Friday, 11 April 2014

Doing 'never again' again

August 8th 2013.  Between July 12th (Amanda Palmer gig day) & August 8th life hadn't so much turned upside down as gone on a Baumgartner style gravity spin. 

My husband Andy was in hospital for the first of six week long inpatient chemotherapy sessions. To say I was struggling would be an understatement, I can't explain the shock and fear. 

It was the day of my 23 year old friend Gemma's funeral (who had also been at Amanda Palmer with me less than a month earlier) I couldn't go to the funeral. She died the day Andy was diagnosed with cancer. She died of heart failure. There are still no real answers after 2 inquest hearings. I feel so deeply for the Geldofs right now. 

I had to do something. My brain was trying to climb out of my skull & launch itself as far as possible via the trampoline in the garden! 

So I decided to do 'never again' again. 

I looked up how to get a golden bond place in the London Marathon for Macmillan Cancer Support. I had done London once before, in 2005. I did an ok time, 4 hours 50, but didn't enjoy the last 8 at all. Absolutely torturous. As I struggled through the last 0.2 miles a 2 person camel arrangement sprinted past me! Says it all! 

In 2008 I did the New York City Marathon which was amazing. I ran slower and enjoyed every bit of running through all 5 boroughs. From walking through NYC to the library at 4am being shouted wishes of luck from everyone on the street at that time from cleaners to police to hookers, to the Statten Island ferry passing the Statue of Liberty at 5am to crossing the line to Bruce Springsteen Born to run' to finishing & meeting my NY buddy Cecilia for beers it was quite a day. 
I am a little haunted though by the fact that as I crossed the finish line in Central Park feeling great someone not that far away from me on the finish line died. We had to stop as they cordoned it all all off & had her picked up. 

Euphoria and pain seem oh so closely linked. 

I didn't raise money the first 2 marathons as I was a selfish twit!  I got a ballot place in 2005 & paid to do NYC. This time I needed to give back. 

Rob from Macmillan was an absolute brick from the start & if I am physically able to I will be finding him on Sunday at the 19 mile cheerpoint at Canary Wharf.  

When I committed to raise £2500 I didn't think I'd have a chance but I already have over £3100. There's also £200 to come from my auntie shaking little old ladies upside down for loose change at WI! 

I guess there's two choices. Keep running or stop running. I choose to keep running. 

Thursday, 3 April 2014

Give or take - a marathon year

Well, unless you are under a rock or have tuned me out and wish you were under a rock you can't have failed to notice that I'm running the London Marathon in ten days. This previous blog post explains why;postID=3846766773960022049;onPublishedMenu=posts;onClosedMenu=posts;postNum=9;src=postname

If that link doesn't work it's the post called 'The storm before the storm.'   My just giving also explains

When this all happened, although it was scary and hard and exhausting I reframed it very quickly into something that was giving me something rather than taking something away.  Years of cancer taking has changed our mindset to 'cancer takes.' Well, cancer does take some things.  Time, sleep, hair, appetite, energy, the feeling of safety, the invincibility we feel until cancer occurs.  But cancer also gives.  And I believe that it is for us to look at what is to give and be given always rather than what is to take and be taken.

Cancer has given us friends, it has given us resilience, it has given us purpose as lots of our family and friends embarked on fundraising for Macmillan.  Cancer has given us moments of the funniest black humour, shown us people's hidden qualities and our own hidden strengths.  Cancer has made us appreciate every sound, smell, taste, touch.  The colours of a rainbow, the buds on the trees, the hum of the lawnmowers in early spring are all more vivid than they ever were.  We could have lived for 40 more years without that becoming ever more dulled to all around us.

If you have the patience to read my Just Giving you will notice that I was overweight, drinking too much and smoking before this happened.  I was about to type that I don't know how that occurred but that would be a lie.  I love my job as Headteacher of a primary school but I don't deal with the pressure all that well under the surface sometimes.  Instead of dealing with I tend to hide and explode!  The explosion is always at home.  I have been offered antidepressants a couple of times but never wanted that.  I had been self medicating with wine and cigarettes without realising.  I quickly realised that this situation would have to change.

As my husband Andy always says, it's necessity that is the biggest driver of change.  This was necessity.  That was how the running started last August.  About a month in my heels were really hurting.  I knew it was because they were carrying too much on top of them!  I didn't diet I just cut down and tried to eat the right things in smaller doses.

