I’m Leon Smith, Twinkl’s Chief Customer Officer. I oversee the customer experience and marketing teams at Twinkl, who engage with Twinkl’s members and the wider teaching community each day. As a parent of two young children and a former primary school teacher myself, I’ve experienced similar challenges to those we are hearing about first-hand from teachers across the country. But right now I can only imagine how difficult it has been to continue supporting pupils’ learning as we experience a pandemic.
As teachers, you need to fill a lot of roles and wear a lot of different hats. You have to look after the safeguarding, health and wellbeing of your pupils, as well as their education. At the beginning of the coronavirus outbreak, teachers were seen as heroes, with lots of appreciation for the brilliant role that you do.
In the past, along with the praise, teachers have been unfairly criticised for long holidays, shorter days (a misconception!) and even being work-shy. Many of you will have seen ‘teacher-bashing’ online and in the media. I hope that the recent recognition and support for teachers will continue. But it is already very concerning that some of the old misconceptions are resurfacing, along with suggestions that teachers don’t want to go back to work and are avoiding playing their part.
Some teachers may also still be working at home for the foreseeable future, and this comes with its own challenges. You may be feeling disconnected from your colleagues, worried about your pupils and missing out on some essential face-to-face time with those who understand you best.
It’s okay to feel concerned about returning to school. You’ll be trying to think of ways to keep yourself and your learners safe from the virus, as well as carrying on with your usual responsibilities. You may be teaching a new group and continuing to plan for those in school, as well as those still at home. The teaching assistant you’d usually have in the classroom may be leading other groups, so you might be missing some of the support you’d normally have. And, as it isn’t the right time to lift the lockdown completely, you may be missing out on some of the ways you used to unwind before lockdown.
We’ve teamed up with Mind to create a brand-new bank of resources to help you manage your mental health during this crisis. It includes Twinkl’s own resources, which are designed exclusively for teachers, TAs and school SLT and covers the unique challenges you might be facing. Or, you might prefer to look at more general advice from experts which can help keep you positive and focused. There are also links to some helplines if what you really need is a chat with a sympathetic listener.
(This photo was taken before the coronavirus pandemic.)
I’ve always been a huge champion of Twinkl’s focus on wellbeing, and this year launched the ‘Year of Wellbeing’ to help school communities focus on their health and happiness.
I was so pleased to see the recent announcement from the Department for Education that extra mental health support is being provided to teachers and pupils. This will specifically help with the impact of the coronavirus and the phased return to school, but I hope will also encourage people to talk about their mental health and well-being in the long-term and raise awareness of the need for this to be embedded in all school communities. It is wonderful that this support offers specific help for teachers and leaders, including resources and a pilot with Education Support. I really hope that we can come out of this lockdown with stronger, more united schools, and with teachers who are confident when it comes to advocating for their mental health.