Review by Kate Fiddian

18 Sep 2016, 5:00

#Teacher5aday Journal and Handbook

How many teachers work hard all term, only to get ill when the school holidays start?

The #Teacher5aday Journal and Handbook is a guide to look after your wellbeing. Laid out in a month-by-month format, it follows the #Teacher5aday themes of connect, learn, notice, volunteer and exercise throughout the year, suggesting activities and prompting you to reflect.

There is space at the end of each chapter to jot down your goals, your reflections and a thought of the month – all of which I can see myself using. I especially liked the blank “gratitude jar”; all too often we need to be reminded to show others we are grateful! I also had to smile when prompted to write down five songs that make my day. I’ve already pulled these songs into a “happy” playlist for days when I need a bit of a pick-me-up.

As a school leader, I enjoyed the ideas that challenge the accepted norm and force me to justify why I choose to operate in a certain way. Breathing, yoga and meditation appeal less to me (when would I find the time to sit still? How ironic!) but there is variety –  leadership, workload, family, meditation – so I can see this book appealing to a wide audience.

As I approach my own first maternity leave, Emma Kell’s reflections on teachers transitioning to parenthood are not only pertinent, but funny. Emma reflects on how she learned to let go of perfectionism, laugh at disasters and remain stubbornly optimistic about her career. Those are goals to aim for!

Emma reflects on how she learned to let go of perfectionism, laugh at disasters and remain stubbornly optimistic about her career

The book is divided into months; maybe it’s the rebellious teenager surfacing in me, but I found the structure restrictive and not necessarily reflective of where my priorities might be at different points in the year; I would definitely welcome a more flexible format.

In December, the spotlight is on reducing workload: “paper for purpose, not persuading people”, says Ros Farrell, a primary head. Her view that clear communication is superior to a mountain of policies rings true: as an assistant head I am constantly looking for improved ways of evaluating and developing classroom practice, but how much of what we do feeds the policy-making machine and how much has a positive impact on learning experiences?

In April, we are introduced to the #WomenEd movement; what better way for me to look after my wellbeing, than to join a network of like-minded colleagues, collaborating to support women on their leadership journeys.

As I reach July, I find I’m ahead of the game, as our school already runs a termly wellbeing event (during a scheduled CPD or meeting slot) when we play rounders, go for a bike ride or cook a new recipe. This is something I highly advocate; after all, if the staff body have great relationships and communicate well, it can only benefit students.

The book guides us to look after ourselves first, then share it with others in school. Initially, I questioned this order of priorities; then I re-read the introduction by Martyn Reah: “put your own oxygen mask on first”. Touché.

Resistant as I have been in the past to ensuring my own wellbeing is in order, now more than ever I need to ensure that I work as efficiently as possible. And although I cherry-picked from throughout the year, I have place markers on the first three wellbeing strategies I am going to act on in September.

Overall, the #Teacher5aday Journal and Handbook does exactly what it sets out to do: share ways to enhance wellbeing and give the reader space to doodle and reflect. It is accessible, simple and heartening.

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    • Hi Sally – I’m the editor of the book and as it was a crowdfunded project – we had a limited print run. However, we are in the process of developing a second edition which will be more widely available. I anticipate it will be ready to go in late June. If you’d like to be notified when it is published, let me know and we can share contact details. Thanks for your interest and I’m sorry you couldn’t get hold of a copy of the first edition!