This is all feeling like a bit of a 'me party' now.  Muppet fans will get that!  It isn't a me party because I didn't do the work.  Andy Moore did.  Andy Moore was the one who had the PICC line when he was petrified of needles, who spent almost 7 weeks in hospital over 6 months, who laughed and joked with nurses when he was terrified.  He was the one who was caring and supportive to older nurses who struggled with the idea of treating someone the same age as their children and were desperately trying to hide it.  You can't hide much from an outstanding teacher.  Andy Moore was the one that forced down food when he wasn't hungry, hugged the kids when it hurt his body, took the kids to the park when he could only just walk.  The one that worked through 4 weeks of radiotherapy having radiotherapy sessions early each day so that he could go to work and be back doing the job he loves.

Andy Moore's marathon is far more intense and difficult for the following reasons:

He has no idea how long it is.  Or where any of the mile markers are.  Or what the best pace is.

He has been forced to think through the idea it might be the last thing he does.

The supporters find it harder to cope with. It challenges their mortality. They can't just clap and cheer.

The idea of the pub at the end isn't the reason for starting!

The finish line keeps moving back.  It was 13th December, then 20th December, then 19th February, now it's 16th May.  Imagine you are running the last mile of 26.2 and can see the finish and then someone moves it back ten miles.

I am looking forward to marathon day, if you come and watch shout at me if you see me please. You may get a slightly sweaty/sweary hug from me!  Also please shout  for a marathon selfie if you see me :) #lynnemarathonselfie -might just get me through 26.2 miles.

Crossing the finish line is part of this journey now.  Pub plan will probably be somewhere near St James tube station about half 4 for anyone that's around.  Crossing the line is going to mean I gave something instead of crumpling into the corner. I certainly felt like like crumpling into a ball when Andy was diagnosed.  But there's always an option to give.  Opening is better than closing.

This is only the start, I am handing the baton on to 3 of Andy's mates who are doing the 3 Peaks challenge for Macmillan.  This disease doesn't get to just take any more.  My friend Kim has survived cancer and is cycling Lands end to Jon O' Groats for Cancer research this summer  Cancer is becoming more curative every day.

We can only be part of the solution. My running number is 42458 track me on the day :)

Thank you all for everything, lots of love xx

Saturday, 8 March 2014

Reflections on dealing with parents

Dealing with parents is one of the most significant and challenging parts of my job.  So it should be.  I am in charge of what happens to their children every day.  They trust me with those most precious to them every day.  I can be nothing but honoured that they have chosen to trust me and my school.  This blog post is a reflection on some times I've got it wrong, some top tips that have helped me and how you get away from taking it personally, whilst learning and changing what you need to.

Back in 2004 I had just been promoted to Deputy Head of a challenging school.  I was 28.  I knew pretty much nothing, so little that I didn't even know that I didn't know.  The head was out and I had been put in charge for the day.  A phone call came from a father of one of our challenging pupils who was very angry about his son having been chastised the previous day.  I asked the secretary to deal with it in the hope it would get put on hold as the head was out.  I bottled it.  The secretary tried her best to negotiate calm but it ended with him saying he was on the way down to school to thump the head.  She said that the head was out and Mrs Taylor (that was my name then) was in charge.  'Well I'll thump her then!' was the reply.  Ten minutes later he was stomping down the path to the entrance.  I looked out of the window and thought 'well, this will go one of two ways!'  The next thing I did was really stupid.  I was sure I could calm him down and took him into the office.  It worked out ok, he didn't thump me.  I should have spoken to him myself on the phone I let it go too far.  My avoidance of the tough conversation and delegation to the secretary of that created a situation where I got away without being thumped by the skin of my teeth.

Two years later I was Deputy Head in a different, just as challenging school.  I had made a CP referral that led to children being taken into care immediately.  Which was the right decision. I had managed the whole thing as the head was out. There's a theme here eh?! The single mum was distraught and jumpy and said she wished she had a cigarette.  I took her out the back and gave her one of mine and had one with her.  Whatever she had done my human heart couldn't leave her floundering as she lost everything.  I knew it was wrong and fessed up to my head the next day.  She said I had compromised my safety and integrity and she was right.  This volatile parent could have thumped me and it gave the wrong message about us as a school.

