Comparing your teacher self with social media

I have been a school leader/head teacher for a lot of years now. At the very start of my leadership career I was allocated a mentor to support me in my new headship-it was really useful to have someone to sound off against and to ask advice. In later years I have been an advocate for using social media to perform a similar role. At the start it was good to help me handle the imposter syndrome that seems to come with the headship role……But things feel like they have changed and social media feels like an unhealthy place to be sometimes.

There never used to be this level of competition between schools and settings. There never used to be this level of traffic on social media saying how great you could be if you used “X” or that you’re not a great teacher unless you’ve displayed in this way or that way or marked using this method or that method. In many ways twitter and other social media sites have become a method by which schools and professionals advertise how wonderful life is in their world and this attracts both professionals and parents! But this can add pressure!

There is even a 5am club for teachers! I suppose you could argue that it gives support for those teachers already awake at 5am and already working-but what are those teachers doing working at 5am???!! Be asleep, be eating breakfast with your family, but why are you even thinking about work at 5am? That is not healthy. It may well be a result of a pressured career that we are awake and worried but we should not be advertising it as an acceptable lifestyle choice!

All this worries me…. #education talk on twitter can be really useful for advice, support or a sounding board-BUT sometimes it does more harm than good -as social media can do by giving a completely false sense of normal!

In many cases there may be absolutely nothing wrong with the way in which your school operates-what’s right for you might not be for others-remember individuality and how schools could be different? You do not need to be using yet another assessment proforma-created by someone else if the one your school is using is doing the job. You do not need to be using the latest gadget pen for your marking-just make sure your feedback is good and that it has impact upon the students. You do not need to be using another new method of developing “X” learning if the “X” learning in your class is coming on well (all of this of course is subject to your school’s leadership-there may be whole school initiatives that need to be developed and then yes, it is important to all sing together-but don’t let social media pressure be the driver).

The point I am making (and this is from personal experience) is that comparing yourself with other teachers in other settings (who potentially have a social media persona that could be not quite sold as seen) can be a really bad thing to do. School leaders-comparing your school with others can be a really negative thing to do-you rarely get the full picture.

I am not a social media expert. I am no #edutwitter expert. I know what works in my school and with my staff and most importantly for our children). I love teaching and enjoy the days that I spend actually teaching our children. I know that I have felt worse by comparing my school or myself with others in different settings and different contexts. I have felt the competition as I see that there seems to be better teachers, better leaders and better schools all over social media. As I wrote this I began wonder who my target audience was-I began to realise that I wasn’t just aiming this at school leaders-heads and leaders everywhere are constantly hearing that other schools do it better somewhere-it wasn’t just for NQTs entering a career with wide eyes-it wasn’t just for exhausted teachers at all stages of their careers (who all want what’s best for their pupils.) It wasn’t just aimed at MAT leaders who feel the competition with other MATs to keep staff and pupil numbers-It was aimed at everyone who works in our schools-regardless of their academy status, regardless of their key stage or their phase…. 

So I guess my advice could be…..

👍🏻Don’t compare yourself with others-regardless of your position or where you are in your career. It’s not going to make you happy and may make you feel that the grass is greener-leading to a forced move, or even worse-leading you to think that you are not good enough. Imagine making a career move based upon a heightened feeling of missing out?! You can change your setting by being the change you want to see-you don’t need to move sometimes. You are not missing out. Take your time. Breathe and know that you are good enough-if it aint broke, don’t try to fix it-if it needs adjustment-school leaders, please make them gentle adjustments and maintain a consistency.

👍🏻Don’t feel that after reading a twitter post-you’re not good enough-you are! You don’t have to compare you with anyone else-remember that things are not quite what they seem.

👍🏻Don’t be in competition-just be real, your staff and your children will appreciate that a whole lot more.

👍🏻Getting up early and tweeting and blogging as well as teaching is exhausting-is it going to make you a better teacher? (More importantly-is it going to take away time when you should be present and with your family-if it is, stop!)

👍🏻Don‘t think about school when you should be present with your family and friends

👍🏻Don’t over think or worry-I know what you’re like! 😜

👍🏻Do what your students need-not what others think your students need-you are the expert in your class (if your a school leader-you are the expert in your school) -you are the barometer by which the pace and challenge in your room/school is set. Be present and do what they need you to do.

