10 Mar HT Blog 24 – Praise
Although our education system finds itself in the midst of a teacher recruitment & retention crisis, with many schools up and down our country unable to either attract into or keep enough professionals in their classrooms, we are blessed at Daubeney Academy to have an unusually high proportion of outstanding specialist teachers delivering a high-quality education to our students. Making sure that teachers feel valued is vital to the success of any school and to this end we have had Wellbeing Weeks for teachers in place for two years now (a week, once a half-term, when no meetings are to be scheduled after school and teachers are encouraged to leave the school site as quickly as possible at the end of the school day) and an email curfew in place for teachers between the hours of 8pm and 7am, so that the adults who are teachers during the day also have time to be mums, dads or anything else once they get home. From my own experience of performing a number of roles in four schools (three of them enormous secondaries with almost 2,000 students in each!) in different parts of the country, what teachers needs most in terms of wellbeing is the trust of their senior leaders that they can and will perform their jobs to the best of their ability and the time to actually do whatever it is that they are meant to do. Other gimmicks, such as compulsory yoga sessions or enforced mindfulness activities, which are being rolled out in some other schools, might look good on a report that shows how much leaders care but may in reality only serve to reduce the amount of time that teachers have to do their jobs rather than help them to become more efficient at what they do. What teachers also need, every now and then, is someone telling them that they’ve done something well (don’t we all?), and for this reason we are introducing an initiative next week called Daubeney’s Golden Apples, which is essentially an opportunity for our students to collect a postcard from reception upon which they can write a thank you message to a teacher (I should add here that I consider all adults who work in a school to be teachers, regardless of what it might say on their ID badge!) for either delivering an excellent lesson or for helping them in another way. So that we aim for a fair distribution of Golden Apples, students are only allowed to post three postcards per half-term in the superbly impressive postbox that Mr Thorogood has made in his DT room and which will be in our library as of Monday March 11. Teachers, despite their (in my opinion) obvious superhero qualities, are also just humans, with feelings, emotions and a need to be appreciated, and it would be wonderful to see as many of our students as possible recognising this and writing some words of praise for them on our Golden Apples postcards over the next few weeks.
Our students, of course, can already receive their own postcards and badges for a number of different reasons. Our values postcards acknowledge and reward students whose behaviour or actions have met our agreed expectations of the shared values that permeate life at Daubeney, and anyone who gets a full set of respect, responsibility, learning, confidence and honesty gets to wear a very, very stylish bright pink, yellow or orange values badge (it’s got to be bright pink, right?) Similarly, students who complete a full set of homework tasks in a half-term will also receive a homework postcard from the subject area in which they have met the learning expectations. Perhaps our most famous badges, however, are our Colours badges, which are awarded during our ceremonies at King’s House (we are aiming for the next one to take place in July) and which indicate a commitment towards the development of an individual’s character. Back in November 2017, of course, we were even visited by Nicky Morgan MP as she had heard of the excellent work that we are doing in this regard and wanted to find out more about the character development that takes place at Daubeney. But, although our special postcards and badges are brilliant signs of a student’s development, sometimes all that is needed is some simple, old-fashioned praise, and our teachers are encouraged to ensure that this is given, wherever appropriate, as much as possible, either verbally or in the form of the praise texts that we send home each week. It has been a challenging period of transition for Daubeney Academy over the past few years, as it has also been difficult for many other schools in a number of other contexts both locally and nationally, and both our students and our teachers are doing an excellent job of making things work very, very well indeed. Praise and appreciation are often something that gets a little lost in the hurly burly world of education, but at Daubeney we will continue to go out of our way to make sure that everyone who is doing a good job knows exactly how much their efforts are valued.