Three years later and I was head of the village primary school where I still work.  A member of my teaching staff had spoken to a child about her writing.  The nature of that was absolutely reflective of our ethos of challenge and expectation. The parent complained by email.  I bottled it and answered the email.  Error.  This is a face to face conversation always.  Email always sounds wrong.  It's difficult to sound like you care about the child over email when you are also trying to defend a member of staff.  It's too difficult to manage that balancing act by email.  The child left the school shortly afterwards.  I knew I'd got it wrong and that this parent, who had been through quite a lot already, felt disappointed in me.  That was a tough pill to take but I needed to take it.  It was important to give a clear message that I supported what the member of staff had done and would condone that happening again.  However through the medium of email I had come across officious, disingenuous and given the impression that my member of staff was more important than her only child.  Of course not to her.

I recognised at that point that I had some learning to do so I went on a brilliant course that was run by Southern Educational Leadership Trust.  It was on handling that type of challenging interaction.  It covered parent and staff interaction.  It's no exaggeration that it changed my life!  I am a great believer in recognising your skill gaps and there are some things need to be taught to you.

Here are my top tips:

Never respond in writing- talk, if possible face to face.
Don't talk first, it's their child.  Let them say everything they need to.
Know the children, show you do and say that you care.  It's the most disarming thing you can do.
Don't leap to the defensive position, say you will need to go away and fact find and meet again.
Don't leap to the deference either, 'I'm sorry you feel like that' is very different to 'I'm sorry.'

Two years later a parent came to see me with some concerns about behaviour in the playground.  I listened properly, I acted on the concerns.  The way we worked together improved things and my acceptance that she had a good point improved the school. I felt happy that it had been resolved. A week or so later she had booked to see me again.  The night before was sleepless, I was convinced I'd messed up somehow.  It turned out that she had come to see me to tell me about her cancer diagnosis. She is an inspiring lady and has beaten cancer, she's cycling from Lands End to John O Groats in summer for Cancer Research. If you can spare a few pounds please do.

I'm running with her to train for the London Marathon and feel very lucky to consider her one of my friends.  We also now train with the parent who I mentioned earlier in this blog that I emailed.  It has been a privilege to be able to at least begin to put right what I got wrong and make that acquaintance again.

The notion that we are all human and mess up sits less easily when we are in charge of the futures of a lot of small humans.  They only get the one chance at school and the adults mistakes are costly.  That doesn't mean we don't make them of course, it just means we have to try to find ways to make less.

Tuesday, 11 February 2014

'What do the good kids get?' A short blog post on rewarding those that love learning.

It's true to say that a large proportion of teacher time can end up spent devising systems and planning strategies and approaches for children who find it difficult to engage with learning and behave well.  For whatever reason, where we recognise that there is a barrier for a child between them and learning we throw our hearts and souls into reducing it as much as we can.  Even removing it, if we can.  We have that as our core purpose and hold the belief that good systems for reducing barriers to learning benefit all children.  We may also feel that those that don't have barriers there are the privileged.  That to love learning and be unhindered in that love is reward in itself.

From time to time though throughout my career I have encountered the 'but what about the good kids?' question.  It's perfectly valid for staff to feel that those children who make a sustained effort to work hard and behave well all of the time deserve reward. At times I have myself worried that the lion's share of my energy and time is spent on children, and parents, who don't behave toward me or my staff in a respectful way.  It can even make our thinking as teachers and leaders disproportionate.  The feeling that there is a huge problem with disrespect around school when actually the quiet majority are just that, quiet. The loud minority are very loud, but a minority nonetheless.

At my last school, a large primary in a deprived area where I was Deputy Head, we had the 'but what about the good kids?' chat at SLT. We decided to reward them with a gold certificate every term.  This was for every child that hadn't lost a single minute of golden time.  At the end of the year, if they had all of their certificates they got a golden medal.  A couple of slightly unexpected things happened.  Some expected things did too, like the desolate faces of the children who knew very well they would never get one but we'd already reconciled that in our minds with the rewards they regularly got.  The unexpected bit was though that the really good kids started to have golden time taken away after we introduced this for things like talking.  It was like staff were watching them harder.  Having never had to cope with that before they were devastated.  It was like we weren't satisfied with trying to deal with the children who found it hard to behave, now we'd made it harder for the children that found it easy! The other thing that happened was really good kids arguing decisions about removal of golden time when they thought it was unfair, which of course then got them into more trouble!  We introduced the medal idea for valid reasons and we all believed it was right, but looking back perhaps not, or maybe it was the linking to golden time, who knows.  The Head there is amazing and has taken the school from bottom end of satisfactory to top end of good in really challenging circumstances so I'm sure it got tweaked but I just include it as an example of where extrinsic reward can go as awry for the well behaved as it can for the poorly behaved.

