Mrs Humanities

teacher . blogger . friend

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Mrs Humanities explores… how to help teachers be #PeriodProud

I must admit that this isn’t a post I ever thought I would write but my tweet last week had an unexpected response.

You see, I finally took a leap of faith and shared how much I hate having period pains whilst teaching.

I had so many responses, with a large number of female teachers sharing easily avoidable experiences if there was greater understanding and acceptance in the workplace.

When my monthly friend arrives, I get awful pains and I find it incredibly awkward and pretty challenging to carry on when all I want to do is roll up in a ball and scream or cry with sheer pain. And despite the pain, I power through with determination and try to get to the end of the lesson so I can take 5 minutes to recoup.

On occasions I’ve had to step inside my somewhat rather tight classroom cupboard and apply a heat pack, scramble for tablets in my bag and recoil through a cramp. Then I’ve heard a student ask “Where’s Mrs H?” and I pop out of the cupboard with a smile and say “I’m just in the cupboard” and the kids are none the wiser.

More recently though, the heat pack hasn’t be sufficient enough and I’ve had to borrow a hot water bottle from the school nurse. Even in a girls school I find it awkward having to hold a hot water bottle at the same time as trying to teach, all whilst my insides continue to twist and wrangle and squeeze themselves silly.

And my monthly experiences aren’t even the worst of them. In response to my tweet I received over 400 responses from female teachers of all ages. They shared their stories from period pains to accidental leaks, there were discussions of the symptoms of endometriosis to those associated with the menopause along with many other conditions or situations that make the monthly cycle a whole lot worse.

I feel ashamed that there has been many an occasion I’ve gone to write a tweet about period pains and each time I’ve got too embarrassed and deleted it. However it’s such a natural process, why are we so scared to discuss it?

We might well teach about menstruation yet as a society we still seem to hide and shy away from discussing periods and the like. It’s a shame that periods still seem to be such a taboo subject, even though at times our periods can cause great discomfort for both teachers and learners.

The Discomfort

When it comes to periods, for some the discomfort comes in the form of spasms of pain, for others it’s being unable to make it to the toilet throughout the day, and then there are those that experience such heavy flows that they experience regular paranoia associated with leaks.

Along side menstruation, there can be the symptoms of PMS/PMT too. I for one find that even whilst I’m on anti-depressants for up to 10 days before my period arrives I can become an emotional wreck. One minute my emotions can be soaring high, the next they can be diving into the depths of despair. Try handling that in the classroom with 30 odd teenagers looking at you. It’s not easy.

Further more it’s also not easy to talk about it with managers and colleagues, especially with male colleagues, mention periods and often they just want the conversation over with as quickly as possible however this could just be my experience.

On that note however I did once have a male colleague that dealt extremely well with me when I burst into the staff room in tears due to the pain, needing someone to cover me and painkillers to which he supplied some incredibly powerful pain relief (thank you Nigel M).

No Time for the Loo

One of the things that cropped up numerous times in the replies was the number of female teachers and school leaders that said they fail to make it to the toilet throughout the school day, whether it’s the time of the month or not. This can cause multiple issues due to bacterial growth such as urinary tract infections, thrush and cystitis, which could potentially lead to time off of work and disruption to learning. We must make time to go.

Breaking the Taboo

After I started to write this piece I started looking into period policies and came across this really interesting Ted Talk on the topic along with the links below.

Menstrual leave: a workplace reform to finally banish the period taboo?

Should The UK Implement a Paid Period Leave Into Work Policies? 

Period Power: Periods in the Workplace

I also think this might be a useful read:

Now I foresee a number of issues with the implementation of ‘period policies’ in schools, however I do think it’s really important that we start talking about the impacts of menstruation on our bodies. By doing so we can create a better working environment to support female workers with menstrual suffering.

How exactly we go about that on a large scale I’m unsure but I certainly believe there are small things that can be done to support female staff in schools and things we can do for ourselves too.

School leaders could:

  • Allow staff to leave the classroom between lessons to take a toilet break.
  • Create a request for support system, so that if a teacher needs to leave the room to deal with menstruation they can do so discreetly whilst another member of staff supervises for a short period of time.
  • Provide hot water bottles for staff (and students) and allow use of them in the classroom.
  • Understand that during this time some teachers may have to take to sitting down rather than wandering and interacting with students as they teach.
  • Ensure there are sufficient toilets for the number of staff (my last school had 1 toilet for about 17 members of staff).

