Mrs Humanities

Because I'm married to the job.


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Resource: 20 Ways to Improve Teacher Wellbeing

20 ways to improve teacher wellbeing is a resource I produced for the Teach It community of websites.

It’s simple, straight to the point and hopefully beneficial. You can download the PDF here or the adaptable word version on any of the TeachIt subject websites.

Hope you can find the resource useful.


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We need Breakthroughs NOT Breakdowns in Teaching.

The title of this post is inspired by the Education Support Partnership’s Christmas Campaign 2018. Reason being I went through through the latter. I burnt out, broke down and wanted to leave teaching for good. I asked for help, I reached out but it never happened and after two years of the same routine I reached my limit by bursting into tears in front of a class.

During the first 5 years of teaching, I had moments where all I could think about was injuring myself or worse still taking my life so I could end the way I was feeling. This all came back to me yesterday when I saw the following video on the BBC.

I shared the video on twitter with the following comment and spent the rest of the day dealing with an IBS attack. When I eventually viewed my twitter notifications I had over 500 notifications, many of which were associated with this single tweet.

It was late and the thought of replying to all the responses was a little overwhelming, so instead I decided to write this post.

In response to the tweet there were so many replies from people that were made to feel the same way. Teachers that had loved the teaching element but hated everything else; there were examples of bullying from senior leaders and other members of staff; examples of couples leaving the profession so they could actually see one another; teachers stepping down from roles of responsibility because the pressure and expectations got too much; teachers that have left full time positions and moved into part-time or teaching assistant roles and those that have left all together.

Alongside the examples of teachers that have felt the same way or similar, there were examples of those that were told or made to feel that by speaking up about workload or their struggles that they were weak, a let down, incapable, not cut out for teaching etc. etc. This should never ever be the case. The lack of support and deniability of the problem is causing a mental health problem in education.

On the positive side though, there were also those that talked about feeling this way and coming through the other side. Those that said how leaving teaching returned them to full health. Those that said they’d stepped down, cut back or changed positions that now manage. And those that moved schools, are much happier and enjoy teaching again.

I want to highlight that it is possible to be happier in teaching. It is possible to manage your own workload. It is possible to be a highly-effective teacher with mental health challenges. I know because I’m managing it.

Back in April 2016 when I reached rock-bottom I honestly thought that was it. I thought I was done with teaching. I took time off, I thought that was going to be the end of my time in the classroom. But… I spoke to Ed Support. I asked for help from the Doctors. I went on anti-depressants. I finally opened up to family. I finally acknowledged my position, my choices and took action.

I decided that I’d give one more school a try. One more. I was encouraged to write an application for a position at a top school in the area. I had no confidence that I’d be invited for interview, let alone get the job but I did.

I was still off work when I went for interview. I was still signed off sick. I was still struggling each day. But I went and did what I loved, I taught Geography. I really liked the school. I asked about wellbeing. I was happy with the response. But I worried. I worried my time off would look bad. I worried that this school would be the same; high expectations of staff, limited time to meet expectations, regular scrutinises, Mocksteads, regular observations…. etc. etc.

I was offered the job almost immediately after leaving the site. But I needed time to think. They were happy with this. I’d be leaving behind a department I’d built up from nothing (literally), single handed. My physical and mental health had gone into that department, that school, every resource, every lesson. I’d be leaving behind a major part of me. But when I spoke to the current Headteacher to explain my predicament, I knew then I was replaceable, valueless. My decision was made for me. I accepted the job offer and it’s been the best decision.

I still take anti-depressants, I tried coming off of them and even though I’m so much happier, I manage my time effectively and love teaching again I can’t cope with the general anxiety of the role. I went back on them. I also have periods of highs and lows but that doesn’t make me a bad teacher. It doesn’t make me incapable of being the best teacher that I can be for me students. Instead it has made me more aware of myself, my mental health and more so the mental health of my students. I see things I never used to, I’ve learnt how to support young people, colleagues and friends. Mental health is not a problem, a hindrance.

Help is Available

If you’re feeling like the teacher in the BBC video, please know you are not alone. You never are and never will be. There is help and support out there.

Speak to Ed Support.
Speak to colleagues.
Speak to friends and family.
Never let the job take over your life or worse still take your life.
Reach out.

There’s always someone there to listen, to support, to help.