👍🏻Enjoy your job-it is a job-the creative, fun bits are ace!

👍🏻Put down #edutwitter and enjoy being in the best career in the world

👍🏻If you carry on comparing yourself with the mythical magicians on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram etc-you will never be satisfied and rarely be happy-there will always be something that you have seen that you wish you were better at or something that you think you could be doing or something you could be trying or thinking about-its ok to stop!

👍🏻Please remember that the most important thing in your school is the relationships that are created between the staff, each other and the pupils. It’s the moments and the memories. To do that-you need to be present in the now.

👍🏻Why are you still reading this? I understand the irony of this being an online blog post!

👍🏻Go put the kettle on! 

Please, for the good of the community, use social media responsibly……

Dear all

Tricky message to write and I’ve waited a few hours to compose it….

Social media can be great. Platforms such as Facebook and Twitter allow such powerful communication and the sharing of information but in some cases it can cause upset. 

This has happened to our school.

There are a few Facebook pages set up by parents in different year groups. I guess this was so that they could keep in touch as new parents and have the reassurance of other parents that they were not missing anything and keeping up with the pace of the school-a nice idea. Unfortunately there have been times where some parent messages have got negative about the school and even personal about members of staff-and that’s where social media isn’t doing what it should. 

The staff work hard for your children. They go above and beyond and give their all for the families. It is not a career for the money-it is a calling to help families and enable children to learn and develop. They do not need a public message that could undermine their professionalism or hurt them personally. A public rant is not the way to sort out issues. A meeting, a call, an email could get the issue resolved quietly and serves to support not destroy relationships. 

Our school is financially struggling as are all schools nationally with a lack of funding and we are managing our staff on a shoestring budget. We can not afford anything more than we have until pupils numbers grow-because of this some of our work relies on staff good will-and this comes from positive relationships.

Posts have been made that were not nice about specific staff members-these posts made on other Facebook sites have been shared with staff. We know that this is not the view of all parents-but it is messages like these that damage the relationships we are working hard to build and these recent ones will take time to recover from. You can see how staff good will could be damaged when there is a possibility of a hurtful and public social media post being made. Relationships are fragile and it takes parents, staff, governors, pupils and parents to make our school strong! 

So if you have a worry or a concern or an issue that you or your child is unhappy about please contact the school through the right channels. Talk about it with us. 

We all want what’s best for your children. We all work hard for our children. We should be all on the same team for our children. 

Thank you.

RPS identified as a one of the 32 national DfE English hubs

Roade Primary School is very proud to announce that we have been selected by the Department of Education as one of only 32 English Hubs across the country identified due to our high standards of phonics and early literacy. In announcement made by Education Secretary Damian Hinds yesterday-a new initiative has been launched where schools will take the lead in suporting the development of reading, phonics no early literacy across regionalised areas. The hubs are to act as lead schools and support the work and practice in other settings. As you will see from the attached email from the DfE we are the only school in Northants to be identified as an English Hub. Exciting times for our school and a real pat on the back for the hard work of the staff and pupils at Roade. We look forward to the next steps! 
Subject: English Hubs – Official announcementDear Hub School, 

I am pleased to announce that the Secretary of State for Education, Rt Hon. Damian Hinds MP, has announced the 32 English Hubs today. This has also been announced on our website with the list of all Hub schools:

The official press notice is available here:–2

You are now able to announce this locally.

Looking forward to working together on this. 

Kind Regards, 

English Hubs Programme Team

Each class is a different author….

As you know our passion for reading at Roade is incredible. We’ll do anything to encourage our children to read more and to find that special writer that engages them and feeds their imagination. So this year each class is named after a special author. You and your child could take a little time to find out about each one and share their books. Pay close attention to your child’s author-they will play quite a role this year! 

Here is a list of the classes and their author name-a bit of background information so that you are ahead of the game when it comes to sharing these stories with your young bookworms! 

Mrs Roff Reception class- AHLBERG.

So many wonderful stories! Not just for our younger readers-these are fantastic for readers of all ages. The Jolly Postman is incredibly cleaver!! 