My daughter is year 5 and she is a good girl.  She works hard, loves learning and I'm told she's a pleasure to teach.  As I tucked her into bed last night she said 'Oh mum, Mr Grant came to find me at lunchtime to tell me he'd marked my assessments and I got a 5C.  He was really proud of me.' She was made up, glowing with pride.  Mr Grant is a fabulous teacher, he has a strict but caring manner.  He's humorous and she likes him very much, he doesn't bandy compliments around unless they are very well deserved.  The fact that he'd taken the time to come and find her at lunchtime, the fact that he was proud of her. To her that made every bit of work she had put in worth it.

My husband is teaching a bit of the time again now.  In the year 3 class he has sometimes there's a girl he calls Dave, don't ask me why -apparently her mum doesn't mind!  He has a bit of jokey banter with Dave, she's a quiet girl who always gets on and works hard.  But she needs to know her learning is noticed and appreciated.  Last year in his year 6 class he had a very quiet lad called Stratton.  A very clever boy but needed bringing out of himself a bit.  My husband put him  in charge of the assembly music and they had a bit of quiet daily banter about it.  I visited one day and at the end of assembly as Stratton walked to the line after putting the music away he jokingly shook his fist and said 'Moore!' My husband did the same gesture and said 'Stratton!' The lad had a little laugh to himself.  Anyone who has heard David Didau speak about stuck strategies may remember 'ask Chloe.'  This was in a class he had that constantly fussed.  If the fuss was beneath his contempt as teacher he would refer them to Chloe, a sensible hard working lass who would then put them straight.  Which she loved.

Great teachers like Mr Grant, David Didau, and my husband get how to reward the good kids.  They capitalize on their love of learning, allow them to explore humour and praise them so that they grow a bit.   They also show that they have taken time to be proud of achievements.  A positive word at lunchtime or a quick phone call home can mean as much if not more than a certificate or medal.  The value in loving learning is reinforced and the love of learning continues.

Wednesday, 15 January 2014

The last chance saloon

If I describe this kid you can probably think of one of them  I can think of at least ten over the course of my career.  My memory isn't as good as it used to be either.

In the infants was seen by staff as a loveable rogue.  Name was often preceded with 'ohhhh...' and accompanied by a smiley roll of the eyes or hair ruffling when child had misbehaved. Is a good kid and wants to do well but does daft things and behaves like the class clown and ALWAYS gets caught.  Does one of the best hang dog expressions ever observed but will go and do the same thing all over again ten minutes later and still gets caught.  Seems to be able to 'grade' teachers and support staff with almost Ofsted style precision as to how able they are to manage behaviour.  The moment it's a person who is less than a great behaviour manager is onto them and does ridiculous, disrespectful things.  Everyone cares very much for all pupils but for this child there's a bit of a collective 'soft spot.' I could go on but I'm sure you have a few names in mind already!

As a profession we term this type of behaviour as 'low level disruption.'  The theory is that the better teacher you become the lower level it gets.  But is that true?

I put a child on lunch time report today in the same way as I've seen it done well by secondary colleagues.  The incident that led to it was minor in some ways, rolling around on the floor in the lunch room to make everyone else laugh and rile the lunchtime supervisor.  But it was the background that bothered me.  There have been too many 'last chance' conversations.  Every one of those last chance conversations has led to an effort the next day and then the day after another 'last chance' conversation. What subtle message am I giving there as the head? To the child and the staff being disrespected.  To the child 'It's your last chance before punishment but it isn't if you look sorry and be good for half an hour tomorrow on the playground at lunchtime.' To the staff 'this kid can basically treat you as they choose as long as they say sorry, whether or not they mean it.'

The child and I had gotten into this kind of odd routine where I had started to unwittingly condone behaviour that was actually quite disrespectful for all sorts of complex reasons that I hadn't really thought about.

