My staff are stressed

(39 Posts)
HedgeHogGroup Wed 16-Oct-13 20:19:04

Help! I'm a HT and my staff are stressed. I genuinely don't feel that I'm asking TOO much of them but the old HT didn't ask anything of them - no monitoring etc. I'm implementing changes to things that were picked up in the last OFSTED and am careful before asking them to do anything extra and know that we're doing the bare minimum to get 'good' because the consequences of 'requires improvement' will be more stressful.
I don't know if its end of half term blues or if there's something extra I can do for them... any advice????

Eggsiseggs Sat 26-Oct-13 07:44:40

I don't envy your position, but have faith!
Your intentions are good, and you are sensitive to their needs. There will always be a transition period.

One thing: don't apologise too much about doing things you have to do. I would announce things positively, rather than 'really sorry, another OFSTED requirement here, blah blah'. Our (lovely) head does this and it instantly allows people to feel put upon and stressed. It's your job. If YANBU, then it is their job, too. Being understanding and being apologetic are totally different things.

I sit on my hands during some of our head's addresses. He apologises and sympathises when we need him to galvanise!! Get them excited, get them aiming high, showcase good practise! (Can you tell I want him to use! More! Exclamation! Marks! In his speech?!) I sit with the rest of SMT some days, grinding my teeth because these targets have to be (and should be!) met, yet he is almost too kind and understanding, iyswim?

In short: I want to stand up and shout 'LEAD!!'

Am sure you are doing, but maybe check how you are asking for things? Total rant, there, sorry!!!

You'll be great x

PenguinBear Fri 25-Oct-13 21:03:53

Out of interest, I'd love to know what type of things you're asking them to do. I've worked under the same head for many years but she is retiring at Christmas and I'd like to know what sorts of things I might be tasked to do!!

Nojustalurker Fri 25-Oct-13 20:28:40

Have you tried doing an anonymous questionnaire to assess morale and find out what your staff think should be done differently to improve the situation. On your next learning walk only tell the staff what you think they did well. These are the things I wish my slt would do.

Finickynotfussy Tue 22-Oct-13 21:52:30

I would get you the moon on a stick if you wanted, for a bacon butty once a week - what a fabulous idea! (veggie option needed of course to motivate the veggies grin). I like the idea of the note of specific praise in the pigeonhole.

My school is good but skint, and SLT do the free food thing once in a while and it is quite motivating.

Have you thought about starting a wellbeing group and getting staff to suggest things (ideally that don't cost) that would improve their work lives? Suggestion box that is actually acted on?

PatTheHammer Sat 19-Oct-13 08:41:06

I agree with lots of the above and you sound a great head to work for.

We got a new head last year, secondary, and the difference in the way she praised staff has made a real difference. For example we get a bulletin by email every Friday and from the old head this used to seem like a massive bollocking with a list of 'telling offs' aimed at specific anonymous people. She has changed that, there are important notices but at the end she does a personal message and also thanks teaching and support staff individually naming ones who have one something helpful that week (it's usually quite a long list as a busy school with lots going on).

She is also 'present' a lot. Walks around into classrooms when she can and gives very positive feedback. We have a deputy who runs CPD and all the ofsted stuff and in staff meetings she always looks like she is learning as much as us, not like she knows all the answers.

She also consults a lot about any changes- a marked difference to the old head I can tell you, who quite often 'consulted'long after he had made a decision wink

talulahbelle Sat 19-Oct-13 08:04:08

IRIS is great for reducing admin of behahiour. Brill piece of software our school introduced last year.

Kayakinggirl86 Sat 19-Oct-13 07:58:48

Sorry pressed send to quickly.
Tell your staff to go home at times.

If staff have gone above what they are meant to have done, ie taken school trips for the last 6 weekends do thank them.
Do not do name and shame list ( whether it is resgisters bot done or who got requures inprovement) it is horrible to be publicly humiliated like this. A quite word in people's ear when they have done wrong so much better. Big one talk to them like adults not children.