Janet and Allan Ahlberg were a British married couple who created many children’s books, including picture books that regularly appear at the top of “most popular” lists for public libraries. They worked together for 20 years until Janet died of cancer in 1994. Allan wrote the books and Janet illustrated them. Allan Ahlberg has also written dozens of books with other illustrators.

Miss Penney Reception class- CARLE

The awesome and classic very hungry caterpillar and so many more! 

Eric Carle is an American designer, illustrator, and writer of children’s books. He is most noted for The Very Hungry Caterpillar, a picture book that has been translated into more than 62 languages and sold more than 46 million copies, which is equivalent to 1.7 copies sold every minute since it was published. Since it was published in 1969 he has illustrated more than 70 books, most of which he also wrote, and more than 145 million copies of his books have been sold around the world. In 2003, the American Library Association awarded Eric Carle the biennial Laura Ingalls Wilder Medal (now called the Children’s Literature Legacy Award), a prize for writers or illustrators of children’s books published in the U.S. who have made lasting contributions to the field.

Mrs Collison Year 1 class- MILNE

Quite simply-the genius that invented Pooh! 

Alan Alexander Milne was an English author, best known for his books about the teddy bear Winnie-the-Pooh and for various poems. Milne was a noted writer, primarily as a playwright, before the huge success of Pooh overshadowed all his previous work. Milne served in both World Wars, joining the British Army in World War I, and was a captain of the British Home Guard in World War II.

Miss Humphrey/Mrs Wizard Year 2 class- DAHL

The legend….

Roald Dahl was a British novelist, short story writer, poet, screenwriter, and fighter pilot. His books have sold more than 250 million copies worldwide. Born in Wales to Norwegian immigrant parents, Dahl served in the Royal Air Force during the Second World War. He became a flying ace and intelligence officer, rising to the rank of acting wing commander. He rose to prominence as a writer in the 1940s with works for both children and adults, and he became one of the world’s best-selling authors. He has been referred to as “one of the greatest storytellers for children of the 20th century”. His awards for contribution to literature include the 1983 World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement, and the British Book Awards’ Children’s Author of the Year in 1990. In 2008, The Times placed Dahl 16th on its list of “The 50 greatest British writers since 1945”.

Mrs Lamb Year 2 class- POTTER

Yes, responsible for that naughty Peter rabbit! 

Helen Beatrix Potter was an English writer, illustrator, natural scientist, and conservationist best known for her children’s books featuring animals, such as those in The Tale of Peter Rabbit. Born into an upper-class household, Potter was educated by governesses and grew up isolated from other children. She had numerous pets and spent holidays in Scotland and the Lake District, developing a love of landscape, flora, and fauna, all of which she closely observed and painted.

Mr Warden Year 3/4 class- SIMON

This author invented the shocking character Horrid Henry-phew, glad we don’t have any children like him at Roade! 

Francesca Isabella Simon is an American author living in London, who is mostly known for writing the popular Horrid Henry series of children’s books.

Mr Glbey Year 3/4 class- SEUSS

The wild, the whacky Dr Seuss with his fantastical books full of wild imaginatios! And if you think that these books are just for kids you obviously haven’t read “Oh the places you’ll go!” 

Theodor Seuss “Ted” Geisel was an American children’s author, political cartoonist, poet, animator, screenwriter, filmmaker, and artist, best known for his work writing and illustrating more than 60 books under the pen name Dr. Seuss. His work includes many of the most popular children’s books of all time, selling over 600 million copies and being translated into more than 20 languages by the time of his death.

Mr Wilson Year 3/4 class- WALLIAMS 

David Edward Williams OBE known professionally as David Walliams, is a British comedian, actor, author, and presenter known for his partnership with Matt Lucas on the BBC One sketch show Little Britain.

Walliams is also a writer of children’s books. He has sold more than 25 million copies and his books have been translated into 53 languages. He has been described as “the fastest growing children’s author in the UK” and his literary style has been compared to that of Roald Dahl.

Mrs Albert/Miss Finch Year 5 class- LEWIS

Once a king or queen of Narnia, always a King or queen of Narnia….

Clive Staples Lewis was a British novelist, poet, academic, medievalist, philosopher, literary critic, essayist, lay theologian, broadcaster, lecturer, and Christian apologist. He held academic positions at both Oxford University (Magdalen College, 1925–1954) and Cambridge University (Magdalene College, 1954–1963). He is best known for his works of fiction, especially The Chronicles of Narnia.