I'll come back to my previous 'is that true?' Yesterday I was on duty at lunchtime.  I caught the same child throwing food.  Because it wasn't how it'd looked at first, the child looked sorry and some others had done it I did the whole 'I'm a bit disappointed' thing.  I caught same child later doing a forward roll on the playground which they know is banned.  I pointed and said 'No! that's ridiculous!' Because I'm an experienced behaviour manager and I catch this kid sooner it stops and doesn't escalate but I have been unwittingly feeding the problem.  I am dulling the 'low level behaviours' for me but amplifying them for others.  I'm the head, that can't happen.  I've been mulling that over since yesterday. These infinite last chances have to stop. 

When I got called over to the rolling around the floor thing today I magpied from Vic Goddard and just said  'My office.' Child got up and went immediately.  I went to chat to his teachers (they are a job share, both outstanding and my SLT) so we could come up with a shared idea of action.  I'm really glad I did that first it gave me some great things to say to the child.  I started with how much we care and then explained why the child was sitting in my office.  I kept it simple, the rolling around on the floor.  I then said it's good to say sorry but the behaviours then need to change and this is an example of how they haven't. I said that we can all teach the right choices and help to change the bad choices but there's only one person who can make better ones and that is you.  Then came the game changer (always sport as a reference point for me!)  For many carefully chosen reasons within this job share one teacher is perceived as stricter. It's actually genius but it's another whole blog! I'll call the 'strict' teacher Mrs A for the purposes of the following:

Me: do you know what Mrs A has just said to me about you?
Child: no
Me: she said that you are good in your essence, do you know what that means?
Child; no
Me: she thinks you are a really good kid and she doesn't want anyone to think any different and she's scared that if they do teachers at your secondary school might think you're a bad kid when you're not.

At that point the child began to sob.  It's the first time I've ever seen what I would call genuine remorse from the child that has the best remorseful expression I've seen in my entire career.

We have a year and a half to tackle this now before this child arrives in secondary school and tackle it we will.  No more of this hair ruffling as it won't help.  I couldn't help but think of Miss Uren in Education Yorkshire when she was dealing with Bobby-Jo.  He needed that barking at he got over his lateness and his genuine tears showed it hit home.  I obviously couldn't begin to comment on his primary experience but I can imagine myself saying 'ohhhh Bobby-Jo' or a stern 'no, stop that' then the same 'no, stop that' ten minutes later.  I know as a primary head in a context where there are some high level disruptions but few low level ones that I am tuning some of those lower level ones out and that's not fair on anyone, especially the child. The last chance saloon does no one any favours when it comes to behaviour management. 


Friday, 22 November 2013

Passmores - do things everyone does in a way no-one does

So many blog thoughts, so little time.  I'm going to channel Phil Beadle a little bit here by acknowledging that I can't really be arsed to write this blog.  It's not that I'm not inspired by being at Passmores today for the Independent thinking day, I am. My mother in law and MY OWN MOTHER said I sounded happier tonight than I have for months.  But I can't really be arsed to write about it because I'd quite like to watch TV and drink wine and beside that the kids were a pain in the arse to get to bed and  it's taken me absolutely ages to do the washing up because there was loads of it.

But I am going to write about it.  Because if I don't it won't be fresh so it won't mean as much. When I write a blog post  I get a bit 'oh someone read it' over it which is utterly stupid as the intention is that someone reads it.  Or is it? Is the intention that I get to write it?  So when I blog I use that to reflect a lot.  I re read old posts.  I don't want to not capture (double negative - SPaG police) that moment and how I felt.

I got an extra four hours of quality JPD (rather than CPD) today from the fact that I was driven to and from Passmores by my children's headteacher.  I could go on and on but all you really need to know is that my two children, aged ten and four, genuinely think that he puts on his superhero cape before his shirt and tie.  And I think they might be right!

Arriving at Passmores and being there,  I've done it a couple of times now, is special. The first time I thought it was the building.  I get jealous when people can get paint to stay on walls and things don't leak all the time! Passmores is the stuff of dreams building wise.  But it isn't that.  It's how it feels in there.   I saw it loads last time I went as there were pupils around and the interactions and relationships were the stuff of dreams education wise.  My husband went to visit and he didn't want to like it because I'd gone on about it.  But he couldn't help himself.  As a person who loves opportunity and excellence he loved it immediately with just the same regard as me.  As soon as you walk in you feel better about yourself.  Every person you see or speak to, and this was the same at Springwell in Barnsley where Dave Whitaker is HT, no matter who they are or what they do is sunny and helpful.  Every person, EVERY PERSON, subscribes to Vic's newsletter and is on the same road with the same intentions for children.  It makes me feel like I can do that too. Vic and Dave are infectious and contagious. It's not just that you want to be like them, you feel like you can and will!  It's unconditional positive regard & authentic care for us adults too. 

