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The Well Teacher
This fortnightly podcast puts teachers first, exploring how teachers can be the very best version of themselves. A space to reflect, develop and improve wellbeing.
Jun 18, 2020
What will improve teaching and learning in our schools?
I’m really pleased that the final espiode of this series of the podcast is an absolute cracker. Bruce Robertson is a Deputy Headteacher and author of ‘The Teaching Delusion’. He also has an infectious enthusiasm for all things teaching and learning – believing it should be central to everything we do in schools. In this episode we look at what really constitutes great teaching, and how schools can generate a culture of continuous improvement. We also examine the kind of professional learning that will really help develop teaching. Finally, we explore Bruce’s terrific lesson evaluation toolkit, which has transformed teaching and learning in his own school. I hope you enjoy the episode, and it makes you feel as enthusiastic and passionate about teaching and learning as I did! It is a great place to end the first series of the well teacher podcast on. I have loved doing the podcast, and would like to thank all the brilliant guests for coming on. Thank you also to people who have been listening, I hope you have found it helpful. The podcast will be back with a weekly episode from the start of September. Until then, take care and have a wonderful summer!
Jun 16, 2020
How can we keep teachers in the profession?
How can we keep teachers in the profession? It is a question that many are wrestling with, and the retention rates suggest that in many ways, we are struggling to find the answers. Haili Hughes, has invested a significant amount of time exploring this issue. She is the author of the excellent new book ‘Preserving Positivity’: Choosing to stay in the classroom and banishing a negative mindset’. As you will hear, she interviewed hundreds of teachers in preparation for the book, hoping to unpick practical ways in which teachers can overcome some of the challenges we face as a profession. We explore three of those main driving factors that have resulted in teachers leaving the profession: work-life balance, accountability, and behavior. In each discussion, Haili gives brilliant and practical advice on how we can maintain a positive mindset and not allow ourselves to be overcome by stress and anxiety. I’m sure, like me, lots of listeners will be thinking carefully about some of the changes they want to make when we eventually return back to schools. I hope this interview offers some guidance on how to make teaching a manageable and enjoyable career choice, one in which we can sustain for many years.
Jun 10, 2020
The benefits of mindfulness for teachers and young people
In both of my books there has been chapters on the nature and benefits of a meditation habit. It is something I am hugely passionate about, and has had a real impact on my own stress levels over the past five years. In this chapter from 'A Quiet Education', Tackling Teacher Burn Out, I argued that it is one way in which we can prevent ourselves from becoming overwhelmed by the various demands that teaching places on us. For me, it has become an essential way to manage feelings of stress and anxiety, something that sets me up for the start of the day. With the stress that the current situation is causing, and the demands that teachers will face in the new academic year, I feel that it could be a hugely helpful skill for more teachers to learn and practise. Given this meditation background, and profound belief that it can have real benefits for others, I was absolutely delighted that Richard Burnett, who is the director of The Mindfullness in Schools project, gave into my pestering and has come on to the podcast. Mindfulness in Schools Project (MiSP) is a national, not-for-profit charity for young people and schools. Their aim is to improve the lives of a generation of children and young people by making a genuine, positive difference to their mental health and wellbeing. They are doing amazing work, and have an aspiration to reach a million children in the next five years. In our conversation we explore some of the misconceptions about mindfulness, and why some people have been put off from poorly delivered staff training, or exaggerated claims about the impact it can have. We then look at the beneifts of developing a mindfulness habit for teachers, and how you might go about starting a habit. We then delve into some of the superb work that the mindfulness in schools project is doing with young people, and the hugely positive impact of that work. Richard is a hugely passionate and knowledgable guest, so I hope you enjoy our conversation.
Jun 6, 2020
Conversations about the curriculum
The nature of our curriculum is a hugely topical and vital conversation for educators at the moment. In terms of our capacity to thrive and develop confidence as teachers, our understanding of the nuances of the curriculum, and how best to deliver it, is a vital exploration. Do we know how best to sequence our curriculum, are we confident pracititioners of our subjects – and what should we be teaching our young people? These are questions at the heart of the fantastic new Research Ed guide to Curriculum edited by Claire Sealy and published by John Catt. The book has eight contributors, who each share fascinating thoughts on the curriculum. For this episode of the The Well Teacher podcast, I have been lucky enough to speak to Claire Sealy, Neil Almond and Ruth Ashbee. We dive into the curriculum debates, unpick why curriculum is essential to school improvement – look at how we can really build up our subject knowledge, and examine what curriculum coherence really is. The book, and the interviews in this episode have blown my mind this week, so I hope you find this episode as thought provoking and interesting as I have.