Here are some useful organisations, their websites, twitter accounts and phone numbers

Education Support Partnership @EdSupportUK 08000 562 561
Mind @MindCharity 03001233393
Samaritans @Samaritans 116 123
The CALM zone @theCALMzone 0800 585858

There’s also those that have volunteered to listen via #Talk2MeMH. It’s over on twitter and is pretty simple, if you want someone to talk to search for the hashtag, find somebody that has added it to their profile and contact them. They have volunteered to listen, not as a professional but as a friend.

We need more breakthroughs, not breakdowns.

As a profession we have to reduce the stigma that surrounds teachers mental health, of struggling with workload and the pressures of accountability. We have to listen to those in need.

We have to speak up, accept the problem and work together to improve the experience of many teachers, school leaders and support staff whether new or experienced.

We need to change the system to ensure that teachers and school leaders are able to deliverer high-quality education within the parameters of the working day, without the excessive workload and impact on home life. We need change.

Where do we start?

We start in our own schools. Work together to create a better environment. Workload a problem? What are the solutions? Don’t just moan, be proactive. Offer alternatives. There’s no point saying you want change without a potential solution. What is the problem? How could it be changed or solved?

If leaders don’t listen, leave. Apply for jobs in other schools. There ARE better schools out there with leaders that listen. Go find them.

Campaign. Support action. Unite.

Here’s a recent resource, 20 ways to improve teacher wellbeing, that I produced for TeachIt.

Right I’m going to end this episode of being a keyboard warrior and actually go and do something proactive.


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Announcement: UK Blog Awards 2019 Finalist

Hello all,

I just wanted to take a moment to say THANK YOU for voting for my blog, MrsHumanities.com in the UK Blog Awards.

I’m super stoked to share with you that I’ve just got the email to say my blog is one of 8 finalists in the Education category. What a super start to 2019.

This will be my third time as a finalist, to be able to say that means so much to me as it means that others read and benefit from what I write and share.

I started blogging when I was super lonely in a department of 1, I wanted to share and talk about teaching and learning, about Geography and History. But blogging has taken me way beyond that. It’s developed my passion for everything education, it’s allowed me to help and support others and it’s opened doors and provided experienced far beyond what I thought it could do.

Thank you for the continued support, it means the world to me.

Best wishes for 2019.

Mrs Humanities


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Mrs Humanities reviews…2018, a year of being braver

Oh my, what a year it has been. It’s been a year of being out of my comfort zone, a year of taking action and a year of raising my voice on matters that mean a lot to me.

When I first found the courage to acknowledge and share my experience of a work-related breakdown, I did so to help others. I never thought it would lead to the opportunities I’ve experienced throughout this year.

It has been a whirlwind of excitement and nerves.

January

The year started with the news that I was a finalist in the UK Blog Awards for the 2nd year, this was shortly followed by an offer from Routledge Education to write a book; after being invited to write a proposal in Summer 2017, my proposal was given the go ahead. What a crazy but exciting start.

January ended with another visit to Canterbury Christchurch University to present at the Beyond Levels Conference. Loved it again.

February

After Beyond Levels came Southern Rocks hosted by Kristian Still and David Rogers. This was a really enjoyable event, took plenty away and inspired a number of others to look into feedback rather than marking through my presentation.

February continued with my birthday but more importantly the 2nd birthday of Teacher5aday Buddy Box. This gave myself and a few other buddy box participants the perfect excuse to meet up over pizza.

March

Next up one of the highlights of my year, TMHistoryIcons. The last few years I’ve been the token Geographer that’s allowed to present. Additionally it will always hold a place in my heart for being the first teach meet I presented at.

Whilst I may no longer teach History, I still love to keep up with the world of History teaching just in case I head back in that direction. It also helped that for the academic year 2017 – 2018, the NQT I was mentored was a History teacher.

I’m gutted I can’t go this year, partly due to its location and partly because I’ve volunteered my services closer to home. I will miss my annual dose of TMHistoryIcons and more importantly Tom Rogers.

April

This month I flew by. I also flew on a plane, this is a big thing for me as I hate flying. I’ve only ever flown once before and that was to and from Iceland for school trip.

This time it was to the Bay of Naples. I loved it there. The history, the geography. I was in my element. But I hated the flying part. That alone makes me feel like I was 10% braver.

April ended with the UK Blog Awards. Myself and Bethan (History NQT) had a blast. I caught up with Ross McGill (Teacher Toolkit) which left Bethan and I both feeling a little star struck. Whilst I may not of won, the evening was so much fun (again).

