Mal Krishnasamy is an education consultant and leadership coach. She has worked as the head of history, been part of a school’s senior team and the management team of a multi-academy trust.
I love talking with people like Mal who have stepped away from classroom teaching because their perspectives are refreshing. Mal obviously gets to see many schools and her insights into what makes a healthy working environment and what doesn’t are spot on – she gives great advice which would be useful wherever you are in your teaching career.
Listen to our conversation here:
Highlights from my conversation with Mal:
You need to work smart and know your limits
“When I started I was evangelical about teaching, staying up until one in the morning to get the job done. When I was head of history I thought it was the best job in the world. I’d come home with great ideas and stay up until midnight to do them. There’s no surprise that after department reviews, an inspection and academisation I came down sick. First, it was glandular fever, then I couldn’t walk because of chronic fatigue. I was desperate to go back to work – I loved it so much. I didn’t go back for six months.”
“I’ve still never been the same in dealing with stress – I now get really anxious about it. It’s only recently I’ve realized that was down to stress at that school because of pressure under a sustained period of time.”
Look after yourself
“Self-care is so important, there are little things you can do. Make sure you go out midweek and do no work. As much as you might love it, it will make you ill. Make sure your brain takes a break from the work. In teaching, there will always be something that needs to be done.”
“Think about the positives – keep a gratitude journal, write down one thing that went well today – it’s very easy to go away with a horrible feeling about something that went wrong and forget about all the great things that happened.”
If you’re a school leader, think about the impact on staff
“Some schools are really unaware, there is a real lack of understanding about government requirements. There is a knee-jerk requirement to do new things. That puts a real pressure on the staff… What some leaders do wrong is to try and do everything now and put a massive pressure on staff… there can be a real lack of empathy in leadership… they’re not always bearing in mind that people have lives, it is a job! Some people don’t think strategically.”
Things do seem to be changing
“A lot of schools didn’t think like businesses do, they think that “that’s the way we’ve always done it”… but now I am seeing more schools considering part-time working, which is good.”
If you’re looking to work at a school, consider this:
Look for two things: what’s their marking policy and what’s their support structure for staff. You can tell these things by looking at the advert on the website. I looked at one school which had so many different coloured pens and marking deadlines – the amount of work was unbelievable. There was nothing in the advert about supporting staff. Recently I saw a job come up near me and the description was so nice I almost applied – it talked about coaching and support and mentors, shadowing another member of staff – it was really good. You can tell from the job advert they value their staff.”
Make sure your values sit with your school’s values
“One school I ended up leaving because their values changed and they didn’t sit well with mine. That’s important, as soon as the values don’t sit well and you feel your sense of integrity is being diminished – you need to move on. The mistake many staff make is that they either try hard to stay put or leave teaching altogether – when they should have just tried a different school.”
Could these things make you happier and healthier?
Get involved in The Healthy Teacher Project:
What do you do to stay healthy?
What is stopping you stay healthy?
I’d like to talk to you – drop me an e-mail, Luke@LukeRichardson.co.uk.