbles and presents to all staff bidding us farewell!
- Duties– We pay staff to do a duty once a week along with paying for their lunch for that duty. Our canteen is also open first thing in the morning to give students and staff a hot and cold meal to start the day off! Our canteen is run by our staff, so the catering manager is extremely helpful! He will ensure there are personalised lunches available to match all dietary needs/wants!
- Water machines are available for staff! (Vending machines too, throughout the day.)
- PPA time at home? I allow some of my colleagues to go home for their PPA time, or to store up their PPA time and block it together if this is possible.
- Staff meals/end of term celebrations*
REMEMBER THESE IDEAS ARE FOR ALL STAFF. LINE MANAGERS/SLT SHOULD PARTICIPATE IN THEM TOO. YOU DO NOT WANT TO BE TOO STRESSED YOURSELF TO HELP STRESSED STAFF!
My plans: Although I m not in charge of ‘well being’, I think it is everybody’s responsibility. So I am planning a few of the following things.
- Staff Boot Camp– Fantastic Head of College- Jodie will run a fitness boot camp for staff in our brand new fitness suite.
- Work Meals– I am going to be speaking to our catering team and asking them to consider making late/early dinners for staff that need to stay behind at times to work. I do often.
- Book Club– get staff together to read and analyse books together. Does not have to be educationally related.
- Inter department team games/team building! Create a subject ambassador for each area to spread ideas. Get them to spend time in each others departments? Department open days?
- A well being buddy! See @abbieman1982 and @martynreah the gurus of staff well being.
A voucher tree– I will set up a place in the staff room for colleagues to come and leave vouchers they will not use and take vouchers they may.
- More plants! On desks? In areas?
*What are your thoughts on this? I asked this question… I must admit I am surprised so many people said NO.
SLT meal today. Then I’ll pop over to the staff pub crawl! Would you want your SLT to attend Staff Do?
— Amjad Ali (@ASTsupportAAli) December 11, 2015