Schoolzone | Secondary school leaders' reflections on the first month of lockdown

Secondary school leaders' reflections on the first month of lockdown

Date: 29.05.2020

Secondary senior leaders

Here's what secondary senior leaders told us, via our May survey of over 3,000 teachers:

 

  • A little more isolated and less energetic than normal, but we use Teams a great deal for teaching and meetings, which helps a lot. I have enjoyed being at home with family, but work pervades everything!
  • Absolutely overworked - working in the independent sector, we have to justify our fees to parents. In the past 8 weeks, I have initiated and designed two distance programmes for Year 11 and Year 13 students, including compiling subject resources and organising delivery across departments and pastoral tutors. I have also led the School's delivery of remote learning across KS3, 4 and 5, supported fragile and vulnerable students, staff and parents and managed colleagues in SLT, at middle management as well as running standard recruitment and disciplinary processes that are part and parcel of the school landscape as well as managing difficult conversations about issues such as furlough, plus sorting out the CAGs and other exam-related admin, and sorting out staffing and timetables for next year. I have had 3 days since March 16 when I have not had to complete some form of work. So, although I am feeling fundamentally positive, I am absolutely exhausted. I have ring-fenced 22-27 May as a break, and hope to return refreshed, but I don't think I have ever had such a relentless workload.
  • Acting Principal through this - now Principal back in place - lack of information available and responsibility for everyones wellbeing was at times a heavy burden to carry!;
  • As lockdown has continued over time, I have become more relaxed, I do not feel the constant pressures.
  • confused bewildered oppressed
  • Depressed, full of self doubt born out of lack of impact as a teacher on my students.
  • Difficult times but I appreciate others are in much worst situations.
  • Disbelief, frustration, cheated, getting fat
  • Feeling like things are running away with me. Every day the goal posts are changing. We're planning and contigency planning without a real steer on what we ought to be doing. It's like walking on the edge of a cliff in the dark without a torch, which is stressful.
  • Feeling very frustrated with level of engagement when the weather is sunny. Few are engaging despite hours of preparation spent on lessons and marking. I feel I am going to be starting with a class at so many different points on the continuum of FB learning. Frustrated since I do not know what teaching will look like or the date for starting back.
  • Felt far less stressed that a normal teaching week
  • Finding it difficult to balance the new dynamic of working at home with two kids and a husband also working from home.
  • Frustrated by the changes in information and lack of clarity. Tight deadlines when I do not have all the information I need e.g how to complete risk assessments for such an unusual situation. I feel compromised by my duty of care to staff and students whilst managing a quality of home learning. I can't win whatever I do
  • frustrated with low quality of discussion around future of education.
  • Frustrated with trying to balance family with work
  • Frustration trying to work from home. Worry over the children in our care.
  • Generally not a happy experience and stressful.
  • Happier - time to catch up and manage the workload better than in normal times. Home with he family - eating 3 meals a day together and time to exercise etc
  • Highly stressed. Shifting to remote learning has been a very steep learning curve and my responsibilities in the school has meant I have had to deal with a great load of additional work at a time when I should be starting work on our timetable for next year.
  • I am far more relaxed, sleeping better, enjoying cooking and gardening, fitting in my school work when it suits me, setting lessons well in advance so that I can spend my time on giving feedback - honestly, I'm longing for retirement!
  • I am shielding so there is concern about my job roll moving forward and when it will be safe to return to work.
  • I am so happy I have been able to teach my students online and continue supporting them from home. I miss being in school but am taking the positives from this time at home.
  • I am working harder than ever and even though I have no commute I start earlier and finish later. In addition I have my son being taught virtually from his school whilst I am teaching students from my school. However although this has been a steep learning curve I feel positive that students have engaged with the academic curriculum and our well-being programme. It has opened my eyes to 'doing things differently', more creatively to quote Ken Robinson, in the future.
  • I definitely feel less relaxed over the last couple of weeks, definitely impacted by increased workload, parental demands, changing landscapes and negative media fuelling comments outside work.
  • I feel I am too focused on work and taking a step back is harder as there is the constant self-pressure of am I doing enough, how are my team, how are my students, do I take their answer or do I delve deeper. On top of managing my teaching, ML and SLT responsibilities which is difficult so I am working some very long days and struggling to step away but I do feel like I have achieved something at the end of every day.
  • I feel i have my life back - evenings and weekends are not filled with work - or worry about work
  • I feel out of the loop on decision making for the whole school and that i have no idea what the students are doing or feeling like and that as a pastoral leader I should know these things. I am working harder than ever and yet i have no idea of the impact of what i am doing. I am running the mental health for the whole school but wonder if anyone is actually engaging with the things I am doing.
