Welcome to my Blog
WHAT’S GOT BIG?
So, mental health in schools has finally worked its way closer to the top of the education ‘things to do list’. It may have taken the effects of a global pandemic to highlight the necessity to address emotional well-being in schools, but now that we have a spotlight shining on it let’s make good use of the attention it has brought.
So, let’s get things rolling.
“take old school good over modern day outstanding”
So, less is more. Yep!!
- Scheme of work skeletons, left for staff to sprinkle their magic ‘lay-up lesson onto’.
- Long half population registrations from time to time to establish / confirm departmental expectations.
- Throwing a pen from a huge stash of pens you have in your drawer because the kid who has forgot his / lost his / ate his/ threw it at his mate in science hasn’t got one and if he hasn’t got one he is going to be a pain in the arse!!
- A head of year that ran an entire year group using just the words “be nice!” Nothing less, but anything more is a bonus!
- The most wonderful whole school house system that would rival Hogwarts, for that intense sense of community.
- And fixtures, fixtures, fixtures.
It wasn’t a holiday camp, but at times on a sunny day on the back filed with 120 ‘in kit’ students all playing cricket it felt like it. We worked hard at making it easy. It was easy, in a tough school, because we loved it and the kids loved being there!
For those of you who have seen it, we were a little bit like the BBC detective Luther. We did much good, but sometimes had to go around the houses to get it!
What was the secret!
We were serious about not being serious! And we laughed, a lot! With the kids, at the kids, at each other, at ourselves!!
Over time our schools have become battery farm grade factories. Lesson after lesson of robotic formalised approaches in an objective driven five-hour existence. Moving from period to period, break, then lunch, then home.
Teachers given scripted lesson openers, restricted behaviour systems with mono tone one size fits all sanctions.
A rather damming insight and of course a generalised one, but one that I have slowly seen develop and become the norm over a generation of students.
So where does a school start to embed a well-being culture that cares for its entire population?
If by reading this blog you wish to be led by a sentence or two on ‘How to solve stress and anxiety in schools’, I fear that I run the risk of you scrolling through, crossing off or swiping me away. Effective mental health provision will certainly require more than a few bullet points inserted into a school or college improvement plan. Mental health requires a test match mentality and not a T20 blast!
I have no out and out solution, no one size fits all, no SIMPLY DO THIS approach, but I do know of helpful and useful notions that can be explored and successfully implemented into large organisations.
The key lies in the delivery of emotional intelligence.
Imagine teaching the ability to gain an awareness and understanding of thoughts and feelings. Not just our own, but also of others around us.
Imagine teaching an understanding of how these thoughts and feelings make us feel physically.
Imagine understanding the resultant body sensation and how these somatic responses make us behave.
Imagine teaching how to regulate reactivity to our emotions and how to de-escalate undesired outcomes.
Imagine creating a ‘useful’ and ‘helpful’ pastoral vocabulary that makes the explanation of our ‘stuff’ more simple.
USEFUL, HELPFUL AND STUFF being excellent examples of this.
Eg What would be useful?
Eg What would be helpful?
Eg What ‘stuff’ do you have today?
Imagine accepted terminology known, understood and used freely between staff and students alike.
Imagine a school population who can verbalise the here and now for them, preventing the table flip, the storm out, or the verbal barrage (and that’s just in the middle leaders meeting!!)
Imagine an encouragement for the school population to not compare, but a conscious promotion of themselves to be at the centre of their own learning process.
And the insistence for individuals to grow resilience when challenged, to try, try, try again and once more if needs be.
I can. I can see one, but it involves a culture of honest, authentic and genuine exploration. To be challenged and be able to regulate our reactivity.
Breaking down our stresses and anxieties into smaller and more manageable ‘chunks’ could be the best advice I can give during this blog. For the T20, knee jerk, 37 second scrollers. (did you know that on average people take 37 seconds to decide if they want to carry on reading an article, I guess if you have got this far you are way above average or you are a bloody quick reader).
If you have skim read my ‘above’ you may have stumbled across the following bullet points and they may well become the latest improvement headings or the 6 week PSHE Mental Health scheme of work lessons. But for the more considered, the steps below may become your ideology, culture, environment shapers. Using them to create a bespoke approach to a school that only you know best.
My suggestions below, merely provide a skeleton for well-being change and the promotion of an emotionally intelligent community. Cultures just don’t arrive overnight. They need time! They grow! They gather momentum! They become sticky!
READ TIPPING POINT, by Malcolm Gladwell!!
Whole school involvement, student voice, departments, faculties, year groups, middle leaders and the courage and bravery of senior leadership pulling together to discover what is important in your school.
My points below, shape a stress and anxiety workshop and school based counselling provision that has helped to embed emotional intelligence approaches to schools. The points can assist with the writing of behavioural policies, exam stress, staff well-being policy, whole school improvements.
So here they are:
1. Identifying ‘stuff’.
Knowing your STUFF is incredibly helpful. Everybody has ‘STUFF’. What is your ‘STUFF?’ You know your ‘STUFF’. STUFF can get BIG. You know that your STUFF has got BIG as it greets us when we wake, or it is our last thought at night. It can arrive with us with a bang or creep up on us, unaddressed over time. What is your STUFF? How BIG is your STUFF?
2. Identifying HOTSPOTS and TRIGGERS.
When does your ‘STUFF’ appear? It won’t be all day, all week? Can you narrow this down to specific moments? Social time, data capture time, maths, lunch queues. What specific moment makes it a HOT SPOT? What is your TRIGGER? What happens in the lead up to your hotspot?
3. Identifying Thoughts, Feelings, Behaviours, Body Sensations.
How do you feel? What do you think? How do you behave? How does your body react to your ‘stuff’? Does it go bang? Are you numbed? How long is your fuse? Do you inhale? Do you explode out? Are you a flipper, runner, freezer?
4. Identifying Pressures.
What are your pressures? Where do they come from? Are they your pressures? Are they somebody else’s?
5. Safety Routines.
How can you regulate your reactivity to your ‘stuff’? How can you lead yourself back out of the moment? Can we turn you ON / OFF switch into a ‘dimmer switch’? Can we identify ‘notches in between ON and OFF. Out with harsh sounding ALL or NOTHING.
In with softer notions of ALL – OFTEN – SOMETIMES – RARELY - NOTHING
6. Have fun, enjoy what you do.
Have fun at school? Try and laugh at school? Be serious about not being serious… all the time!
On their own the above points simply remain only points with brief explanations as to how they may be used. With an honest approach and courage to ‘go there’, the above points may help to shape a whole school vision on how it deals with mental health with a tailored and bespoke provision.
Imagine what a wonderful place a school could be…. I do, often!!
I wish you well.