The other thing that both Vic and Dave do is say things without fear of retribution, as long as they are true and fair.  They are very similar and I guess that's one of the great things about the way the world is now.  We find our value twins.  We are able to because of media and sharing.  I loved what Dave said in his talk today about when he was an NQT.  He saw colleague shouting at and pushing a child that had just had a fight.  The child punched the teacher and got permanently excluded. Dave: 'saw that guy the other day at a funeral. He's a deputy, looking for headship.  Still a dickhead.'  I don't think I've ever met a person who uses a few words, and the pauses between words, in the way Dave does.  It's something I aspire to!

Seeing Vic and being at Passmores also helps me to remember that this is the best job ever.  Who gets to go into an environment every day where they literally can change the future?  Who gets that moment most recently seen in Educating Yorkshire where your work (YOUR WORK ) affects a person in a life changing way.  It's such a privilege and such a feeling that it is totally addictive and that's why we do it.  We are addicts.  This job can be harsh and damaging but we are as addicted to it as a class A drug addict as 5 minutes of that feeling when a pupil does something that will change their life because of you and the way you are and the way you teach is worth a weeks of the DTs where circumstances conspire to convince you that you are shit at all you do.

Every single workshop contained resonance.  It was joint practice development today.  We were all in it together because Ian Gilbert and Vic Goddard had decided we would be and my goodness best of luck defeating either in an argument, never mind both! I picked up some of the best hot tips ever! Here are just a few:

1: If brilliant sparky staff love working for you they will come back across the world to work for you
2: You need a balance of those massively sparky staff  and the quiet supportive staff that sort of emerge from nowhere when you most need them and both need to feel as valued.
3. When you work in an ethos where you can ask questions you forget how little most people do that and how uncomfortable they find it to do
4. Really good teachers can teach anyone whether they are adults or children.
5. its really exciting when a massive Christmas tree arrives :)

There's loads more I could say but as I've said I want my glass of wine and twitter has been without me for a good hour now ;) so I'll finish with something I learned about myself today that was totally incidental.

I had a tweet after the day from Ian Gilbert to say that I should have come and introduced myself.  I didn't reply for ages because my first thought was. Yes, I should have.  Which was swiftly followed in my brain by 'why didn't I?'

I have two ITL cards that I've had for so long that they are kinda peach now rather than red.  They are the same.  They say 'do things no-one does, or do things everyone does in a way no one does'

When I moved into my first house. My house. That I rented. I stuck card 1 to my kitchen wall.  When I was promoted to my first leadership job.  The first time I had an office and a door that I could choose to open or close, I stuck card 2 to my office wall.  I am now in a different marriage, house and school but card 1 is on my kitchen wall and card 2 is on my office wall.  What Ian Gilbert has done for what I believe and how I am I can't even begin to explain.  What I couldn't explain in 140 characters on twitter to him is that I couldn't just bowl up to him and go 'Oh hi Ian, I'm Lynne.  You might have seen me on twitter. I hugely admire you (goes into all reasons why for last 15 yrs) ' as I would look a bit of a nutter.  But equally I couldn't not say that.  As it's the truth! What else would I say? Next time gadget :)

Thank you for today everyone at Passmores and ITL.  Your weather is becoming a wider range and longer term forecast Vic and that's making this continue to be the best job in the world.

Friday, 25 October 2013

Every teacher matters

I missed the last day of term one today.  I love the last day of term one.  It's Harvest festival.  I absolutely love it, the traditional Harvest hymns, the class songs, the readings.  This is probably regarded blasphemous by Daily Mail readers but I love it's pagan symbolism.  I'm a believer in us being close to the earth and to me Harvest is probably the closest religious festival to the origin of our spiritual understanding.  Before religious collective thought was used for fear and control but for celebration and fecundity.  Anyway, I digress, I missed it all.

It started at approximately 5am when my son decided to get up.  We are into about week three of the 5am wake up cycle, he does this from time to time.  It seems he doesn't need as much sleep as anyone else in the family.  Fortunately I had gone off to bed earlier than usual so my thought as I heard the familiar footsteps was 'Oh, this'll be ok.  I've had enough sleep.' and then I tried to open my eyes.  The green flash started in the corner of the left eye and the thumping immediately followed behind my eyes.  Migraine.