  • I find it difficult to do my job from home as I’m a pastoral lead. My home is my private sanctuary and I feel it’s been invaded by me having to ring students and parents from home. I struggled to adapt to lockdown at first as I’m a social person but now I’m struggling to process the thoughts of teaching again and the stresses that comes with it. I’m working a lot from home and I’m on a weekly rota going into work once a week but because I’m asthmatic I’ve been working in a closed office and I now feel nervous about interacting with the children again.
  • I find it harder to keep anxieties at bay because it is more difficult to keep things in perspective when working alone. I worry particularly about working relationships when my influence is reduced by lack of regular face-to-face contact. Motivation is more of a challenge. It takes some inner steel to assure myself that getting on with the work without relaxing standards is what matters most, when there is less affirmation from colleagues and ready evidence of effectiveness.
  • I have been on furlough which is a soul-destroying experience - sitting at home, losing money
  • I have enjoyed having time to exercise. I have welcomed the opportunity of being forced into learning new skills for teaching. It is tough having pretty much the only form of communication being via email - it can be overwhelming!
  • I have enjoyed the time to reflect and to live a slower, smaller pace. I have sometimes felt overwhelmed by being a situation beyond my control. I have enjoyed learning new skills; at the same time translating what I know into a language that I do not know e.g. online teaching is sometimes exhausting.
  • I have felt extremely stressed because of the very high expectations from parents, and my inability to focus on my classes because of the SLT responilsibitities that have absorbed so much of my time. It has been very difficult to juggle the demands of a family and work
  • I have felt isolated and anxious. I have felt like the Government and the media don't care about teachers, the negative rhetoric or even the lack of any discussion around teaching and teachers as being important key workers is hurtful and disappointing. The fact that teachers and schools have managed their schools in order to offer a good online experience overnight is commendable and inspiring, yet this has gone largely unnoticed.
  • I have felt out of touch with decisions that have been made, my students and their families.
  • I have felt that my job has become increasingly difficult in that the interaction and face to face conversations that would normally take 5 minutes but be so valuable are impossible to have. Organising people and keeping them all on track as well as just keeping contact with everyone is increasingly draining. Staring at a computer screen for most of the day is also very tiring. Being unable to access things remotely that are in school/on the school server without going into school is frustrating. Trying to ensure that students and parents are still engaged and learning the work set is making me feel less effective as we have no control over their home circumstances, environment or work ethic. Returning to a school that is trying to function under social distancing is difficult. On top of this having to calculate grades for students who would have taken exams has increased my workload massively and has made me feel anxious about whether those students will have been given the grades they deserve.
  • I have had sciatica and have been unable to walk and exercise the dog for 7 weeks
  • I have made a greater effort to separate work and school life which has been beneficial to me and my family. I have see much more of my family than I usually do which had been wonderful and although working long hours, I haven't wasted time commuting or in pointless meetings. Our meetings are much more concise and meaningful and only when necessary rather than just because they are calendared. This means that we are rethinking the things that we normally do and trying to improve the old ways of working much more.
  • i have no commute to work, i get up later and still have time for a 5k dog walk in the morning which energises me. I have less marking now Y11 and Y13 have gone, so i can focus on other areas of school improvement. My colleagues are teaching live lessons and the feedback is excellent so there is a real positive buzz around the remote school. I started language classes at the start of lockdown and have continued, i now mediate and that empowers me
  • I’m just as busy, but in a different way
  • I'm a generally positive and energetic person, with good mental health. I miss my family a lot (especially my nieces), who I am used to seeing every few days and are now growing up without me watching. I'm grateful for FaceTime, Zoom and House Party that allows me to stay connected to my family, friends and colleagues and I'm privileged to have a wide network of people to interact with. I have a wonderful marriage to my husband of ten years, which makes being at home a joy. I am lucky that he is also a teacher (at the same school) so we largely keep the same hours and understand what the other is busy doing. We can also still talk about work, as colleagues and help each other out. Although we are still working full days we are clocking off earlier than we would usually be getting home from school, so we are enjoying the extra time and more relaxed pace of life. We often go for months in a row with my husband's busy sporting schedule preventing us from having nice relaxing weekend breakfasts/brunches, so I'm pleased to have been able to do more of that. In general I adore cooking and it's lovely to have more time to do that and it's not just rushing in at 6.30 and having to get the dinner on the go hen I've been on my feet since 7am. Apart from the gym, my general hobbies of reading and listening to podcasts can still be done under lock down, so all in all it's not been a horrendous experience for me. Would I give it all up and get back to the rat race for just one hug with my mum, sister and nieces ….. in a heartbeat!
  • I'm loving it! I was born for this!
  • Increased stress levels with poor sleeping patterns; Unable to multi-task well; Short tempered with own children.
