During the last academic year, this month's guest-blogger - the amazing Caroline Green - led a support-group of teachers towards an improved work-life balance using fit2teach alongside WhatsApp. They loved it. And Caroline claims it had such a positive effect. Since then, staff have started setting each other f2t targets to work towards; and Caroline plans to roll-out the project further into Early Years. Here's their story...
I am an Assistant Principal at a large school in Newcastle upon Tyne. Among my different roles, I am lucky enough to lead a small group of KS1 Class Teachers who give their all to the children they teach. I decided to do a little bit of a project to see if I could support them a bit more in the search for that elusive “work-life balance” we are always hearing about… I originally started to use F2T myself and had casually mentioned it to my team as a self-regulatory device before making the decision to make it a weekly check-in. It works in a similar way to those step counters that most of us seem to have, which can’t make you walk more but can make you aware of the changes you can make for yourself, if you allow yourself to face the truth; this “app” can’t make you have an amazing work-life balance as that is under your control – but it can make you aware of the little changes which eventually can alter how you approach your day. The group I worked with was a mixture of staff: there is a Year Group Leader who had friends in other cohorts so is great at making sure she sees them at lunch and has a cup of tea with them in the morning; there was also one NQT and three Class Teachers who were new to the school and keen to make their mark.
The Class Teachers in our group share their weekly F2T ‘scores’ through our Whatsapp group; members can either send the image of the week to the shared group or straight to me but hey all choose to share. I work out why their lowest score might be that way and recommend a challenge – for example, T1 had a mostly amber/green week and I knew she never missed her daily cuppa so her challenge was to compliment a pupil, parent and colleague while T2 had quite a red week with report writing and marking so I insisted on a pre-5pm finish for three nights and made sure it was possible without taking work home; I also gave the option to leave work for me to do on the Friday which she didn’t take up but the offer was certainly there! I feel that it is important to actually use the information to reflect on each individual person and their needs (just as we do for each pupil in class!).
Before I became a non-class based member of SLT, at a previous school, I had become close to a breakdown myself, “dotting every i and crossing every t”. I was great at putting myself last, if at all, on my never ending to do list. I lead an amazing team and it would be horrific if we list them due to self-imposed stress. The school we work in is extremely supportive and we have cut down on unnecessary paperwork but still we work tirelessly. I remember reading Sue Cowley’s book “How to Survive Your First Year in Teaching” which said something about the job taking whatever time you give it, which is absolutely true and something I always pass on to young teachers starting out working with me.
It is early days but our project became a nice way for us to share without needing to specify someone needs a bit of help. As leader I can pick up straight away if there is an issue I can support with. It also became a bit of a common language between us; at staff meetings we would talk about how long we had left before the elusive hour and a half was up and discussed “green days” – there was a definite feeling of ‘team’, in it together. We felt happy and knew that if that changed someone was there to support and guide; the team of teachers also began to be more aware of each other’s needs, making cups of tea and ensuring everyone got a good lunch break for example.
However, we only took part in our min-project for five weeks (during which was the end of year madness of report writing, transition, end of year sorting out and general exhaustion…) and I could see the scores going up and down in relation to what was happening in school during that time. We will start it from the first day back to see a longer term and hopefully be able to make more of an impact.
At this stage, what I can say for certain is I wish it had been around when I was starting out.