Lewis wrote more than 30 books which have been translated into more than 30 languages and have sold millions of copies. The books that make up The Chronicles of Narnia have sold the most and have been popularised on stage, TV, radio, and cinema. 

Miss East Year 6 class- SHAN

Experience the darker side in year 6-here comes Darren Shan. 

Darrenn O’Shaughnessy, who commonly writes under the pen name Darren Shan, is an Irish author. Darren Shan is the main character in O’Shaughnessy’s The Saga of Darren Shan young adult fiction series, also known as the Cirque Du Freak series. He followed that up with The Demonata series and the stand-alone books, Koyasan and The Thin Executioner. Then came The Saga of Larten Crepsley which is a prequel to The Saga of Darren Shan. He has most recently finished a 12 novel series “Zom-B”. The first book went on sale in September 2012, with the final book, Zom-B Goddess, published in April 2016

Mr Taylor Year 6 class- ROWLING

The magical, the mystical, the wonderful……

Joanne Rowling, CH, OBE, FRSL, FRCPE writing under the pen names J. K. Rowling and Robert Galbraith, is a British novelist, philanthropist, film and television producer and screenwriter best known for writing the Harry Potter fantasy series. The books have won multiple awards, and sold more than 500 million copies, becoming the best-selling book series in history.They have also been the basis for a film series, over which Rowling had overall approval on the scripts and was a producer on the final films in the series.

So please help your child discover these writers and as many more as you can! There is nothing better than getting a hot book tip from one of the pupils. I got a sure fire awesome tip from a year 7 returning student today and can’t wait to get stuck in! Stories, reading, imaginations and adventures make the stars shine that little bit brighter and fire inspirations. Let’s aim high and reach for the sky! 

Looking after the jugglers 

I’ll start this blog with an apology. I am sorry to everyone for the way I was at the end of the summer term. I am sorry to the children who were brilliant to the end (and those year 6 children leaving are just awesome-and will be missed!) to the staff who never stop giving, caring, nurturing and pushing our school in to even bigger, more wonderful things,  to the lovely parents who just wanted to say thank you, goodbye and have a lovely summer, to the governors who keep a firm hand on our tiller and make this ship move in the direction it should. I am sorry to you all. I wasn’t myself.

We had OFSTED in the last week of term. Monday lunchtime call, Tuesday visit all day. This unexpected grenade into an already busy week of end of year/term stuff at the end of a year that has caused more stress and more problems than it should was a serious kaboom. Staff were as ever brilliant and did what needed to be done. Children were-as ever-awesome. I led the school through the inspection and out the other side and on to end of term bbqs, productions, assemblies, goodbyes until the Friday of that week. You really don’t know that your under stress until it’s too late. I was frazzled. I was stressed. I was run down by the relentlessness of the year and the explosive ending to it all. 

As school leaders we are the jugglers in the circus, the plate spinners-who, with relentless monitoring and careful encouragement keep all the balls in the air and the plates spinning. On the Friday the tiredness of everything took over. There wasn’t one straw that broke this camel, there were a few bits-things so small that individually they are not worth mentioning, but on that Friday all my plates, juggling balls and even the big top came down. A parent chose to use the end of term to “forcefully” put me in my place, the admin team needed some things doing before the end of term, there were other bits-you know, the usual pressure things-it would have been fine any other time…..but strangely not this time. I ended up locking myself in the toilet to get a breather. It had all become too much

Staff saw me upset-something I try not to show as a leader, they were lovely-that made it worse in a way. The response from the admin team was rightly upset with me-I own my reactions- I responded badly-it was not great. Everything ended and we all went our separate ways. I spent the summer break upset with myself and stressed-then started to think about how I can make this job manageable. The pressure on being the leader that you want to be, the pressure that I certainly put upon myself-let alone the external pressures from everything around you push and pull you in directions that -for the most part-are not the direction the school or staff need to move in. These are the juggling balls, these are the plates-and I have realised that they cannot all be in the air at the same time. 

So what have I learned about myself and where my leadership must go-for me, my health and for the betterment of the school and staff? I don’t know of many successful leaders who aren’t reflective and haven’t experienced at least one “dark night of the soul”. I have to make changes. Here are my September New Years resolutions!

