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Feeling like giving it all up....

Discussion in 'Headteachers' started by bed, Jun 13, 2016.

  1. bed

    bed New commenter

    This is in response to the number of heads and senior teachers I've heard (sometimes read on here) who feel like it's become too much and they want to give it all up

    You can.

    Said it.
    It's true. You can give it all up. Resign. Just stop. The world doesn't end.

    I want to say this because everyone is so keen to help and encourage colleagues- fellow heads to stay on and stick it out that I think the other message is lost - if resigning is right for you then do it.

    Sometimes holding on is the wrong thing to do. I held on. I held on in **** circumstances that I thought I could improve. I couldn't. No-one could. But I held on with the encouragement of people who only meant to support and help .... I held on.

    And I suffered a complete and total breakdown because of it.
    Psychologically, emotionally, physically. It has taken me eighteen months to get back to a reasonable state but I'm still not healed. I still have a long way to go.
    And I'm not the only one.
    But at least I am alive - and for a while that was not necessarily how I wanted to be.

    So - you're health is paramount.
    Not the children
    Not the staff
    Not the school

    They will get a new HT if they want and they'll be fine.

    Your first duty is to yourself and then to your family and then to your loved ones and friends.

    It is not to school or the children in it.

    So - to all those heads who are struggling, exhausted, questioning if they should go on it not
    I'll say this

    Take some time off
    Talk it over with you OH/ best friend/ confidant
    Think carefully

    And if you conclude that you can and want to carry on then you do so - but remember you have to come first.
    And if you end up more and more certain that your exhaustion, your struggling, your questioning is answered by needing to leave then do it.

    And if the notice period had passed and you need to get gone - talk to HR, they can help you sort something out by way of a compromise.
    Or if you are unsure that you can keep giving 100% (and more) and if the exhaustion, anxiety and depression are there and recognisable go to the Docs - explain and they'll give you a sick note
    Because the Doc is concerned about YOU not the school, not the children, just you and s/he doesn't want you to die if a heart attack - or suicide, or tired driving, or alcohol poisoning, or, or, or........

    If it's right for you to stay - good

    But if you have an inkling you want to go - listen to it

    And please take care of you
    Because NO-ONE else in education will.

  2. crezz1

    crezz1 New commenter

    I am just about to do the same and go and look for new pastures.
    I cannot agree more with your sentiment, sometimes whatever you try to do is never good enough, and then it can become a downward spiral. I am hoping for something short term in the first instance, but will wait and see!
    Thanks for posting this Bed.
    bed likes this.
  3. bed

    bed New commenter

    Good luck Crezz

    Just to emphasise, I'm not advocating hasty decisions in low times, I'm encouraging people to pause and listen to those questions that arise in low times.
    Examine them seriously.
    And when you decide to stay, decide also to get support from colleagues and your own team to make sure you don't get overwhelmed.

    And when you decide to leave, decide also to get support.

    Whatever you decide, look after your health, rest, treat yourself with kindness.

  4. Marshall

    Marshall Star commenter

    Thanks - it's good to hear it said in this way! I'm not ready to go but I do need a reminder to look after me just like what you've just said!
  5. Keighleigh

    Keighleigh New commenter

    Yes thanks Bed. :) A great reminder to stay grounded. The job is so challenging and these are hard times but you're right. It's about our own mental well being. It's a thankless task too! But I'm choosing to focus on the positives and will definitely listen to your advice to look after ME - my family need me!!! :D
  6. Hi Crezz1, Keighleigh, Marshall and Bed :)

    I know what you all are feeling completely and yes I really couldn't agree more Bed that your wellbeing and meeting your needs always must come first - it's so important to give your mind and body the time, patience and above all, the care you truly deserve.

    However, what I will say and headteachers aren't ever told this enough is that they truly do a remarkable job and what an enormous difference they make. Sadly, however it can often feel like a lonely place to be and like you're making a tremendous and often unappreciated sacrifice each and everyday.

    The nature of the role can also be isolating. Back when I was a head teacher, being at the top meant that I had to put some professional distance between me and co-workers and as a result, it can feel like a lonely place to be. I felt like I was wearing a mask everyday, pretending to be a superhead which is impervious to every criticism, complaint and the stress of your role but underneath I was falling to pieces.

    Ultimately, I just didn't get the support I truly needed, a place to put my headteacher mask down and process the feelings, struggles and fears with as I feared it would be construed like I wasn't up for the job.

    However, the truth is that if you are struggling with your role or even your wellbeing that is NOT a sign of weakness, nor is it a sign you're not upto it - you wouldn't have got to where you are now if you're weren't exceptional! But it could be a sign that you're not getting the support you need.

    That's why when I left head teaching started my company, Integrity Coaching to support headteachers who experienced what I felt, to help inspire, guide, nurture, train and above all, empower headteachers to overcome their difficulties and their struggles. Job with a huge responsibility but incredible reward like leading, inspiring and creating a better future for 1000s of children - isn't a job you should have to do alone.

    I actually wrote an article about the stresses of headteacher for the Guardian which gives a few tips which helped me through the most difficult times, http://www.theguardian.com/education/2015/feb/03/headteacher-how-deal-with-stress-isolation-tips - we've also got a lot of free resources on our website that may be able to help you!