1 hr 20 min
May 28, 2020
The compassionate approach to managing stress and anxiety
It was a real privilege to have the opportunity to talk to today’s guest on 'The Well Teacher Podcast': Professor Paul Gilbert. Paul Gilbert is a professor of clinical psychology, and the author of over twenty books, including the bestsellers ‘The Compassionate Mind’ and ‘Overcoming Depression.’ He was recently awarded an OBE for his services to psychology, after a forty year career. He established the Compassionate Mind Foundation in 2006 as an international charity with the mission statement: "To promote wellbeing through the scientific understanding and application of compassion.” In our conversation we explore what that compassionate approach to difficulties is, and how it is vital during the current situation. Paul then offers teachers a range of practical strategies that might help manage the stress and anxiety of the current situation, including how we can make the return to school based working as calm and easeful for ourselves and young people as possible. Towards the end of the conversation we also explore how we can best support young people both through home working, and when they do return to school – in what ever setting that may be. I hope that you find the interview as helpful as I did, in this particularly stressful and demanding time for everyone in education.
May 23, 2020
Can reflective diary entries be the key to solving teacher retention and wellbeing?
What if there was a way to take back control and ownership of our wellbeing as teachers? What if we could pause from the busy world of teaching, slow down and take deliberate steps to become more effective and efficient? Dr Lucy Kelly, who is a senior lecture in education at Bristol University, has been wrestling with these questions and has been conducting some exciting research into the potential of reflection for teachers. In this episode we explore the exciting potential of her research on diary writing for teacher wellbeing. We examine the benefits of building a reflection habit, and how her new diary toolkit can help in finding the ways that work for individuals. How to overcome stumbling blocks in building a reflection habit is another area we explore, alongside how reflection can really support teachers in the current situation. Lucy is on Twitter at @drlucykelly, and you can read about her research in the latest Chartered College of Teaching ‘Impact’ magazine.
May 22, 2020
Sleep: the secret of teacher wellbeing
This week is mental health awareness week, and I have two brilliant episodes of 'The Well Teacher Podcast' to share – both of which explore areas central to our mental health. The first is with psychology teacher and deputy head Mark Healy. Mark has developed a career long fascination with exploring the role of sleep in education, and has shared his findings in conferences across the UK. As we explore in our conversation: sleep is absolutely vital to not only our ability to perform in the classroom, but also to our mental health. I confess early in this episode my own alterior motive for getting Mark on the show: I have struggled with sleep issues for a number of years. This chapter 'Tackling Teacher Insomnia' from my first book 'Slow Teaching,' explored this and some strategies that have worked well for me. After we examine the impact workload can have on teacher wellbeing and sleep, Mark is gracious enough to share not only his own school’s approach to improving teacher sleep, but also condense the research down into 10 key findings for how we can improve our sleep. Finally, we also examine how we can support the young people in our classrooms to improve their sleep habits. Mark has also set up a brilliant project with Robin Macpherson, called 'The Gaitherin'. Tomorrow, Saturday 23rd of May, Mark will be presenting on the role of sleep during the pandemic. The presentation will be online at 10 o’clock, followed by thirty minutes of questions. You can find the presentations here.
May 11, 2020
How to take control of your work-life balance
One thing I know I have been notoriously bad at in my teaching career has been finding a balance. I have always struggled with switching off from the all-consuming nature of teaching, and in proactively managing work demands. This week’s episode is for anyone else who has struggled with this perfectionism strand that haunts so many teachers. Aidan Severs, who writes the very popular thatboycanteach.co.uk blog has made teacher wellbeing one of his major focusses as a deputy head, his work with other schools, and in his writing. In this episode we unpick how to step away from technology and become a digital minimalist, we explore how minimalism could be applied to teaching in general, examine what it takes to say no and push back on the demands of teaching and discover why Aidan will no longer be teaching lessons dressed as an elephant. If that isn’t a reason to listen, I don’t know what is! It is an episode packed full of practical and easy to implement tips, I hope you find it helpful.
May 4, 2020
How to best support young people during lockdown
Life is challenging for everyone at the moment. The impact of Coronavirus and the lockdown on young people, however, has been particularly transformative. They can no longer attend school, see their friends, and can only leave their homes once a day. Many have had the opportunity to prove themselves academically removed, and face an unpredictable future. Dr Hazel Harrison (@thinkavellana), a clinical psychologist, has been doing some amazing work to try and support young people through this challenging and unpredictable process. She runs the wellbeing lesson content on bbc bitesize and has written a range of excellent articles for the bbc on supporting young people. She also runs www.thinkavellana.com, her company which has done amazing work supporting young people in school environments. Her website has a host of really useful blogs and information on supporting both young people and ourselves. In this week's episode of 'The Well Teacher Podcast' we explore how best to talk about Coronavirus with young people; and how to manage their stress and anxiety levels. We explore what will help to keep young people positive and optimistic about the future, and how best teachers and parents can manage home learning. Finally, we look at how teachers and parents can look after own health and wellbeing during this difficult time. I hope you enjoy the episode and find it as helpful as I did.
Apr 27, 2020
How to thrive in the first five years of teaching.