Kayakinggirl86 Sat 19-Oct-13 07:50:26

I have worked under a number of heads. The best ones are ones that come out of there office, that they do teach lessons here and there. That at breaks and lunch times they are found in the play ground/ lunch room. That they have set very clear guidelines of how they want their school to improve- the best one broke these guide lines down and gave us a job to do, and have us a extra free a week or more money (£60 a month) to do the job. For example they wanted more trips run so someone got the job of finding out what trips departments wanted to run and doing all the organising and paper work, or done one was given data comparison. They were a good head to work for as they gave such clear guide line of what they wanted you to do you knew 100% what your role was.

Also don't take people's frees away with out giving then back at some point ( and not 2 months later in the sane week). Remember small things about your staff. Tell your staff to go h

isitpimmsoclockyet Fri 18-Oct-13 23:08:43

In one of my first teaching jobs I had a deputy head who everyone loved.....she was just very sincere, and a 'people' person unlike the head who was out of touch and a bit slimy!!! Anyway, the deputy would spend time in a lesson, even if not an official observation and by the time you go to your pigeon hole next, there would be a little note/card with something positive handwritten on it. Just a token, but by golly, it made you feel valued!!! Be genuine, be accessible and give your staff ownership, let them feel part of the process rather than having things/changes foisted on them from above. You sound like a fab head, by the way!

HedgeHogGroup Thu 17-Oct-13 21:31:15

<waves at Party>
Sausages (& veggie sausages) bought for breaktime tomorrow and trying to arrange it so everyone gets half a day Christmas shopping time next half term.
I try my best to keep their stress levels low and I only ask them to do what I have to but I'm keen to do more.
Thanks everyone xx

partystress Thu 17-Oct-13 21:26:51

Hedgehog I know from the way you have helped me before on here in the past that you are a generous spirit with great communication skills. The sheer fact that you have noticed staff are stressed is miles ahead from a lot of HTs I have come across! Then you come on here to do something about it - definitely worth your choice of wine cake brew and flowers!

I've never been a school leader, but before teaching I led in business and charities. All the advice about specific praise is spot on. Appropriate praise in front of others is also lovely - because so few people feel able to crow about successes, but we all like to feel held in high esteem. Almost any positive social attention is good - because being blanked by the boss (who almost certainly wasn't blanking you, but was just preoccupied) sets your whole day off wrong.

Transparency and good communications - explaining as much as you can of your decision-making - can really help reduce stress because when things are a bit tough, people can waste tons of energy trying to second guess you and speculating what things might mean.

I agree with others' wariness about the blanket request for suggestions. However, finding time for a brief 1:1 chat with everyone, asking whether there is a specific area they feel they would like to contribute to, or a particular talent/experience they have that is being underused, offers people a chance to get involved from a position of relative comfort/strength.

And if timetables/budgets can stretch, a bonus day off is priceless!

TheMoonInJune Thu 17-Oct-13 21:00:39

I think this is something you have to give time. Personally I would be wary about involving them in decision making: this has backfired on me in the past. Sometimes staff want strong leadership and sometimes it's appropriate and acceptable to say, 'we are doing this.'

It takes time, and that can be hard and lonely when you're in a management role. thanks

NewBlueShoesToo Thu 17-Oct-13 20:38:18

After half term when everyone has had a bit of a break could you ask them which things are going well and which are causing stress/ seem too time consuming?
I worked for an amazing head, she quietly talked to everyone about how things were going, asked how she could help them and said a genuine thank you when things were good. She was also fab at getting money and kit from local businesses, charity shops etc. she would ask us what we needed and bring lovely classroom presents. She also cleared up sick and made everyone a cup of tea or coffee for break time!

OldRoan Thu 17-Oct-13 20:31:55

I'm an NQT - our SLT (including my mentor) are lovely, and you sound lovely too.

We were all given copies of the sheets SLT assess us against (displays, files, books, presentation, resources etc). It makes it relatively easy to keep on top of things. I know, for example, that my desk needs a sort out, but my books are up to date, my files are fine and my displays are on track. I would know that anyway, iyswim, but it is nice knowing that I am doing what they want done.

I agree to making time to comment on things. I get plans back with a little note written on them, and then verbal feedback at handover (often in front of the class, so a bit vague/cryptic, but a smile and "really good, thank you Miss" goes a long way).

