Thinking about self-care in school management

Oct. 10, 2022

In this guest blog, leadership coach and founder of Leading in the Now, Dan Edwards looks at the importance of self-care in school management.

Keep your cup full, we’re going to need it.

Half term is on the horizon and the pressure of teaching and education begins to weigh heavy. The summer holidays seem a million miles away and the darkness of autumn is brooding on the horizon and the faint whiff of Halloween discos and Christmas celebrations is in the air.

Teaching and education are, in essence, transactional. From the carefully planned and sequenced sharing of knowledge and skills to pupils in our classrooms, the timely and effective administration of good practice to develop our staff teams, to the successful distribution of information to ensure sustained and positive relationships within our wider school community. All of these transactions are for the betterment of our schools and, without a doubt, our pupils.

To do all of this effectively, our individual and collective cups need to be full. Not overflowing, not sloshing precariously over the brim and splashing the toes of our smartly polished shoes but carefully measured to ensure there is enough available to support our individual roles in school and, if needed, to top up those who are becoming empty.

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Take time to fill your cup

Let’s use the analogy of a relay race. Imagine being in the final hand-over position awaiting with anticipation the baton to which you will receive and grasp, aiming for the finish line. However, unfortunately, the runner currently holding the baton, the baton you are waiting so patiently to receive has already run a marathon. They are tired, broken, worn-out, wobbly, and miles behind the other runners. Their cup is empty. Their cup is nowhere to be seen. Furthermore, sadly no one saw it was missing nor that it had anything in it before the race had even started. The impact is noticed by all. The key to keeping your cup full is to make time to fill it.

No matter how hectic our lives may be, burnout is only around the corner. It hides, lies in wait and when we are least expecting it, it silently sits alongside us. It’s clear that we all need to take time for ourselves and rediscover those activities that enable us to keep our cup brimming but sometimes we forget.

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For some, like me, it might be running. Others it might be reading, singing in a choir, playing an instrument, knitting, bungee jumping, learning a new language, cookery, or a combination of everything in this list or, quite simply, taking the time to stop, switch off and spend time with friends and family. Whatever it is, we have a responsibility to make sure that we take time to recharge - to replenish our cup to pour again.

Look out for others

Critically, those of us who are leaders must ensure that we construct and embed cultures within our schools, institutions and organisations that look out for those colleagues whose cups are not yet full, development for those who don’t know yet how to fill them and, sadly, support those who may have lost their cup completely through no fault of their own or, without knowing, the systems and processes we, or the custodians before us, have put in place in.

Embrace technology

Thinking smartly about the technology we use is important to ensure we maintain a balance. As educationalists, we do spend a ridiculous amount of time reinventing the wheel, rewriting plans and, if we are all very honest, trying to do things on our own knowing that somewhere out there something or someone can do it better or has already done it for us. Sometimes the fear of technology creates additional workload pressure. This now may be the time to embrace it.

Our work in education is vital and now, more than any other time in our careers, we need to ensure we are all still standing to support the children and families who belong to our school communities and, with the half term only a few weeks away, what better time to find out what fills your cup.

Webinar: Helping School leaders with Self Evaluation & School Improvement planning

Transform your self-evaluation and improvement planning

Our leadership and management platform Know my School can help you fill your cup by taking the stress out of self-evaluation, improvement planning and inspection preparation. Find out how with a free demo.