As individuals:

  • Ensure you designate time to go to the toilet. If you have a duty, let someone know you’ll be a few minutes late or ask someone to cover for five minutes. If student’s need to see you, pop a “be right back” notice on the door. Do what you have to do to maintain your health and hygiene.
  • If you are prone to issues, discuss it with your line manager or a colleague that may be able to support you e.g. someone that could cover you for five minutes in between lessons.
  • Be prepared, keep a supply of tablets, heat patches and other comforts (I mean chocolate) in a safe and secure location e.g. a drawers, cupboard or staff room.
  • Stop just saying “it’s just my period”, accept that it can be troublesome, you might need to step away from the classroom for five minutes or more to recoup and for some that a sick day maybe required to deal with the symptoms.

I must admit, I even had trouble writing this post and after some encouragement I returned to it to adapt and finish. I hope I haven’t put off any readers in writing on such a female topic and instead perhaps it has opened the eyes of some teachers or school leaders as to what their colleagues maybe experiencing.

Feel free to add your comments on the topic and take a moment to read this poem of solidarity by @honeypisquared.

Best wishes,


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Mrs Humanities explores… How the fight against climate change is more than just school strikes and protests.

Yesterday as a number of my students chose to discuss the school strikes on climate change with me, I decided it was time to talk to them about how the fight against climate change goes far beyond policy change. That politicians, governments and world leaders aren’t the only ones that need to take action.

Starting the Discussion

When student’s asked me my thoughts I decided it was time to talk to them about behavioural change. I asked many of them to consider the actions they take to fight climate change. Many of them had little to say except we recycle.

We discussed the benefits of raising awareness through protests and strikes and that through such action we can ask for change, but it also requires us to change.

As a Geographer I teach the science, the evidence and the impacts. We touch on ecological footprints throughout and consider ways to reduce ours, we explore in detail mitigation and adaptation methods too. But I’ve forgotten to put taking action into my curriculum design.


Often I think young people feel helpless when it comes to global issues. They have little say in the matters that will concern them in the future. Take the EU referendum for instance, I’ve worked in two schools during the entire process from proposal to now, both very different contexts. However, the EU referendum intrigued the students and engaged them in politics. I remember the day the results were announced and it was all many of my students talked about for the rest of the day; many disappointed, a few pleased others just unsure. But what they understood was that their futures were influenced by the decisions of others and that they had no say in the matter. They felt angered by this. Many of my current students feel the same way.

But acting on climate change is something they can do. We need to empower young people to see that dealing with world issues isn’t beyond their control. If they want to see change in the world, they mustn’t be apathetic about it. Small changes make a big difference. Our choices influence decisions being made my others. For instance, if we start to boycott instead of supporting polluting brands, they will eventually change their ways.

Behavioural Change

Prior to training to teach I worked for several months with Global Action Plan on their EcoTeams project.

EcoTeams originated in the Netherlands in the 1990s and since then over 150,000 people have participated worldwide.

An EcoTeam is a group of householders who get together once a month over a five- to six-month period to follow a step-by-step process of manageable actions on sustainable living. Team members measure their household’s environmental impact, share their experiences and agree together on practical lasting changes.


The project involved providing workshops to EcoTeam leaders that would then set up EcoTeams in their local area. The idea being that each team would take weekly changes to their behaviour with the ultimate aim of reducing resource consumption, their ecological footprints and their environmentally detrimental behaviours.

Reflecting on the climate strikes has got me thinking about how we as teachers, school leaders and adults can support young people in changing behaviours, attitudes and ultimately influence policymakers.

Going Forward

Working in an International Baccalaureate schools means we provide opportunities for ‘Creativity, activity, service’ within the diploma and at KS4. We’ve introduced the community project to year 9’s this year and students started to explore ways of taking action in their school community.

Whilst there are plenty of extra-curricular opportunities. This has got me thinking about how to develop this into the curriculum right from year 7.

At present we are teach about energy resources in the UK and within the topic they learn about the UK’s energy mix, the pros and cons of renewables, nuclear and fossil fuels, we explore and debate fracking and consider how the UK could become a ‘Zero Carbon Britain‘. I’m now considering how we can develop activism and behavioural change into this unit.

How do you develop student actions on global issues? Would love to here more on what others are doing, feel free to leave a comment.

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Mrs Humanities explores… Staff Wellbeing Policies

I’ve had the urge this week to explore school wellbeing policies. I don’t have any particular reason to do so, it was just something that I was thinking about and wanted to investigate.

