Control. It’s the one thing so many of us crave; providing us with a sense of security that can help reduce fears and anxieties to a minimal, more manageable level. We’re often expected to safely arrive at this equilibrium of seizing control of the ‘bits’ of life we’re able to; while identifying those we can choose to let go. That’s easier said than done.
It HAD to happen. And this isn’t a case of too-little-too-late. It’s progress. Genuine progress.
If you’re lucky enough to know of ‘Ofsted’ then you genuinely need to read this and (please) share it far and wide. For those in the dark, they’re the department responsible for inspecting educational institutions across the UK. In the past, we’ve likened them to Harry Potter nemesis Lord Voldermort (or He Who Must Not Be Named). This isn’t because they’re attempting to rid the world of Muggles and/or annihilate an innocent young boy; moreso the emotional response that simply muttering their name can have on any given individual. Sadly – for Ofsted – when you’re the root of fear and loathing in schools, there’s a natural reluctance to talk about you or offer you any more attention. Ofsted-talk leads to anxiety, sadness, anger and – for many – genuine fear. Essentially, they’ve been Voldermorted. But (maybe?) they’re not – and never were – the ‘enemy’.
My idea was a simple one: let’s take this book we’d fallen in love with and make a feature film of it. Step aside [insert overly-emphasised subjects here] and welcome to the world of film production; of script-writing and becoming truly immersed in a book. It was bold and it was brave; but with the support of my Headteacher, the kids and I were officially off-the-leash and free to approach that Summer how we saw fit.
The longer it took, the more questionable the decision to come off timetable became. I’m sure we were raising eyebrows. And yet these 30 kids were falling more deeply in love with this story; they were learning more about its plot, characters and subtleties than any set of ‘lessons’ could have ever taught them.
We’re often contacted by a school’s newly-appointed Staff Wellbeing Lead to help point them in the direction of good practice; towards relevant resources; or to offer advice around ideas they themselves have; or things they’ve noticed other schools adopting. When it comes to teacher wellbeing, staff wellbeing; to reducing teacher-workload or improving teacher work-life balance, it can get a bit overwhelming; definitely a tad foggy. And it’s safe-to-say that the majority of staff faced with this new-found challenge of improving staff wellbeing are a little lost in the task. What tends to happen is this conga-effect of ‘I saw this in/on [insert name of school, Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter, school-resource provider or website] and looked great!’ or ‘They’ve introduced [insert generic approach to wellbeing] down the road – shouldn’t we be doing this if they are?’
Sharing our data isn’t something we’ve taken lightly. Since April last year over 30,000 teachers from around the world have downloaded fit2teach to measure, view and track their work-life balance scores coming from their (often) 60+ hour-weeks and relentless workload. Protecting the integrity of your data underpins all we do – we’re here to help improve your wellbeing; not threaten it by exposing or sharing your individual scores and/or responses. But by collating your data, we’re able to provide new insights and (at least!) shed light on some of the burning questions often asked in our Facebook Staffroom:
Since launching our beta-version of the fit2teach App back in April last year, we've pretty-much seen it all. Yes - when it comes to a teacher's work-life balance, your phone screens have showed more variations; more differently coloured calendars than there are Year 6 SPaG objectives. We've learnt that when it comes to teacher work-life balance there really are no rules; certainly no magic wands; and no set way of doing things. What we do know is that being able to map it out on screen is - for the first time - empowering teachers with the tools and the insight to bring about change. Our data shows that teachers using fit2teach daily - over a sustained period of time - soon identify patterns and trends that they're able to work on to engineer more time for themselves and their families. What's more, they claim that finding that missing work-life balance makes them more effective in the classroom - what a time to be alive!
I know; I know. Surely I should be encouraging teachers to stick work-life balance at the top of their resolution wish-list? That'd make sense right? We're UK-based; we're heading into the Spring term; we're fresh into 2018; and we have an App proven to help teachers achieve this very goal. The marketing strap-lines were written in November - 'New Year; New YOU!' - and I've spent the past week designing and trying to produce material along these lines; only to draw a constant blank. Not creatively - there was just something not quite right. In the last 24 hours I've seen and read enough to realise that we got it wrong. We're certainly not suggesting ditching plans to tackle your workload and improve your home-life in 2018 - on the contrary. But here's why you shouldn't cite improving your work-life balance as a new year's resolution; and an alternative approach to take.
