With faster broadband speeds and easy access to the internet there is really no need to hold meetings in school. At the end of a long day or crammed into a lunchtime is often not the best time to hold an important meeting. A novel approach may be to schedule it for an evening when everyone is at home when they are more relaxed and fresher. The website www.anymeeting.com makes this all possible. Its free to join although you do have to pay to get rid of adverts and allows you to hold meetings remotely. You can upload presentations on which you could have the agenda and you can communicate to each other using your computers microphone or by simply writing messages. It may also take away some of the confrontation away that can exist when staff are tired and irritable. You can also record the meeting too -dangerous!. Give it a go and see what happens. Please comment freely. If you already doing this using a different site or piece of software then please let me know.
Unfortunately from time to time in the world of teaching you can encounter another member of staff that seems to be making your life difficult. This may include
talking to other people about you behind your back.
deliberately putting your ideas down during a meeting.
criticising you by e-mail and copying other people, often senior people into it. The cc and bcc are rarely used carefully.
greying matters by telling half truths.
talking to the students in their classes about you. A false and wholly inappropriate way of them gaining respect.
If you think this is happening to you then the worse thing you can do is to do nothing. You must confront the person directly and take the following steps
Ask the person that you would like to talk to them privately – don’t do this by e-mail, keep it all face to face.
Tell the person how they are making you ‘feel’. The key word here is ‘feel’. They won’t be able to argue with a feeling but can argue with facts which they can say are not true.
Say that you would like it to stop otherwise you will be taking it further. Stress that you wanted to deal with the matter informally first.
Keep things short and to the point. Keep it firm but friendly.
Keep a record of it yourself in writing with a date but don’t send it to anyone.
I think it is really important to deal with the matter yourself. Don’t tell other people that you are going to do it or discuss extensively with other colleagues. You may end up being as bad as them! Make sure you are professional at all times.
One way of improving your work life balance at school is to start an after work staff sports club . A couple of years ago I started a beginners running group starting at 4.30 on a Wednesday evening. We are fortunate where the school is positioned to have some beautiful countryside so finding a routes was easy. I was surprised with the interest in the club. I aimed the club at total beginners as to be inclusive. We started off with running and walking and slowly built up the distance over the weeks. It’s now 2 years on and the after work running club is still going strong. We have built up from a distance of a mile with walks to a distance of 5 miles non stop with some pretty steep hills. After the run every one feels like they have had a tough workout and have forgotten about deadlines and school politics for a while.
The advantages of this type of staff activity as I see it is are as follows.
It’s free team bonding – better than any expensive course you can buy into.
It keeps your body and mind fit.
It helps to keep stress levels down and staff illness down.
It is regular and people will look forward to coming along. If it happens every week then people can dip in and out of it.
It is addictive – you will be surprised how many extra people come along once you start, especially if you pitch it at total beginners.
You get to talk to people that you don’t normally talk to from different curriculum areas. Our deputy head and assistant head have both come on runs.
It is an alternative from going to the pub straight after work. Exercise first and go to the pub afterwards if you must.
You may find that the club spills into the holidays. The running club is so successful at my school that runs are also planned during the holidays – not from school but from different peoples houses and locations. Make friends as well.
Will look good in your performance review as a whole school activity – work/life balance for staff is very important and if you can contribute to that then you are doing a good thing.
Depending on how keen you are you may want to enrol on an UK athletics leadership in running fitness course. These excellent courses teach you how to run a beginners running group.
Also the website Jeffgalloway.com has got some excellent advice on running and walking for beginners.
This maybe a start of term activity but why don’t you send an e-mail around to all staff with a time and a place and get running!
It’s not uncommon in the modern school to receive up to 100 e-mails a day. These vary from tasks to do, reminders and advertising from publishers selling you the latest and best resource ever. The teacher and laptop combination has meant you are never far away from your e-mails and if you throw e-mail addiction into the mix then if you are not careful your productivity levels will drop and your stress levels will rise.
Here are a few tips to avoid e-mail addiction:
Set yourself times when you will check your e-mails. The times for checking can be flexible and found by trial and error. For instance you might find checking twice a day too few or too many.
Sometimes it us useful to check your e-mail first thing in the morning and categorise them into urgent, non urgent and deletable. Did you know that 50% of e-mails are deleted before they are opened?
Don’t be tempted to have your school e-mail installed on your phone. Do you really want a message from your line manager at 11.00 in the evening before you go to bed?
Think before you send an e-mail whether you need to send it or not. Could you not walk and talk to the person instead?
Is there such a thing as e-mail competition? For instance, does sending an e-mail late at night impress anyone? Does the recipient really think – gosh, they’re working late!? Don’t point score by sending your e-mail later than anyone else.
Limit yourself to a set number of e-mails a day. Sometimes I set myself a 5 a day sending limit. If I have to send more then I will go and find the person or phone them.
Remember there is no such thing as an e-mail emergency!
If you have a way of avoiding e-mail addiction then please comment freely.
Schools are full of opportunities for pupils and teachers alike. Teachers by the nature of the job are kind and caring individuals that are genuinely helpful. When you join a school you can be put under a certain amount of pressure to run a sports team, get involved with drama and contribute generally to the extra-curricular side of the school. It may even be in your contract! I personally think that its a great idea to do something in the school that’s away from your subject area, as you see the pupils and students out of the context of your subject. Useful bonds can be made that can not be created in the classroom. I think it’s important however that you don’t say yes to too much or volunteer yourself too much. Early on in my career I became involved with the Combined Cadet Force, the Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme and took a Cricket team in the summer. This at first gave me a sense of satisfaction as I felt I was giving to the school and enriching the students but in the end my weekends were gone and quite a few evenings during the week vanished. This became limiting and resulted in my non-school life suffering. My teaching also was not quite as good as I could not spend the same amount of time planning. I think the lessons have to come first, always. So do get involved with things as this is good and will develop you as a teacher but you can say no. Other people will be, just look around you!