There is no denying that the first few years of a teacher’s career are hugely challenging: the retention statistics in the UK speak for themselves. Last year I completed an educational masters, and the dissertation looked at ways to improve the experience of teachers in their first five years. I interviewed a wide range of teachers for this – and one of the things that resonated was teachers feeling overwhelmed with expectations and struggling to create a meaningful work life balance. You can read about the findings here. That is why the interview with today’s guest Adam Riches is so important. Adam’s new book is written specifically for teachers in the first five years of their career. ‘Teach Smarter’ is packed full of practical guidance on how teachers can thrive in their first five years, and just how they should spend their time. In our conversation, we discuss the research that teachers should prioritise at the start of their careers, how to become more efficient in planning, what feedback should really explore, and how to become a more reflective and confident teacher. I hope you enjoy the episode, and it helps you to embrace the smarter teaching approach!
Apr 3, 2020
Lockdown CPD: Mark Enser on 'Making Every Lesson Count'
This is the first of a series of interviews on 'The Well Teacher podcast' called ‘Lockdown CPD.’ It will explore with teachers the piece of research or book that has had the most impact on their teaching practice. Each interview will look at the practical implications of that learning in their classroom: what has changed, what has improved as a result of the reading they have engaged with? Mark Enser, Geography teacher, author of two superb books and TES contributor makes a brilliant first contributor. He talks about the impact of one of his favourite books about education, Making Every Lesson Count’ has had on his teaching. He breaks down how it has changed his approach to challenge in the classroom, and how he now puts modelling at the core of what happens in his classroom. Mark also shares some brilliant other reading tips, and a fascinating guide on how to start a effective teaching and learning blog and write a book on education. He also walks us through some of the aims o…
Mar 31, 2020
What running across America taught me about facing a challenge
This episode of 'The Well Teacher Podcast' is pure escapism, a chance to take forty five minutes away from the walls that might be closing in on us, to step away from the endless news stories and to have a furtive espace from family members! Instead, I am really excited to take you on Jennifer Bradley’s journey. The only British woman to have ever run across America on foot, she covered over 3000 miles, an amazing 43 miles a day over 80 days without a rest day. You know you are about the meet a very determined individual, when this Theodore Rossevelt quotation begins the about section of her fascinating blog:“Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty… I have never in my life envied a human being who led an easy life. I have envied a great many people who led difficult lives and led them well.” In this episode we discuss how in eighteen months she went from jogging a couple of times a week, to running double marathons every w…
Mar 27, 2020
The Essential Guide to Lockdown Teacher Improvement with Tom Sherrington
It has definitely been a very strange week. My wife is working at home, so like many people out there I’m sure, I have my two year old boy full time, alongside trying to wrestle with our new online teaching world. As joyful as it is getting to spend some time with the wee lad, I’m sure I’m not the only one who is a bit concerned about the sudden void of more intellectual stimulation that this new isolated existence is presenting. I'm sure I'm asking the same question as a number of teachers: what can we do to keep ourselves motivated, engaged and developing in this classroom free environment? A man who can answer these concerns, is Tom Sherrington. Tom runs the hugely popular Teacher Head blog, and is the author of a wide range of excellent books about teaching and learning. His new book ‘Teacher Walkthru’s' with Oliver Caviglioli, which is out this weekend, is exactly what we need in this lockdown CPD mode. It is a brilliant step by step guide on how to improve all aspects…
Mar 25, 2020
How to start a running habit with Jonny Muir
The country, as we all know far too well, is now in lockdown. We have, however, one glimmer of hope – once a day we can escape the confines of our homes and exercise. One of the most efficient and effective ways we can do that, is to go for a run. I will happily admit now that there is an agenda in this podcast and this aim to spread the running joy: I am a running obsessive and have been running since I was around 13. In the more than twenty years of taking up the habit I have been lucky enough to run all over the world. My crowning running achievement was after university, when I was living in Australia and working in a running shop. My second place and 73 minutes in the Adelaide half marathon is what I bore my students with all the time – robbed from victory by the fact the South Australian orienteering champion turned up to run. Anyway, I believe that it has a massive impact in boostering well-being, and am recording two episodes over the next few days to try and encourage p…
Mar 21, 2020
Adrian Bethune: reflections of a self-isolated teacher - finding calm and purpose
Reflections of a self-isolated teacher: finding calm and purpose.
Mar 15, 2020
Challenging the narrative of teacher wellbeing with Kat Howard
*Kat Howard **@SayMiss** is a woman on a mission: to stop the patronising wellbeing advice often offered to teachers, and instead have a real intellectual dialogue about what we can about teachers being driven out of the profession.* Kat, a deputy headteacher and an English teacher is the first guest on 'The Well Teacher podcast.' She is the author of the brilliant 'Stop Talking about Wellbeing', which aims to challenge the narrative on teacher wellbeing and provide guidance on how schools can improve workload for teachers. In this episode she outlines her vision for improving wellbeing in schools, one that is utterly pragmatic and based on placing teachers first. In the episode, we discuss how collaboration should be at the heart of what happens in school, and ways to build a more collaborative school community. We look at what leaders should be doing to streamline life for teachers, and help them to achieve more of a balance. We then unpick what this means on an individual level…