I had my first ever Migraine on Monday 16th July 2012.  It caused me to experience a level of anxiety I have never experienced before.  I was full of panic.  I couldn't breathe and couldn't stop crying.  I was convinced there was something seriously wrong with me.  It came following a period of extreme pressure at work.  I had felt calm and proud of myself for how well I was handling things.  Until I tried to open my eyes that Monday morning.  The migraines continued all week.  I couldn't leave the house as if I tried my vision would go.  Replaced by bright green zig zags or that snow you used to get if the TV went wrong.  I was frustrated and scared.  I tried to control it, telling myself it was just ridiculous.  I tried to force myself to the local shop for milk, less than a five minute walk away.  I didn't get beyond the end of the drive and then when I went back into the house I had to sit still and stare at one spot on the carpet for an hour to get my vision back.

Fortunately after that week it was the summer holiday.  The migraines abated but the anxiety didn't.  I visited my GP.  I told her that it must be something hormonal or thyroid related.  I had google diagnosed myself with several options and insisted on a blood test.  She was very calm and kind to although she must have felt like slapping me!  She booked the blood test but commented 'you have a very pressurised job Lynne, don't forget the mind is bigger than the body.' I explained how much I love my job and that I have never reacted like this before.  However she was right, the tests were all clear.  It was my mind.

Unfortunately at that point she did something that is all too common with GPs.  Suggested antidepressants.  I refused and decided to go for counselling.  I'm not very good at tablets.  A couple of weeks ago a single Tramadol prescribed for wisdom tooth pain decimated a whole weekend (hallucinations included!)  I suspect antidepressants may have a bad effect on me and if they didn't I suspect I might get stuck on them.  I used Cognitive Behaviour Therapy techniques and still use them now.

Since my husband's cancer diagnosis this July I have become very glad indeed of what happened in July 2012.  I learned that I can't be in control of everything, that the mind is bigger than the body and that my mind forces my body to stop when enough is enough.  I am able to see the signs.

Even more frustrating then that I didn't react to the signs and my mind has had to kick my body again today.  I have known for about a fortnight that this was on the cards but was just trying to make it to half term.  I almost made it!! It was an eight week term, my husband is having regular in patient chemotherapy for five days at a time.  I am nursing him at home in between.  Both kids have been ill.  On what planet did I think it was a good idea to just keep going?  On the planet of #guiltyteacher of course.

This blog by Ross McGill really says it all.

Even though I am sitting here next to a person who is experiencing the significant consequences of ignoring the signs I still ignore them.  His consultant thinks that my husband probably spent at least a term going to work as the 19cm cancerous tumour grew.  He ignored the cough.  He was forced home one afternoon by his head (@NigelUtton) but belligerently went back the next day.  In the end pneumonia stopped him physically. Why do things have to get so extreme with fabulous teachers before they take time off?

We feel we are letting our colleagues down if we go sick.  There is the culture of the cyborg in some schools and among some colleagues.  Our natural tendency to want to be in control makes us feel threatened if we are not there.  We feel that if pupils are let down in any way because we are not there it is too much for us to bear.  Ofsted do not accept that circumstance can limit teaching, leadership or schools in general in any way.  The more these factors build the more they organically take the shape of a large stick beating us into work whether we are sick or not.  This is particularly the case when the sickness is of the mind.  Society as a whole bears a stigma toward this.  The education world bears a significant stigma toward it.  Yet the amount of heads I know who are on antidepressants is a worrying factor. I can only imagine this is multiplied across the country.

I think the answer for me at the moment is to plan, being realistic about the way things are.  I have written to my governors to request three compassionate days as per the terms of our absence policy in the middle of next term.  It's better to plan in advance and sort out cover than try and get through and then either be ill at the end of term or over Christmas. I have already discussed it with them informally and they are very supportive.

In some ways that is simpler though when dealing with a situation that is ongoing and long term.  It's recognising the signs that you're on the way downhill early enough that is our challenge.  All too often in this profession we keep going until we are very physically ill, and we all know of some that were not fortunate enough to recover.  I am also concerned about the level of mental health difficulty in our profession that is under the surface and kept secret through fear.  Or kept level with GP antidepressant prescriptions.

If our very proactive education minister really wants to make a name for himself perhaps it should be by looking at this teacher health issue.  I think that an 'every teacher matters' initiative that is far reaching and long term might do more for the improvement of standards than anything else.