My findings came as more of a shock than I anticipated. You see if you do a google search on it, you’ll find plenty on student wellbeing but policies specifically associated with staff wellbeing, well they don’t seem to be as prominent as expected.

I started my search with ‘Teacher Wellbeing Policy‘ On the first search page I found the following:

Only one of these hits links to a policy that is in place. Just the 1!! Although there were some interesting hits on how to look after staff wellbeing and even a model wellbeing policy from NASUWT, there was a distinct lack of actuall policies.

Since I didn’t find this search of much of use, I tried ‘School Staff Wellbeing Policy‘, having considered that it’s not just about the wellbeing of teachers, but every member of school staff. Thankfully this provides more relevant hits.

The one thing I found interesting though were that over the first 3 pages of the search, only 3 out of 30 search hits were policies from Secondary schools; the majority came from Primary. Why is that? Do Primary schools focus more on staff wellbeing? Maybe they make them easier to find on their websites or just that they are more likely to make them publicly available.

Finding that most of the examples available came from Primary Schools, it got me wondering about the schools I’ve worked at. So after a bit of digging I found that out of the 5 schools, 0 have a staff wellbeing policy publicly available or perhaps they are hidden in the depths of their websites; either way I felt frustrated that schools don’t have to publicly provide a staff wellbeing policy. All of them have significant policies in regard to student wellbeing, everything from general wellbeing to safeguarding and bullying. But where were the ones for staff?

In particular, finding that one still had no publicly available staff wellbeing policy in place, actually upset me. This is because at the this school, I’d been asked to write a wellbeing policy because “you’re into that stuff”. It was only a few months later that I then experienced a breakdown due to work related stress – there are others that left under similar circumstances. I’ll let you ponder on whether there is a relationship there.


There were a few themes running through all of the policies I read.

  1. The role of different members of staff and teams in the school from the Headteacher and Governors to individual teachers and support staff.
  2. Who was responsible for the wellbeing, mental and physical health of staff
  3. The support available for all staff

What I found most interesting though was the variety in many of the policies. Some policies made the Headteacher and Governing body responsible for staff wellbeing, whilst others made it very much about the individual taking responsibility for their own health and wellbeing.

The well-being of staff is the responsibility of the Head teacher.

The well-being of the Head teacher is the responsibility of the Chair of Governors.

Holy Trinity Primary School

Some outlined how they would improve and/or promote staff wellbeing. Some examples included:

  • An afternoon treat – which involved small groups of staff taking an afternoon off to wellbeing activities such as baking, yoga, sports, a museum visit, a picnic at a country park etc. with the rest of the group
  • Headteacher lunch – staff could drop in and join the Headteacher for lunch on a series of set dates
  • Provision of facilities such as tea and coffee making equipment for free
  • Annual reviews and communication of policies and implementation of changes
  • Involving staff in the decision making process e.g. sharing school calendar before publication so staff can have their say on it
  • Provision of whole school calendars for assessment and reporting so staff can plan their workload accordingly
  • Induction processes for new staff to help them find their feet
  • Provision of relevant and suitable PD for all staff
  • Celebrating staff achievements
  • Providing refreshments and snacks before and during after-school events such as parent’s evenings or school ceremonies
  • Creating a private space for staff to take a break during their lunch and break times

Some outlined the support in place or available such as:

  • The Headteacher
  • Counselling services – face-to-face or over the phone.
  • School vicar and prayer groups
  • In-school wellbeing team
  • A staff wellbeing group
  • Human Resources
  • Occupational Health

Whilst others took a very matter of fact approach which outlined the responsibilities and roles of different stakeholders and how to proceed with concerns surrounding wellbeing, work-based stress etc. Some went on to outline the reponse that would be taken if concerns were raised or time off requested. If I’m honest, these ones left me wondering to what extent these schools support staff or discourage staff from raising concerns surrounding staff wellbeing. I guess I’d need to visit them to really gauge the answer to that.

Surprising Findings

One in particular jumped out at me where it said:

‘Individuals will assist in the development of good practice and ensure that they do not, through their actions or omissions, create unnecessary work for themselves or their colleagues”.


This statement really surprised me for several reasons.

  1. What constitutes ‘unnecessary’ work for themselves and others?
  2. How can one ensure they do not create unnecessary work?
  3. Will there be a list of ‘must-do’ and ‘don’t do’ work?
  4. What constitutes an omission?

