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How to spot and support a struggling teacher

26 Jul 2022

How to spot and support a struggling teacher

By Mark Richards, 



When a teacher is happy, they will better at their job. But there are many factors that can affect a teacher’s happiness – both personal and professional issues. Although, professional issues are typically easier to spot as they often manifest themselves as concerns with performance, personal issues are often the root cause of poor or erratic performance. 

Nobody is expected to be able to read the mind of a colleague. After all, that’s impossible to do. On the other hand, it’s worth bearing in mind that very few people will naturally confide in colleagues or seek support at the earliest opportunity. It is far more common for people to keep problems to themselves initially. Therefore, recognising the signs that a teacher may be struggling becomes even more important.

Know your colleagues 

Creating a culture of openness within a team is vital. If you are a leader, it is important that you let your team know that they can share any issue they may be facing. It is not for the leader to always come up with a solution; sometimes the individual will arrive at their own solution. It is often simply giving the opportunity for a colleague to get something off their chest - or to chat things through – that is invaluable and the catalyst for action.

Find common ground

If the problem is professional, a more experienced teacher will probably be able to relate to the issue and offer good advice. They are likely to have gone through something similar themselves. Even with personal issues, there’s a good chance that you – or someone you know – may have gone through something similar. The ability to be able to say, “I know what you are going through,” can be very powerful.

Fight their corner 

If staff know that you are in their corner and will fight for them, colleagues are more likely to be completely open if they are experiencing difficulties of any kind. What’s more, if you are creating a positive culture of openness within the team, you or other members of the team are far more likely to spot any issues early on.

Promote well-being and self-care

It is fantastic if you can spot problems that may exist within your team early on. Equally, it is wonderful if you are in a position to be able to support and offer advice and help when needed. However, colleagues also need to be able to help themselves and look after themselves too. Again, this comes from the culture that is created within a team and across the wider school. 

There are always pressures on teachers in schools, but it is always helpful if the message from the top – the leadership team – is that teachers should be looking after themselves and their families. The message needs to be: Look after yourself. Look after your family. School can wait.




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