May

May was spent preparing for the upcoming GCSEs. My class had been awesome, they helped me to love teaching again, I started teaching them in the September after my breakdown, their enthusiasm and humour was contagious. I was going to really miss them, so I made them little GCSE survival packs which they loved.


When they sat their first Geography exam, I overheard some of them on the way in wishing each luck and telling each other to do Miss Hewett proud (and they really did).

They don’t know it yet but I’ve dedicated my book to them as a way of saying thank you.

This month I also spoke to a journalist from the Guardian about burnout in teaching and my experience. You can read the article here.

June

What a month June was. It started with taking part in a panel discussion on teacher wellbeing at the Festival of Education with Julian Stanley (Ed Support), Vic Goddard and Adrian Bethune. It was nerve wracking but an awesome experience I’d love to take part in again. It was disappointing though that a panel on a topic of such importance was hidden away from the main area which meant despite eventually having a standing room only audience, many people missed the beginning as they walked to distance to get there. Hopefully if Ed Support are invited again this year, the event organisers place them more centrally.

This was followed by an overnight stay in Rugby for ResearchEd. What a beautiful school that was. The event was really interesting with lots of ideas to take away and thoughts to consider and digest. I also presented as part of the Humanities strand on moving from marking to feedback.

Here’s a little clip from the day

Next up was my favourite event of them all, TMGeographyIcons. I’m probably a bit biased there though as I am the lead organiser. The event was a huge success thanks to the help of Jenn and Gemma. It would not have been the event it was without their help and support.

The day brought together over 100 Geography teachers from across the UK to share and discuss. Our keynote speaker Alan Parkinson was fantastic and each presenter brought something for others to take-away. Really looking forward to the 2019 event. Gemma and I have some very exciting plans so watch out for further details in the new year.

For now you can find all the presentations from the 2018 event here.

June ended with the Teachwell Fest at Vic Goddard’s school, Passmores Academy. It was an event that was different to all others I’ve experienced.

I decided I would share my experience from breakdown which turned out to me quite an emotional rollercoaster. It was the first time I’d ever discussed my experiences with an audience. It was small but supportive.

It was difficult talking about my journey but I needed to do it. I’m glad I did it as it has put me in a much better position to be able to help others.

July

July was a quiet month. Apart from book writing, it was month for relaxing when not in work.

August

The summer disappeared very quickly. It started with some filming with the Education Support Partnership and was followed by a few days away touring the battle fields of France and Belgium with the husband and his nephew.

The remainder of the summer holidays evolved around writing ‘Making it as a Teacher’. Whilst I’d written bout 20,000 words between January and July, I wrote over 40,000 in just 4 weeks. I was amazed by my capabilities. It was a challenging process, very different to writing blog posts but I massively enjoyed it.

September

September has been characterised by an annual trip to Hampshire for Pedagoo for the last few years. It has always been a pleasure to attend, see people and to say hello (and thank you) to the inspiration that is Martyn Reah.  

Pedagoo Hampshire was the first time I presented on the topic of feedback and sparked my engagement in the movement. This year I returned and shared my experience of breakdown again. I spoke to a number of people at the event and the feedback was humbling. I just hope it inspired them to go away and make a change.

October

Another quiet month spent finishing off the book. Oh wait, that’s a lie.

I was invited to speak on BBC Breakfast about teacher wellbeing, workload and mental health. What an experience that was. I was on TV talking about mental health and teaching!!!

November

I sent off my book manuscript before the deadline. Will update you when I have a publication date.

December

I’m hibernating.

And that’s the end…

A lot has happened this that I’m extremely proud of. A lot of things that I would never have had the opportunity to do if a) I hadn’t gone through a breakdown, b) if I hadn’t spoke out about my experiences. Despite the hard times, I am very grateful for the person it has made me and the opportunities it has opened up.

However, the thing I think I’m most proud of is being able to be there for others, to be able to be someone that others can turn to for advice, guidance or a rant, someone that shows it doesn’t have to be the end of a career in teaching.

If you ever need to talk to someone about workload, your mental health or just need a friend. Please feel free to get in touch with me, Ed Support or someone else supporting #Talk2MeMH.

Hope you have a great end to 2018.

Best wishes,

Victoria


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Update: Thank you for voting

Update: Voting has now closed. Thank you for voting.

I’m super excited to be nominated for the UK Blog Awards for the third time. In order to make it through the finals, I need a little help from you lovely readers.

