Personal development and well-being at work are the themes of the last issue of CPD Week this school year

Being solitary is being alone well: being alone luxuriously immersed in doings of your own choice, aware of the fullness of your won presence rather than of the absence of others. Because solitude is an achievement.
Alice Koller  

We may not be as good at supporting our personal development as we are at promoting professional development but there’s no time like the present to start trying!

Practical tips: Professional learning made personal
No, we’re not going to discuss personalised learning for CPD in schools, but something far more urgent, and with potentially greater impact. What I mean by making professional learning ‘personal’ is the emphasis on personal development which is so often omitted from our drive to raise standards in schools.

It is impossible to separate professional and personal learning. One inevitably affects the other, so there’s an obvious virtue in pursuing them both, particularly for professional learning leaders. After all, you’ve spent the year looking after the professional and personal learning needs of others and now it’s your turn! These ideas may help:

  • Inspirational reading – there are a number of life-enhancing books out there (among the utter twaddle!) which can help to clarify your concept of well-being and personal development. For me, that list of titles includes Man’s Search for Meaning (Viktor Frankl), Flow (Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi) and Slow (Carl Honoré). Draw up your own list of sources of inspiration. Perhaps revisit them over the summer break or actively seek new inspiration.  
  • Simple changes – take a moment to consider a statement of change in the way in which you operate as a teacher, for the good of your well-being at work. Consider ways of implementing this change for the new academic year. If you’re struggling with this, one way of approaching it is to think of a way to simplify one feature of your work. A simpler working life is invariably a more peaceful working life.
  • Physical well-being – think about how your diet and current exercise regime supports your work. Are there subtle improvements you could make? Often it’s the smallest of changes that can have the greatest of impacts. Increasing water intake, eating more fruit and vegetables and cutting back a little on sugar can all affect our mental clarity which in turn can simplify our working experiences. It’s worth looking into this without becoming fanatical! 
  • Focus on trouble spots – consider the part of your working day which currently gives you the most trouble. There will be a relatively simple solution to part or all of this, whether it’s in attitude or practical actions. Often, not having the time or space to focus on simple solutions can mean that we battle against seemingly intractable problems. The truth is, very few problems are intractable.
  • Time for yourself – you’ve spent a busy year at work almost always in the presence of others. Now that the term is drawing to a close, carve out some ‘alone’ time.
  • Get back in touch – finally, try to reconnect with what it was that attracted you into the teaching profession in the first place. Do you still have passion for the job? Where does your drive and energy to be a professional learning leader come from? Does that need to be replenished in any way?

It’s not often that we give ourselves the opportunity (and permission) for some naval gazing, and it’s probably true to say that too much of it is likely to be just as harmful as too little. But every now and then some introspection for the benefit of your well-being at work is absolutely essential and there’s no better time to do it than now.       Issues and information: The TDA ‘Find Your Talent’ programme
The Find Your Talent programme has been designed to offer young people the chance to encounter a wide range of cultural experiences in schools as well as in professional arts settings for five hours per week. It is about to be piloted in ten areas around the country. Different approaches will be tried, based on partnerships between schools, local authorities and arts organisations. The aim is that all those participating will have the chance to discover and develop their talents in the ‘cultural sphere’, in particular by having the chance to:   

  • perform on stage and attend high quality performances, exhibitions, and heritage sites
  • get hands-on experience of the creative industries including film, radio and TV
  • learn a musical instrument and participate in a performance in front of an audience
  • produce creative writing and appreciate authors and how they work
  • learn about – and practice – new media and digital art
  • art and craft skills.

A greater emphasis on the arts and cultural experiences will have a natural knock-on effect on the development needs of those teachers leading pupils through this learning. If the benefits of this broader experience are to be felt across the curriculum, it might be useful to add a cultural element to the professional learning that takes place at your school. 

Find out more…
To find out more about the Find Your Talent programme, call 0207 973 6784

This e-bulletin issue was first published in July 2008

About the author: Elizabeth Holmes qualified as a teacher at the Institute of Education, London and is the author of several books specialising in the areas of professional development and teacher well-being.