She held back tears and fought against the panic as she knocked on the headteacher's door; her heart pounded and she felt sick. The silent return gave her hope; then the door opened. But this isn't a Halloween story and this wasn't an eight-year-old; it was a teacher. And this wasn't about getting a letter checked and counter-signed; or reporting a safeguarding issue - those things don't do this to her. This was about HER life; her family and her own wellbeing
I've spent the last few hours pacing the house; trying to think of the words to write; the right words to mark the launch of our native - our true - fit2teach App. And I've struggled. So I'll do what we rarely get the chance to do; I'll do what our pupils never get to do. I'll just write. I'll write without a purpose; without a care and definitely without a checklist. Over the coming weeks and months, we'll take fit2teach on a journey that I never thought possible. We'll celebrate with our existing users and welcome new ones to the f2t community - hopefully loads of them. Since leaving the classroom and saying goodbye to Caroline, the thought of reaching this point never entered my head - more the stuff of unicorns and
Allow that to sink in. That's right. Ofsted (the organisation assigned to inspect and report on the success of our schools) will - from the start of this new academic year - have teacher workload, wellbeing and work-life balance firmly on their agenda. This means at any point now - or in the immediate future - a school leader will be asked by their inspection team exactly how they intend to reduce teacher workload. But in doesn't stop there. It was also suggested that senior leadership teams consider teacher workload when implementing any new initiatives or policies. And the best thing: it was announced on Twitter.
You worked so hard for this day; for the fear; for the anxiety and this sheer sense of bewilderment. Very soon all these feelings; all these emotions will be kicked into touch by groups of wide-eyed kids calling you their teacher. Only then will you truly 'get' the fact that you're not in Kansas anymore; that you have well and truly landed (crash-landed!) in Oz: the wonderfully crazed and mixed-up world of teaching. A world I miss every day of my life.
Yes – it’s a bold claim. A blog post written by the bloke who dreamt up the platform claiming that the platform works. If you’ve used fit2teach over a sustained period of time then the title won’t offend or surprise you; it might not even interest you because you’ve been telling us this for weeks. We love you to bits; but – when deciding on this post – it wasn’t planned with you in mind. Here, we share your success to entice others to give f2t a whirl; to give it time; and to reap the rewards. So in order to keep you engaged - while telling you something you already know - let’s deliver things differently…
With only 6% of fit2teach users accessing the platform on a desktop, the need to build a native App – available to download in AppStores – has always been top of our agenda. Over the Summer, we locked Austin away in his Dad’s garage coding a fit2teach that - we’re sure - will excite you as much as excites us. Naturally, we’re playing our cards very close to our chests; but - over the next few weeks – look out for a few teasers of some of the brand new features coming your way soon.
I was English leader during my time in the classroom – hands down the most immature English leader you’re ever going to come across. My reading-lists looked like a page from a year-six kid’s reading-diary; worked through at a slower - much slower – pace due to the arrival of my own children. I’m not blaming my kids for my struggles to tackle grown-up books; just for the fact that I never seem to get more than a few minutes to myself without locking the bathroom door. The fact is: I’m just not a massive fan of reading. There - I said it. I’m a (ex)teacher who isn’t a fan of reading. But don’t worry – you won’t find too many of us.
We’ve come so far over the last ten weeks. During this time we’ve listened intently to you; to different practitioners working in schools, local government and the corporate world; and from our very special online community who’ve had our backs from day one. We’ve worked alongside; heard from or caught the attention of teachers speaking sixty-nine different languages; from two and a half thousand cities; in over one hundred and twenty countries across the world. All these teachers (your global colleagues) saw- in fit2teach - an application with the potential to help improve your work-life balance and wellbeing. And it did. And you did. And we did. When we asked you to stick around, you showed patience and trust and - together – we’re making small-steps to make things right. In fact if not for the controversy behind our ‘Glue Stick Delivery’ question, we’d probably all be sharing a house together; albeit a massive one, in or around the equator.
This wasn't in the script. However much we believed in fit2teach and its potential, we never saw this coming - not this quickly anyway. In the space of a week, we've received countless messages of support from teachers and headteachers around the world; our phones haven't stopped buzzing; and our users continue to increase in their thousands - absolute madness! We've also had constructive feedback - and a few damning reviews - all of which make us more determined to develop the platform to be the most personalised; closest-to-perfect fit2teach we can deliver to you. And - for teachers - it will always be free.
As you can see from our timeline, things are moving quite quickly! Within the last two weeks, we have designed; we've implemented; beta-launched; and have now officially launched to a wider audience. Response has been absolutely overwhelming and our community has been awesome - thank you all so much.
We made the decision to launch to a wider audience as a result of the sheer volume of positive feedback; and the early impact of fit2teach on the work-life balance of our beta-group. The beauty of fit2teach is its simplicity - having a way to measure and monitor the once unmeasurable. We've given you the platform to do it; now it's up to you...