If you wouldn’t mind from now (14th November) until the 21st December could you please take a moment or two to vote for Mrs Humanities. The entry is under my ‘real’ name Victoria Hewett.

To vote simply click here, find my name (Victoria Hewett / Mrs Humanities) and click on the red heart. If you like you can read my entry information by clicking on the “i“.

*Please note, there is only one vote per person per category, so pick me (please) 🙂

UK Blog Awards #UKBA19 #UKBlogChat #UKBlogAwards #MrsHumanities

A massive thank you from me in advance!

Mrs Humanities


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Mrs Humanities shares… 8 reasons why I love to teach.

After all my recent anxieties, the first day was fine. I’m sure tomorrow will be too, Wednesday the same…

Anyway, I’d like to share some positivity around teaching so here are a few reasons why I love teaching. Would love to hear your reasons, feel free to add them in the comments.

1 // Learning is awesome. Seeing my students engaged, enjoying their learning is a fabulous feeling. I love it when a class is fully engaged and I can step back and see the learning taking place.

2 // Planning learning is also awesome. It’s great sitting down and planning the process in which my students will participate to learn what they need to learn. It’s a beautiful moment when it all comes together and you know the kids will love it.

3 // Students teach me as much as I teach them. Whether it’s pedagogical, subject based or something a little more personal like something about them, I love that I learn from my students. One of my favourites is when students take our learning in a different direction due to their curiosity, it’s inevitable that I will learn something too.

4 // Students help me to forget my worries. Teaching takes me out of my mind, the best distraction possible. My students make me want to be happy, to want to be the best possible me. They deserve that so I strive for it. That includes taking charge of my wellbeing, to be the best teacher possible we need to be healthy, rested and present.

5 // Developing lifelong learners. Knowing that the skills, knowledge and understanding my students develop in my classroom they will take forward into their futures is empowering. I want them to be the best possible version of themselves now and in the future.

6 // Responsible citizens. In the last 7 years I’ve seen a huge shift in the attitude of young people. In general they are more politically engaged, more open-minded and more emphatic to the experiences of others. When the world is becoming increasing fractionned, the rise of the far-right is evident and leaders aren’t exactly the best, it’s a relief to see that young people want to see change. Our job is to empower then to engage and be work towards that change. I love it when students start to be the change they want to see.

7 // Teachers are great people. Generally speaking, most are caring, supportive and helpful. Sometimes that means we are taken advantage of but it also means there are some incredible people who’ll have your back.

8 // Teaching is like a jar of jelly beans. It’s fun, full of variety, colour and flavour. Every handful is different, so is every day in the classroom. Embrace it.

Why do you love teaching?


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Starting the conversation… #PedagooHampshire2018

PedagooHampshire2018

This week I’ve had to take some time away from twitter. My anxiety surrounding returning to work has been growing and growing for the last 2 -3 weeks and reached an unbearable level at the beginning of this week.

You see recently I’ve been spontaneously emotional to the point that I’ve burst into tears twice just in the street with no obvious reason. I’ve had palpitations, restless night sleeps and hours of not doing anything because the anxiety I’m experiencing feels debilitating.

My anxieties aren’t so much about going back to school, I’m really looking forward to it but about whether I will be able to manage my mental health, wellbeing and work-life balance as well now that I’m not longer on medication.

As I pondered about the world, my thoughts turned to the anxiety and the causes. It’s partly the fact that I’m no longer of anti-depressant medication but also the fact that I surround myself in education for too much of the day. I realised I was spending 5 or 10 minutes here and there on Twitter reading notifications, browsing my twitter feed and following links to interesting articles and blogs. I was continuing to surround myself in education when what I really need is a break. As a result I decided to sign out of twitter on Tuesday 28th August and didn’t sign in again until Friday 31st August.

The break has helped, I’ve managed to put things into perspective and consequently I’ve also decided to no longer have twitter signed in on my phone to stop the incessant desire to check it.

You might be wondering the relevance of this; well on Saturday 15th September I will be attending and speaking at Pedagoo Hampshire for the 3rd time running.

My first session was on Less is More: Marking with a Purpose, my second Less is More: Strategies to Reduce Workload and this year I’m going to share something a little more personal, Less is More: A motto to live by.

In my session, I’ll be sharing my journey with mental health from breakdown to recovery and the 5 strategies I try to live by to maintain a work-life balance; it’ll be part self-help, part pedagogy.

The whole signing out of twitter isn’t one of the 5 strategies, so you’ll have to attend to find them out.

