"I’m already doing too much, now you want me to do something else as well?"
‘Teacher burnout’ is a recognised problem, its roots are systemic rather than individual, and it needs to be tackled collectively.
Organisations like the NEU can support you with campaigns and advice. But AGENDA is about empowering young people, which is what every teacher should be concerned about. Create a ‘support cloud’ for yourself, like the one we suggest young people develop to map the connections and networks that can sustain you. Renewing your sense of purpose, meaning, and connection to students, parents and colleagues can help avoid burnout and this is what AGENDA encourages. See also here.
I don’t have time for any of this!
“Eat an elephant one bite at a time”.
Look for how these approaches can be integrated into existing ways of doing things, for instance make use of an existing group within school, connect with external agencies who can support this work, including NEU. Keep your own well-being in mind and celebrate anything you do manage to achieve.
What about teacher voice?
Voice is not a zero sum game!
We have more in common than not. Students having a say should not mean teachers getting none. What leaves teachers feeling marginalised may be more about how schools are organised than what children and young people are doing.
It’s too risky, it’snot appropriate
It’s also risky not to do anything.
There are lots of creative ways to raise awareness of sensitive issues. Take your cue from young people about what is ‘appropriate’ – the issues come from them and their lives, and when it comes from children and young people themselves, their peers and adults are more likely to listen.
I don’t know enough about this!
Lack of confidence or knowledge isn’t actually a problem: it’s ok not to know!
The approaches here are about tapping into collective knowledge and learning together - with chldren young people, as well as colleagues and the wider community. Signpost children and young people to other services and resources in the community wherever possible.
My colleagues won’t like it
Work collectively. Share responsibility.
Develop a working party involving student and staff representatives from different years / departments / areas, and including governors and senior staff. Reach out to other schools and NEU networks. You may be surprised at how many allies you have.
Sometimes it feels personal, like it’s about how I don’t always get things right. I feel hammered.
Set a code of conduct for everyone to follow, including anonymity, respect, talking in the third person rather than about what particular individuals do.
What about resistance from parents and the community?
In most cases, parents’ concerns come from not knowing what’s really going on.
Keep channels of communication open. Make sure you - but especially students - tell parents what’s happening, via newsletters home etc. Parents and carers want children and young people to thrive, to be safe, to learn about the world around them and feel able to act in it - which is what AGENDA is all about.
“It’s more acceptable when it comes from the children”.
Our core business is teaching and learning
Making positive relationships matter is one of the most important lessons of life!
Schools have a duty of care to young people that goes beyond just getting them through exams… And remember that in England, Relationships and Sex Education and Health Education will be statutory (part of the basic curriculum) from 2020, covering many of the issues discussed here. And in Wales, Relationships and Sexuality Education will be statutory, from 2022.
It’s getting out of control!
Invest time in setting up clear ground rules. Know school policies and that the Equality Act enables schools to be proactive about challenging inequality. Teachers should equally be protected from stereotypes, discrimination and harassment. Creating positive attitudes will benefit everybody. Be inspired by the examples in AGENDA.
“We should invite challenge. As a leader I WANT to be challenged”.
You’re foisting your own politically correct agenda on children, mine aren’t interested in this
The case studies in AGENDA are based on issues and concerns that are live and urgent for the young people involved.
The children and young people you know may be very different. The point of AGENDA is to suggest some creative, open-ended and non-judgemental ways to respond to what students bring – not to impose anything on them.