HedgeHogGroup Thu 17-Oct-13 20:21:07

Thanks Miaow- I feel I do cover a lot of that- photocopier always works and I am more sceptical than is healthy for a 34 year old woman wink

MiaowTheCat Thu 17-Oct-13 18:38:44

Best head I ever worked for was amazing at using praise with her staff - from my first encounter with her as a supply teacher when she took the time to ring the agency and feedback how impressed she'd been with me that day, to when I ended up working for her full-time... it was just little, but very genuine, things - like if she was taking planning in to check over and you'd written things on there like "this worked well - adapt for x later on?" she'd comment back "fantastic - by the way - we've got this resource in the staffroom - green file - that might be of use to you for this?" Just little things that gave the feeling that she cared about us as people too and not just as wheels in the grand Ofsted grading machine.

Plus she had the healthy dose of scepticism - some stuff would be introduced with a "we all know this is the latest fad and will be scrapped in two years - how can we do this with the minimum extra workload for you all?"

Oh and get a photocopier that works ALL the time - not just one that is about 50/50 about Mondays, not very fussed about working after 10am on a Friday and Wednesday it may well need either begging or exorcism to get cooperation from it! (The biggest stress in my last job was that fucking demonic pile of technological garbage and I bear a grudge!!!)

SheerWill Thu 17-Oct-13 09:07:18

I had a letter in my pigeon hole from my head after a walk round to say thanks for creating an irresistible climate for learning - it made me cry. In my previous school all I ever had was criticism and nit picking.

As teachers we seek approval. Just like children we will work our socks off for the person who believes in us.

lifeissweet Wed 16-Oct-13 22:48:16

I agree with Waferthinmint. I would add that it is demoralising when what you do isn't seen. I am not talking about monitoring people to death (that's what happens at my school - providing evidence for people monitoring me takes up more of my time than marking at the moment - it's ridiculous), but if you ask for planning folders or assessment data to be done - look at it and acknowledge the work that went in. It's not all that difficult.

I have a Head who will never say anything nice without following it up with a 'but' in case anyone gets too big for their boots. Morale is crushingly low at the moment. Staff are paranoid about whether they are 'in favour' at the moment. Don't do that - be transparent.

Also, morale is being sapped by members of staff who get away with doing very little and despite lots of complaints from colleagues, suffer no consequences when other staff members would have been dragged over the coals by now. Don't do that either. Be fair.

I'm sure all of that is true. Just giving a perspective.

Waferthinmint Wed 16-Oct-13 22:06:22

Oh, and my previous school had 'treat tuesdays' where there was something nice in the staff room at break.

Waferthinmint Wed 16-Oct-13 22:05:36

If you can, try to invest in making their job easier. For example -'if asking for data, ensure they only need to input it in one place, once. The. Do something with it ans show staff what you have done.

What demoralises us at school are the archaic systems trying to keep up tpwith the new requests and then never seeing any results from it. Eg: I mark the assessment, record assessment in my mark book, record same assessment on department spreadsheet, record assessment on Central school spreadsheet, record assessment on termly report.

Morale is low.

Inject a bit of fun somewhere, anywhere. A happy staff is a productive staff. Secret Santa at the end of term is a winner, birthday cards are nice (make sure they're handwritten!), cake day Friday?

We get Krispy Kreme donuts after every inspection (we're in special measures - we eat a lot of donuts!)

Helpyourself Wed 16-Oct-13 21:53:06

Of course I'd never resent being part of the solution, but there's often a culture where you're asked to come up with suggestions that can't or won't be implemented.

Helpyourself Wed 16-Oct-13 21:49:41

It's chippy of me I know, and in my current job I'm happy to propose changes and implement and manage projects. However when I was a teacher, admittedly not SMT we just didn't have the time to do what we were timetabled to deliver. Anything else was too much.
I'm not saying its good- but it is typical for a teacher.

FunkyBoldRibena Wed 16-Oct-13 21:30:17

Help yourself why would you resent being part of the solution to the problem? Surely it's a school issue, and the whole school needs to resolve it?

HedgeHogGroup Wed 16-Oct-13 20:57:16

Thank you, I knew you lot could help grin

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