We can build teacher resilience through teamwork

In lockdown, teachers have continued to take care of pupils both in and out of school. The psychological impact on staff has been significant, writes Megan Dixon
12th June 2020, 12:02am
We Can Build Teacher Resilience Through Teamwork
Megan Dixon

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We can build teacher resilience through teamwork

https://www.tes.com/magazine/archived/we-can-build-teacher-resilience-through-teamwork

As an acting headteacher in a small primary school, I have kept our provision open during the past few months to provide care for the children of key workers, vulnerable children and those with special educational needs or disabilities. As a staff, we did this willingly and with joy - it was a pleasure to spend time with the children and a privilege to be able to play a role at this time of crisis.

However, there was a cost.

Teachers who work in small schools are a breed apart. You cannot work in a small school without completely buying into the team. With tiny budgets that are often stretched to the limit, if something needs doing, we have to roll up our sleeves and do it ourselves - all of it, relentlessly.

What this means in reality is that there are fewer staff to share the load across. Yet in the past few months, we have been charged with doing the same amount of work as a larger primary school. So, the teachers are designing online learning experiences and posting these on our website. They are also regularly in school, caring for children, calling families, delivering lunches and learning materials and responding to emails of work completed by the children.

This has had a physical impact - we are all tired! But what of the emotional and psychological impact?

To support us, we have drawn upon two helpful guides produced by the British Psychological Society (BPS).

Coronavirus and UK Schools Closures: support and advice for schools and parents/carers is a useful guide that has helped us shape our approach to the school closure and ensure we are working as effectively as we can. We recognise, for example, that many of the children have limited access to the online resources freely available. In response, we are producing paper versions and learning packs of books, equipment and stationery for the children to complete with their parents. We deliver these with the lunches.

Meanwhile, the paper entitled Teacher Resilience During Coronavirus School Closures is helping us shape the support we offer to our staff to ensure we do whatever we can to help us remain resilient at this challenging time.

Drawing on the evidence and research on adult and teacher resilience, the paper makes a number of clear and helpful suggestions for supporting staff - in particular the importance of fostering a sense of belonging and connectedness.

It also highlights the importance of "help-seeking behaviours" at every level of the staff structure. The message is that resilience is not something we battle towards alone - it is something to cultivate with others.

As leaders, we need to remember this. We need to acknowledge the emotional as well as the physical toll of our work. And we need to remember that being part of a team - a true team, whose members supports each other at the most difficult of times - has never been more important.

Megan Dixon is a senior associate at the Education Endowment Foundation and director of English/co-director of the Aspirer Research School

This article originally appeared in the 12 June 2020 issue under the headline "Take time to emotionally support your staff"

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