We work in a caring profession. The dictionary tells us so:
plural noun: caring professions
1. a job that involves looking after other people, such as nursing, teaching, or social work.
Yet sometimes it seems as though we have lost sight of the care in our profession.
A hint of why this is might come from the response by Kevin Courtney of the NUT to the reported drop in teacher training numbers this week:
Mr Courtney said: “It’s not the hours but the nature of the work – producing evidence for bureaucrats is taking hours of teachers’ time.
“The workload is not only causing problems with people leaving, but now with people coming into the profession.”
It is hard to be caring when you have to treat tiny children as if they are data producers.
It is hard to be caring when you are working ridiculously long hours to keep up with yet more changes in the exam system.
It is hard to be caring when you are having to cover for absent staff.
But caring is what we are about. I wrote this back in October: https://lenabellina.wordpress.com/2017/10/13/what-are-we-about/
In it, I said:
“What I want, or need, to say now, is that I don’t think most schools work.
I don’t think they can, unless we commit to a fundamental shift in what they are about.
Although they are first and foremost about teaching and facilitating learning, we also have to be honest and admit that they are about caring for and looking after the most precious things in other adults’ lives.”
I am a senior leader. I would like to run a school one day.
I know that there are certain jobs that I will never get because I wear my heart on my sleeve and I put caring first and foremost in what I do.
I know that some people see me as soft / a snowflake / progressive / unrealistic… and sometimes even unprofessional because I refuse to follow directives for the sake of it. Instead, I question decisions on the basis of whether they are in the best interests of the wellbeing of children and staff. I know that having shown myself as vulnerable and having been honest and reflective about wellbeing and mental health makes some wary of me.
But I stand firm in my belief that a commitment to caring is the thing that makes us ultimately professional and the thing that will eventually mean that education can move on and allow children and staff to thrive.
Children need structure, routine and boundaries if they are to develop agency and self-regulation. But show me the evidence that shouting , humiliation or high-stakes testing have a part to play in this.
If you want evidence that a caring approach towards children is far more effective than a punitive, controlling approach then don’t just take it from me, have a look at the following:
From the amazing Beacon House Therapeutic Services and Trauma team (http://beaconhouse.org.uk)
Read every single other post on this #cultureofwellbeingDGinset platform today.
Read this by the brilliant Mary Meredith (@marymered):
And above all, read Paul Dix’s fantastic book “When the Adults Change, Everything Changes”.
Caring professionalism also takes self-care seriously.
In the medical profession, there is a clearly-stated recognition that doctor wellbeing is essentialhttps://youtu.be/We2BqmjHN0k to patient wellbeing. The Physician’s Charter, latest updated in October 2017 by The World Medical Association, contains the pledge:
“I WILL ATTEND TO my own health, well-being, and abilities in order to provide care of the highest standard.”
(I know about all of this from connecting with the inspiring Michael Farquhar (@DrMikeFarquhar) on Twitter. Mike is a Consultant in Sleep Medicine and writes passionately about the need for sensible working and sleep patterns for doctors. Read more here: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/anae.13982/full )
We lack a similar pledge within our standards for teacher registration in Scotland. The only reference to wellbeing in our Standards appears in 3.2.2 “demonstrate a secure knowledge and understanding of the wellbeing indicators” and this relates to pupil wellbeing.
The education of our children is not something to be taken lightly.
Having teachers who are able to be nurturing, calm, positive, realistically optimistic and caring for children is vital. One of the greatest things we can achieve as adults working with children is to be positive, caring wellbeing role-models.
Do you need some support around your own well-being? Then check out some of the great groups on Twitter such as @HealthyToolkit (https://healthyteachertoolkit.wordpress.com/) or @teacher5aday.
Dr Suzanne Zeedyk, a research scientist who specialises in the impact of attachment and connection, talks about our society undergoing a “revolution in kindness” towards children.
Join that revolution. Dare to care too.