This also got me pondering about the capability procedures associated with the actions and omissions, if you’re not contributing to the development of good practice, are you then creating further work for others? It really got me wondering.

What makes a good staff wellbeing policy?

Note: This is completely a personal consideration, I’ve not had any experience in HR or school leadership beyond HoD but I have experienced the negatives of poor work-life balance, a series of schools with different levels of consideration and support for staff. Therefore please don’t take what I say here as anything other than my opinion.

Identify aims

Firstly any staff wellbeing policy should identify what the school aims to achieve for staff overall. What does ‘wellbeing’ actually mean to the school, the leaders, the staff? How will they cater for everyone?

Direct to other policies

It should direct to other policies in place that support staff wellbeing e.g. marking and assessment, behaviour, sickness and absence, safeguarding, performance management, professional development etc. If these policies don’t already, the wellbeing policy should briefly outline how these other policies support and promote staff wellbeing.

Role of Stakeholders

The policy should outline who the stakeholders are such as the Headteacher, governors, SLT, teachers, support and office staff along with their role and responsibility in building an environment that supports and nurtures it staff, their wellbeing and their work-life balance.

Practical Actions

Next should be an outline of what the school is doing and will do over the time frame of the policy and then beyond. Actions that will help to manage and reduce workloads, that will value staff and provide solutions to challenges. Essentially it comes down to how will they address stress.

This doesn’t mean the introduction of ‘wellbeing’ activities – token gestures that falsely shout “we care about you”. Actual strategies that help to manage workload, foster a work-life balance and support staff during stressful school periods or events in their life.

This does mean… no enforced ‘Wellbeing Days’, the kind where staff are sent off to do activities that if they wanted to do them they could do in the time they gain from better working practices,policies and procedures.

Sure offer activities before and after school or at lunchtime that staff can join in if they choose too such as after school exercise classes, morning yoga, tea with the teachers etc. but don’t make it compulsory or an explicit part of the policy. Instead it should be outlined as provision of opportunities and not compulsory activities.

Practical actions should be associated with other school policies and thus actions that help to support staff, their workloads and to manage whole-school or individual challenges.

In-school Support and Procedures

Next the policy should outline the support available in the school and the procedures in place to guide staff in what to do when they are struggling. This could be people to talk to and people that can guide and help within the school such as HR and admin, the school nurse/counsellor/wellbeing team and of course the Headteacher. No body should be afraid to speak to the Head of the school, if they are in my opinion they are doing the job wrong.

External Support and Procedures

In addition to the support available and the procedures to take within the school, the policy should also outline how staff can get support elsewhere such as through national and local organisations and charities. The school may provide a wellbeing package to its staff which may provide staff with access to counsellors and other services; this too should be outlined and contact details provided.

Managing Issues

Finally, the policy should outline how they will manage any issues that arise. This should be a set of procedures so staff know exactly what to do, who to talk to and what the potential responses will be.

Perhaps more of a decision tree rather than a set of bullet points is what I’d envisage. This is so staff can clearly see the steps and procedures in place to support them, the help them manage and to enable them to thrive.


I’m not entirely sure where I’d place this, but I do believe there should be an outline of how the impact of the policy is assessed, how wellbeing is monitored and how frequently the policy will be reviewed. The review process should involve all members of school staff and should have a degree of frequency i.e. termly, annually.

Further Reading

If you’re interested in a bit of further reading on staff wellbeing here are a few links that I have found interesting:

Supporting Staff Wellbeing in Schools – Anna Freud National Centre for Children and Families

Supporting staff wellbeing – Heads Together Mentally Healthy Schools

Looking after teacher wellbeing – Ed Support

Staff wellbeing: A whole-school approach – Ed Support

Caring For The Wellbeing Of Teachers And School Staff – YoungMinds

Every school needs a staff wellbeing team – here’s how to start one -Daniella Lang, Headteacher, Brimsdown Primary School

Final Words

The last thing I’d like to say on the matter though is that the policy isn’t necessarily the important part here, it’s the implementation and enactment of the aims, actions and procedures to foster an environment that values and cares for its staff. It’s about the creation of a workplace that places student and staff wellbeing in the same high regard and the development of working relationships that demonstrate care, compassion and empowerment.

Why? Because we want the best for our students. Happy, healthy teachers can create happy, healthy students.

Please feel free to share your experience of school wellbeing policies, the good and the bad.

I look forward to hearing your thoughts.