The General Teaching Council for Scotland

Reviewing with Heart

Sharon Smith, GTC Scotland Senior Education Officer, shares her thinking about what it means to be a PRD reviewer in these times. She shares her thoughts and suggestions to support when emotions are running high.

I have been thinking quite a lot about mental health recently and wanted to address some issues around emotional overload and what we can do as reviewers if we experience this with colleagues during a PRD meeting.

I met with my line manager for a one-to-one and, although I see her via a daily virtual team meeting, it was far more comforting to chat with just the two of us. For me, it was about connecting and being reassured that the work I am doing was validated. This might not be offered in your school setting so when the opportunity arises, emotions may surface quite unexpectedly: that emotional cup may just overflow. I think that, as reviewers, we should be mindful that emotional guards may be ‘let down’ in our ‘trusting’ reviewer and reviewee conversations, and it may be that our pastoral care role must supersede that of reviewer. 

One of the most important things you can do in these circumstances is to listen. Listening to understand is a key skill as a coach, and in times when someone is really sharing their raw and deep emotions, and perhaps even fears or feelings of guilt, then we must ensure we offer a safe and trusting space to allow those feelings to be shared without fear of judgement. “But this is a PRD meeting”, I hear you say. Well, my response to that would be: “is it?” It may start as a PRD meeting, but that may not always be the correct thing to continue to do. It may be as reviewer you need to take back the rudder and, with permission of the reviewee, leave the PRD discussion for another day. Allow your compassionate leadership to be front and central; this is not a time for a ‘belts and braces’ approach. Listen carefully, reassure, and empathise, so the reviewee knows they are not being judged, as this would only serve to reinforce any negative thoughts being expressed.

Reflecting on reviewee self-evaluations; considering their identified next steps; being ready and informed to discuss a variety of career pathways and professional learning opportunities; and, generally ready to celebrate the successes of the reviewee are all part of the preparation the reviewer should undertake in advance of a PRD meeting. I think we should now also consider being ready, if necessary, to signpost to a variety of resources that will help transform the emotional load of our reviewees.

Claire Lavelle, Managing Director of The Hive of Wellbeing, recently shared in her webinar Transforming the Emotional Load some support using a narrative therapy approach, which would allow teachers to externalise the ‘problem’ and to avoid ‘internalising it’.

Medical Support Clinical Hypnotherapist, Paul Mills shared some simple steps to learn diaphragmatic breathing to support teachers to overcome moments of anxiety and any feelings of being overwhelmed. His self-hypnosis activities to support de-stressing stress can be accessed through MyPL.

Please take some time to familiarise yourself with some of the support resources available in our Health and Wellbeing Hub in case your colleagues, or indeed you, can benefit from them.

I do think we will experience more ‘emotional offloads’ during lockdown, and that is fine. Reviewers, especially those who know their reviewees well, will be in a strong position to notice any signs of more concerning behaviours. In those circumstances please do not forget to follow your policies on staff wellness and offer employee assistance where necessary. 

Times ahead may be difficult for all teachers, and I think we should always remember, as Catriona Robb reminded us in her recent Brew and Blether, it’s important to ‘put on your oxygen masks first’ and to nurture ourselves. As teachers, we live and breathe our professional values of social justice, integrity, trust and respect and professional commitment. As long as we do our best in the circumstances we are given, we will have made differences to our learners, their families and our colleagues. In the wise words of Charlie Mackesy:

<img width="400" height="400" alt="We have a long way to go sighed the boy. Yes but look how far we have come said the horse." src="https://pbs.twimg.com/media/EVBVjFBX0AApthI?format=jpg&name=medium " />

pic.twitter.com/FfB1qL4Pb5

— charlie mackesy (@charliemackesy) April 7, 2020