But what I want to share is how having gone through a breakdown as a result of work-related stress, I’ve developed the ability to see patterns, to identify characteristics and too hopefully take measures to step back and recoup. That there is importance in understanding yourself.

(Note: However I can only say this though because people remind me that I do, that I have done over the past two years and that even now that I have come off of medication I can and will).

The other thing I want to highlight is that its okay to not be okay. I have the knowledge now that if I need to there are people to help; I’ve opened up the dialogue and can continue it whenever I need. I can go back on medication if I need to. I can get through stress and anxiety; I’ve shown that already. Relapses are not a sign of weakness.

The reason I’ll be sharing my experience is because too many others are experiencing similar circumstances in the workplace; pressure, accountability and high levels of stress. But there are also those going through depression, stress, anxiety and other mental health issues as a consequence of work. But no matter your experiences with mental and physical health in schools, I want people to know they are not alone. That there is help and support available.

We can insist on change, we can implement change and we can create change in our schools.

I look forward to seeing familiar faces and meeting new ones in the Library at 11:15.

Until the 15th, best wishes for the new school year.

Mrs Humanities

p.s. For some reason I can’t get this to flow right, I hope it makes sense.


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The What if… of mental health.

It is the week before we go back to school. 5 weeks have passed. I’ve relaxed, rested and written the majority of a book.

I’ve also been off of anti-depressents now for 3 full weeks. By the end of July I’d made it down to 1 a week. End of June 2 a week. End of May 3 a week. You get the idea I’m sure. There were a few hiccups when I’d forgotten a dose and had a few side effects but on the whole it was a relatively okay process.

Anyway, the longer between doses the more my thoughts have invaded the space in my mind that has been clear for the last two years. My thoughts have turned back to sudden thoughts of possible dangers, thoughts of worst case scenarios and just general worries.

Now I’ve always suffered from some sort of anxiety or stress, uni was a particularly prominent time for instance but it wasn’t until I started taking anti-depressents that I realised just how much I worried about things.

When I started taking medication, I experienced for the first time in as long as I can remember what it felt like to just have a clear mind. To not be continuously worrying about this or that. To have a thought come into my mind and have the ability to decide whether to continue with it or shut it down. I felt like I’d become more productive and alot happier.

As I started to come off of the medication, I maintained the ability to abolish those thoughts that plagued me; to switch them off. But as the time has progressed and the level of medication in my system declined I’ve found my thoughts returning to old patterns. The school holidays have certainly not helped; no routine, time to think.

As we’ve gotten closer to the beginning of September the more I’ve started to worry about going back. Worrying about the anxiety returning. Worrying about managing my workload. Worrying that I won’t be the best teacher I can be for my students. Worrying about worrying.

It’s gotten so bad I’ve had to detach myself from all things education for a few days, including Twitter.

I’m not the only one to be experiencing such fears I’m sure but I feel like I made such headway in the last two years, I’ve implemented strategies that have reduced my workload. I’ve developed a system for working that works for me. I’ve learnt to put myself before my work and to look after my wellbeing so I can be on top form for my students.

Yet still the fear is there. What if I can’t cope. What if I fall back into old routines. What if I stop saying no. What if… I burnout and breakdown again?


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Teacher Burnout

This week I shared my experience of burnout and the resulting breakdown I experienced with a journalist from the Observer. He’s written a great article on the issue to raise awareness of the issues schools and their teachers are experiencing.

Please do take a read at https://www.theguardian.com/education/2018/may/13/teacher-burnout-shortages-recruitment-problems-budget-cuts

Feel free to get in touch if you’re going through similar and want to chat.

On a more positive note however, do check out http://www.teacher5adaybuddybox.com for wellbeing fun.

Best wishes,


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New Post Series – #MyWellbeingHero

my wellbeing heroAs part of the #Teacher5adayBuddyBox scheme, we’re launching a series of posts entitled ‘My Wellbeing Hero’ and we want to hear from you.

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Who inspires you to look after yourself for a change?

Who makes you feel positive on those dark days?

Who promotes wellbeing across the school for staff and students?

Who makes you smile each day?

If you have someone to give a shout out to, get in touch by completing the #MyWellbeingHero form over at Teacher5adayBuddyBox.com. 

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Here are some for inspiration…

My Wellbeing Hero by Lorette Ashwell
My Wellbeing Hero By Mrs Humanities

Hope to hear from many of you soon.

Mrs Humanities