Are you strong enough to be my teacher?

Lauren Seager-Smith, CEO, Kidscape

A guest blog for EduCare, for Mental Health Awareness Week

We ask a lot of our teachers.

As CEO of the anti-bullying charity Kidscape, I have campaigned for many years for school staff to take action against bullying and to provide a holistic education where all children feel safe and supported.

As a Mum of school age children, I want so much for their teachers to be kind to them, to be patient, to wipe their tears and stick a plaster on their knees when I’m not there. I know as a Mum that when I’m having a bad day it is so much harder to be patient, to remember that children by nature are playful, testing and loud. I’m not always patient and kind and yet that’s what I expect of my children’s teachers, all day, every day.

Mental Health in Schools

With over half of school staff admitting their job has a negative effect on their mental health, 70% exhausted and two thirds living with disturbed sleep (ATL, 2014) we’ve got to support school staff to put on their own oxygen masks first and breathe deep before we expect perfection.

Teachers are being called on by the Department for Education help pupils to succeed by ‘supporting them to be resilient and mentally healthy’ but it’s very challenging to put this into practice if you are exhausted, anxious and depressed. There are many personal and painful reasons why our mental health is under strain, but without a doubt unless we take good care of ourselves we struggle to be the port in a storm that children need us to be.

Surviving or Thriving?

Maya Angelou wrote that “her mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humour, and some style”. These are attributes we find in school staff that are thriving and they lead to the creation of supportive, safe environments where our children in turn can ask for help, and have a chance to reach their full potential. The DfE calls on schools leaders to create a culture where students can talk about their problems ‘in a non-stigmatising way’ but this must extend to staff if we are to provide children with the support they so need. How can we build up the strength of all members of a school community? Compassion and humour are a good place to start and I’m sure each of you could name one or many things, from the mundane to the critical that would lighten the load.

If you’re working in a school and feeling the strain then please be kind to yourself.

For practical tools and advice to keep children safe from bullying and all forms of harm visit www.kidscape.org.uk