  • Initially quite jarring. But once I got my head around working from home and juggling family in a different way, quite good.
  • Initially very stressful and no Easter holiday. Now we have a good remote teaching system and things are better. Def worried about returning to school - whether it is safe and how it can be possible to do it with social distancing esp as boarding school. No gov advice to boarding schools yet.
  • Intensely busy and not able to switch off. Consumed by online activity and not being able to switch between work and home. Work colleagues not completely empathetic with others needs. Overwhelming at times.
  • Isolated
  • Isolated and my personal circumstances not taken in to account
  • It has been stressful supporting staff and pupils. The main stress has been around CAGs and the planning for return.
  • It has helped me recognise that I can do much of my job from home and I would like to do more so from now on (I lead a teaching school and SCItT and I don't teach pupils)
  • It's been hard to adapt.
  • Ive kept in touch with my department, we have multiple initiatives to make sure that we stay active and that we support one another. This has helped in spite of an every increasing workload.
  • Like many others there are highs and lows - often with no particular rationale behind why,
  • Lockdown hasn't been the problem. Work load has increased, typically 15 hr days with added stress and time now of return to school planning
  • Many of my staff feel very stressed and anxious
  • missing talking to students and staff on an hourly basis , feel disconnected about decisions made by SLT. Emails are too reactive and not considered. The round robin 'shaming'...
  • More uncertain with regards how school opening will occur.
  • Most things take longer to achieve and require more effort. Frustration levels are high as communication is partial and impersonal
  • My home ed students have to take their CIE exams in October as grades won't be awarded. I feel let down and feel as though I have let them down terribly
  • My man hours trying to predict and adjust to the poor information from the DfE is astronomical. Couple this with the balance of looking after my own 3 children. Their education is suffering, meaning my wellbeing and their wellbeing is suffering.
  • My workload has increased massively due to the situation. I’m part time 0.6 but regularly work on my days off and until late in the evening.
  • Overwhelmed with the sheer about of guidance and help, hundreds of pages of it issued, reissued and updated on a daily basis on which we have to act, often without time to prepare, consider or consult and which is changed 24/48 hours later with no warning
  • Overwhelmed, stressed and powerless. Not consulted by Government or given the professional courtesy of enabling us to prepare for theplans the Govt announce to the public at the same time as us.
  • Pretty variable, sometimes good , sometimes a bit fed up. Generally, calmer admittedly but miss the people and the structure.
  • Rather removed from other people’s concerns and issues except for what is seen on the news. Unhappy about the lack of support I can offer other members of the family.
  • sad for the deaths
  • Scared, guilty, tired, worried, frustrated
  • Seem to have a lot more communication by electronic Learning new ICT stuff
  • Since lockdown I have felt more clam and relaxed because I can control/limtit exposure. This would dradtically change if schools are forced to re-open.
  • Stressed and unable to reduce workload.
  • So much pressure as a senior leader
  • Struggling to balance workload with homeschooling and other family responsibilities.
  • Suicidal at times, but mostly bored and depressed
  • Swing from feelings of being valued and feeling optimisitc to high anxiety and worthlessness
  • swings from being happy and content to angry and resentful
  • The lockdown is obviously frustrating but it is a necessary and temporary thing. I am very keen to get back to teaching face to face as soon as practical. Careful measures will need to be adopted to be able to do so but the idea of not going back to school is unworkable and even some of the safety measures suggested are also unworkable and over cautious. Shielding those who are high risk is important but apart from that the risks of the virus are actually low to most of the population.
  • There has been a cycle of feeling happier and less happy - but not depressed
  • There is much work to be done, but our regualr checks of people, here there and in every corner, are not there now and this is tricky, lonely and can be quite disorientating. Communcation is key to keep people focussed and valued.
  • Totally over worked and put upon.
  • Trapped, uneasy, difficulty sleeping. Questioning whether it would be better not to be here anymore but these feelings come and go.
  • Uncertain and overwhelmed. Expectations from lots of people.
  • unsettled and a little anxious but not ovewhelmed
  • variable emotions. Enjoying a slower pace of life but finding online teaching and remote working a challenge. I feel as the management are makign very rushed rapif decisions
  • Wishing for more direct guidance and parameters in which to plan the return to school for students.
  • Working from home is challenging because , as a senior leader, it can feel that you are having to work all of the time and that it is difficult to take breaks - due to constant updates and lack of guidance from the Government
  • Working very hard so very tired.
  • Workload has significantly increased which means that I am often reactive instead of proactive. Time that I could have used for forward planning seems to have evaporated. I have an increased level of anxiety which is only slightly offset by working from home. I find that I am spending even more time in front of the computer.
  • Worried about welfare of students and staff as DSL, SENCO and Staff Welfare Champion
  • Yes, I’m slt, however the distinct lack of support and awareness at Trust level is concerning
  • zoom has been great to keep in contact with the department

 

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