1. Ensure that my timetable is as important as every class timetable and there is time to actually do the work I have set out to do. To build in capacity for issues to arise-“things” are always going to crop up, parents will need appointments, there will be emergencies and decisions need to be made, the school needs the monitoring and guidance-but things can be done partly on our terms and there needs to be some control on how accessible a leader is to the needs of everyone else. I have found that being too accessible can lead you to be taken advantage of, but the trick is to not cheese people off by being too removed. Close but distant enough to be able to achieve what need to be done. 

2. Be honest with myself and others. Last term with the OFSTED added to an already over loaded term I should have taken a little time to be honest with those around me and told them that I was struggling and that I needed help. I do not expect anyone apart from another actual headteacher sat in the chair day to day to sympathise with the pressure and the stress element. There are more stressful jobs, but headship is up there I am sure. I can’t really explain the feelings of self doubt, pressure, dread and fear that go with the head’s chair. The art of the juggler is to put as many balls in the air as you feel comfortable with and put the others on the side until there is space to add them. Let others know that their ball will be up there with the others when you have chance to do so. Sometimes it’s ok to say no-just occasionally!

3. Remember that I am only human, but then, so is everyone else. Everyone carries their stresses and worries, so be careful how you tread. Treat others as you’d like to be treated, but don’t own everyone else’s problems and don’t get involved if it doesn’t require my involvement. Micro-management will kill me, the creativity and the natural growth of a school. As a beast it needs to grow and change-I can’t control everything. Shared responsibility with others and sharing the burden is crucial, but I am always mindful that I am ultimately responsible. I do however have a full point. We all do. I have spent the last few years of headship trying to keep the work load on my staff to a manageable level-in spite of growing demands placed upon those in the teaching profession and those battling the school business management.  I’d rather do things myself than give any more work to my already hardworking staff-but there comes a point. 

4. Set deadlines with others. A set end point for things to be completed by is vital to keep everything and everyone moving forward. The tricky bit is that everyone has different personal timescales. If as a school we agree the timescales and deadlines and we agree to hold ourselves and each other to them then we all know what’s coming up and when it is to be achieved by. This reduces the surprise bonus extra tasks that can push others over the edge. It enable leaders to spread the workload for all staff so that it all doesn’t come at the same time. This does require everyone to buy into a shared responsibility-when others miss a deadline it causes a knock on effect to others. 

5. Be healthy and well. I made myself ill-not the school, there’s no one else to blame for this apart from me, my passion, need, desire to do a good job and not be found out! After six weeks of rest and reflection (and yes, I have been into school in that time and done a few hours/days-but I have had some time away) I’m ready to go back. This time it took me all that time to get my head in the right place. Being a leader in a school does not mean that you are bullet proof. Take time to be away from school and with family and friends. Reenergise. I have been a headteacher for many years and I believe the pressure is at its worse right now. Now more than ever it is vital that there is some kind of balance. For me by the summer break it was too late. I had a realisation that for years that I had been trying to prove something to someone-in competition with all the other amazing heads and leaders in the county and on Twitter. There is always someone or a school somewhere that inspires and challenges you, but you can’t do everything. Be recognised for doing your own thing-your school must find its own mojo. In the meantime I will balance my work with the really important things-my own family, friends, gym, reading, music, trips, visits and catching up with those friends that mistakenly I have been too busy, too busy for or too focused on work for. 

I could list another few lessons learned this year, but 5 balls or plates in the air is enough for any blog. It has been cathartic to write it down, but the proof of the pudding will be in the implementing of a sensible and manageable work tempo that doesn’t upset others around me. Trust me-I’m juggling lots already, I’ll do what I can, but if I take on too much I will fall and then so will all the balls. Please don’t think of me as rude if I say no-occasionally. 

Have a great start to the term everyone and to all those jugglers out there-you are incredible, you are doing a great job, but don’t throw up too many more balls, make sure you can keep all those that you have in the air at the same time. 

Healthy Living

5HE have had a busy morning of football tasters and the option to try different fruits and juices. We also had a shock when we found out how much sugar was in the food and drinks we enjoy! Here are some highlights!

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