School leaders are going above and beyond to support their staff: providing up-to-the-minute communication, rotas that take into account people’s personal situations, words of encouragement and a lightening of workload.
But who is supporting leaders? Who is looking out for the headteachers? The principals? The ones who are having to make the difficult – if not impossible – decisions? The ones who the buck stops with?
In an ideal world, there are plenty of people who can and should be providing support.
The ring theory suggests that around a person in crisis there are concentric circles containing people at different points of proximity to them. The idea is that you “support in, dump out” – you support the people closest to the epicentre (the person in crisis) and you vent your own emotions to those furthest away.
But the Covid-19 pandemic has set us all more or less in the centre of the ring. As such, we are all trying to support each other as we go through the different emotions that inevitably come with a crisis like this one. It is therefore not only those who might be "above" a school leader who can be providing support right now. Anyone could provide support to their leaders.
So what can you do to help?
How to help SLT
If you’re a teacher or a member of support or admin staff who has experienced great leadership over the last two weeks, why not make your appreciation for this known?
Honestly, 99.9 per cent of school leaders will be absolutely chuffed to read or hear a quick message of affirmation. There is no need for anything more than a few thoughtful words. Knowing that the people you are trying your hardest to lead think that you are doing a good job is a fantastic motivator to keep on keeping on.
For those reading this who have a friend or a family member who is a school leader, please know that these last few weeks have been very difficult.
Educational staff are not being seen widely as being frontline staff, despite being classed as key workers, yet school leaders have been called upon to make really hard decisions which impact on the health and wellbeing of hundreds and thousands of children and staff members.
Words of encouragement
So, reach out to your friend who is a headteacher. Ensure you ask your deputy head partner if they need to chat through the last couple of weeks. Pick up the phone to your best mate who is a school leader and lend them your ear.
Of course, school leaders can also support each other. Governors, executive principals and fellow headteachers are hopefully staying in touch, comparing notes and discussing best practice for the testing times we find ourselves in. If you are a school leader and can find or provide mutual support then the solidarity to be found in talking to those in a similar situation could just give you the extra bit of juice you need to continue in your quest to be a great school leader.
Lastly, parents, grandparents, carers, children even, please consider your school’s leaders as you slave away at home attempting to teach your children in the kitchen. A quick word of encouragement via email would certainly not go amiss – I know that in our school these messages when they do come are shared with the whole staff team and certainly bring a little bit of brightness into a gloomy situation.
Why not set your children a task of writing a letter to a leader at their school? It will be these things that are treasured for a long time to come – the kind of gesture that really fills a headteacher’s tank and allows them to move forward, always putting the children and staff first.
Aidan Severs is a deputy head at a primary school in the North of England. He tweets @thatboycanteach