For the last couple of years we have had a school Twitter account that we use to share and celebrate what is happening with the wider community, and I like the simplicity and immediacy of this method of communication. I didn’t really think much more about it than that.
Over the last year or so I had been listening to colleagues talking about how they have used Twitter as a tool to help them develop their teaching and leadership skills. Following the advice of another headteacher I searched for #SLTchat one Sunday evening and #primaryrocks on a Monday, and got a glimpse of the wealth of ideas there are just waiting to be explored.
During the Easter holiday I had a bit of time on my hands and decided to make the plunge and create myself a Twitter account @Exe_Head. Originally it was anonymous, but quickly I decided that as long as I only post things that I would be happy for any member of my family or school community to read, it would be more open and honest to use my real name.
One of the first groups that I came across was #teacher5day. It immediately struck such a chord, articulating clearly ways of actually making a difference to the wellbeing of the people I work with, as well as my own. After talking about this with my Assistant headteachers (@jamie20134 and @clmckimm) we decided to share our enthusiasm with the rest of the staff.
The following is a short summary of some of the things that have changed in my life since taking on board the #teacher5aday principles.
#Connect I probably now spend too much time on Twitter, but on balance I think I have more than reclaimed that time with the ideas and inspiration that I have found. I have followed links to really interesting blogs and articles, and have used lots of infographics as starters for discussion at leadership meetings. I do feel a bit daunted by the wisdom and dedication that I read about – for example @chrisdysonHT – but it has also inspired me to try to be a better leader and person.
I have started blogging, which is a scary prospect at first. It has helped me to clarify my own thoughts and ideas, and to share more widely some of the work we are doing as a school.
On a personal level, after a major family event I have been prompted to be better at keeping in touch with my siblings. We met up in the summer for the first time in ages, and I now try to keep a regular flow of texts going. Lots of things happened in our past, but having reflected about the importance of connection and think it is worth the effort of making a new start.
#Volunteer I haven’t got going on this as much as I intended to yet. I could use the ‘time’ excuse, but there are 24 hours in everyone’s day, and other people manage… A New Year challenge I think.
#Notice There are many inspirational people on Twitter. I loved @rondelle10_b’s #21daysjuly, which suggested an activity or event each days that allowed people to celebrate and connect with colleagues in schools. This encouraged me to look more carefully at things, and be more aware of the world. Sharing photos of our school made me recognise again how lucky we are to work in such a beautiful place, and I have found myself pointing out things like striking clouds, sunrises and the like to colleagues and children. Taking the time to stop, think and be aware of my surroundings has helped me to be calmer and more reflective.
#Learn I’ve always loved reading, but have made it more of a priority this year. Like many people I think the best book I have read for a long time is Mary Myatt’s ‘High Challenge, Low Threat’. Reading this contributed to the decision to put the wellbeing of staff and pupils as the key priority in this year’s School Improvement Plan. We also picked up some really useful ideas from @samschoolstuff and http://www.integritycoaching.co.uk. One challenge I face is that I have been a headteacher for a long time, and it can be hard for me to change my own ingrained way of doing things. I have tried hard to question myself and do things differently where this is the right thing to do, and reading about the work of others has made me more determined to do so.
#Exercise At school we started by encouraging people to exercise by taking part in #OutRunMay, where we set ourselves a running target and shared our progress on a chart in the staffroom. It really motivated me, and I ended up running more than twice my original target. We did the same in September, extending it to include swimming and cycling, and it was really good to see so many people taking part.
I did lots of running during the summer holiday, and in October ignored a dodgy ankle and other issues to complete the Great West Run (albeit very slowly). I have seen a huge improvement in my energy levels, as well as the mental benefit of having something outside of work to think about and focus on.
My first task next term is to look again at the wellbeing questionnaire we carried out in September and to make sure the issues that arose have been addressed. I will be making sure I keep referring to the #teacher5aday principles and keeping wellbeing as our school priority, whatever the challenges we have to face together.