    Best of luck and remember you're all amazing :)

    bed and Jesmond12 like this.
  7. StarandGarter

    StarandGarter New commenter

    Thank you
    Good advice that bought me to tears.
    Good to have pointed out that even though I very often feel that I'm not sure I can cope. Little support the LA on my back, the unknown and staff morale to keep up.....
    I can't do it if I forget the need to look after me, for them and my family
    bed likes this.
  8. DocWol

    DocWol New commenter

    You are not alone. I believe that our jobs are made harder by artificial images and expectations of use being all things to all people. We spend our lives worrying about our pupils and our staff but very little worrying about ourselves and before we know it we arrive at a cliff edge. I saw that Viv Grant had replied to you, read her book "Staying ahead" it will hopefully give you some support. On a simpler level you may also find some help in my blog on teachers' emotional well-being, particularly this post: http://teachersminds.blogspot.co.uk/2016/03/the-best-job-in-world-or-how-to-make.html

    Good luck
    bed likes this.
  9. FrenchFancy55

    FrenchFancy55 New commenter

    This really made me stop and think as I feel very much the same way. I spend my life worrying that I haven't done things properly and I should have done something differently. I feel sometimes I'm losing my confidence with such difficult parents, pressure of sats and the constant need to improve. I want to leave but just can't afford to. Some days are great but others I just want to cry. It's all so hard.
    bed and StarandGarter like this.
  10. Hi FrenchFancy :)

    I completely understand where you're coming from. It's a sad reality that in this climate of high accountability and low trust, that appreciation and praise can often get drowned out in our minds by complaints, performance pressure and negativity. With this climate, it is easy for us to begin to question ourselves and the decisions and progress we've made.

    However, it's important to recognise the voices which are behind these thoughts, to recognise the source of the voices of fear and self-doubt in our minds for what they are.

    1) self-limiting beliefs

    By self-limiting beliefs, I mean those beliefs which we tell ourselves that say what we're not capable of and say "I can't do X", "I won't be able to do Y" and "Everything I have to do has to be perfect"

    2) negative voices from our past

    Growing up in the 70s and 80s, I was taught by more than a handful of teachers who had very low expectations of what a young black girl could achieve. These voices and incorrect predictions about me, had formed beliefs about my supposed limitations based on their prejudices and misconceptions. Despite confounding those expectations by becoming one of the youngest head teachers in the country to turn around a failing primary school, I still felt these voices creep in when I made mistakes or after dealing with challenging behaviour from parents, children, and even staff.

    I allowed these voices from the past to inform my confidence, instead of letting my qualities, strengths, achievements speak for themselves and the praise I received to question and disprove these beliefs. What I'd say to you in the first instance is question why you feel you need to constantly improve? Question why you don't trust your own work and above all, question these voices in your head and limiting beliefs that you tell yourself everyday.

    Beyond that, I've actually written a little three step guide for helping self-doubt which can help you challenge these limiting beliefs and learn how to build your trust in yourself and your abilities - http://www.integritycoaching.co.uk/blog/self-doubt
    The second thing I'd also like to say to you whilst it's important to always look to improve, by reflecting and learning lessons from your experiences - it sounds to me, that you also need to more patient with yourself.

    Scientists tell us that if you open up a cocoon during the critical stage of a caterpillar's transformation - what we'd see isn't some sort of caterpillar/butterfly hybrid, we'd see a liquidised, mixed up, vulnerable, unrecognisable mess - caterpillar soup! To the outside world, the cocoon gives the impression of wholeness, hiding the truth of what's going on inside. We've all done it - we've kept up the appearance of having it altogether and inside being a mixed up mess.

    Fortunately for us, nature does not look upon this mess as a mistake but knows that what is needed is time and patience. Just as nature affords time to the change process, becoming the best head teacher you can be also takes time. You also need to have the time and support invested in you and patience with yourself to allow yourself to grow.

    Jesmond12 likes this.
  11. StarandGarter

    StarandGarter New commenter

    Thank you viv wise words
    It's not just those new to headship, those of us who have been doing it a while also have crisis from time to time.
    I've been a caterpillar to butterfly to caterpillar, I'm now caterpillar soup awaiting the next bloom
  12. Jesmond12

    Jesmond12 Star commenter

    Thanks for posting this Viv, wise advice especially for a fairly experienced HT.

    I think I might start monitoring my blood pressure between 12.30 - 1.00pm each day especially when the phone rings. I love Thursday & Fridays.

    I think that I need to sit down and try and reflect more.
  13. Hi Star and Garter :)

    Whilst it may feel like these storms you experience are ripping you to pieces and then trying to put yourself back together. The truth is (whether you realise it or not) with every storm which comes and passes, when you carry out these repairs, you build yourself back stronger and stronger, more capable of coping with the next storm. I always like to think that when I help headteachers that I'm there with my tools, materials and blueprints to help them reinforce themselves with the resilience to face tens of more storms :)

    Jesmond12 - Absolutely, Thursdays and Fridays were the best for me too - particularly if you're fully giving yourself the weekend that you deserve after a long week of hard work. The knowledge that I'll have earned the time to do what I love with those I love was always a huge motivation for me!

    Reflection really is the key to continuous learning, your experience has taught you such a huge amount - so much that you may not even realise! I often find when I'm coaching headteachers that they have all the answers to all their issues and problems in their own experience but they just hadn't had the time to stop, pause and reflect :)

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