Asking for help
I have always been bad at asking for help. I wasn’t even aware of it until I had my own children and I saw the same quality in my son. Previous to this discovery, It had always been important to me that I could do things on my own. I didn’t want to be seen as weak or inefficient because I needed help
Have you ever felt like this?
The fear is real
So why don’t we ask for help? Fear is a powerful emotion. Most of us don’t ask for help because we are scared of over stepping boundaries, scared of imposing or scared to show our struggles or worse we are scared that it will make us look weak.
I have definitely experienced this in my own life, especially when I started teaching. There was a real fear of being ‘found out’ if I asked for help. That the school would realise that they should never have employed me in the first place or worse that they were somehow going to try and get rid of me. The fear was enough to keep me silent for a long time.
Early on in my career, I found that although I was making improvements, I was still struggling. I still found behaviour management incredibly tough. I looked younger than my age and I worked in a city school and no matter what I did, I felt like I was banging my head against a brick wall. After a particularly bad week, the deputy head asked how I was. I had had enough of smiling and pretending and so I informed her of my true feelings. I told her how I was enjoying it but I was struggling with behaviour management. I swallowed my pride and I asked for her advice. She offered to come and observe me to give me some pointers.
Despite feeling incredibly nervous, it was a great experience. It led to a great discussion about new things I could try. Due to the fact that she could be more objective, she could see things that I hadn’t noticed. Now, I am not saying I had perfect behaviour management straight away but it did mean that I made huge progress in a shorter amount of time because I had asked for help.
Anyone who knows me, knows that I love Carol Dweck and her book Mindset. A lot of schools, especially primary schools, are using it in their lessons to encourage students to change the way they see failure, intelligence and learning. If you haven’t read it yet then I highly recommend giving it a go or searching for some of Carol Dweck’s presentations. She uses her own research to provide evidence that some of us tend to have a fixed mindset (I can’t do this) while others have a growth mindset (I can’t do this yet but I will learn how to). She explains ways that we can cultivate a growth mindset in our younger generation.
However, I don’t think her message is just for children. I love the power of yet and I think we can sometimes forget that it works just as well for adults as it does for students. It is not a weakness to admit that we don’t have it all figured out.
Asking for support is a strength
Asking for support means that you are admitting that you don’t have all of the answers. It means that you are not in denial and that you are prepared to deal with the uncomfortable feelings which accompany it. It also means that you are prepared to be vulnerable in order to find the answers you seek.
In teaching, our main aim is to support our students in their progress. Some of us would argue that it puts us in the role of ‘expert’. However, I dislike the term ‘expert’. It assumes that we have all of the answers, all of the time. We all know that this is not true. Even in adulthood we are learning and we are going to experience new situations where we will not know the best course of action. This doesn’t mean that we are not good at our job or that we are ‘dumb’ in any way. It simply means that we don’t know it YET!
Being a teacher means being a facilitator of learning and what better way to do that than to lead by example. We all expect our students to ask for support when they need it, as we know it will make them better learners. It is time to give ourselves the permission to ask for help too.
I know, from personal experience, how tough this is to do but in the end, asking for that support, will improve your well-being, make you an even better teacher and when you are ready, it will make you a better leader and manager too.
How can you get help at school?
I’m not going to declare that I know the reason why you might need to ask for help. I’m also not here to tell you that I have all of the answers. We are all individuals and I cannot walk in your shoes. What I can provide is understanding and compassion and a few pointers from my perspective as a teacher, mentor and a Head of Department.
Here is a list of steps which I have shared with colleagues in the past:
Please note: below, I mention asking for advice. The reason for this is it when you are talking to others, it is so easy to get caught up in your struggles that it can come across as one, long moan. I am all for getting things off your chest but if you want to find solutions, you have to be open to trying new things and be open minded to advice.
- Admit to yourself that you are struggling and that you need help. Know that needing help does not equate to any weakness on your part.
- Write down exactly what it is that you are struggling with.
- Talk to a trustworthy colleague or friend. Someone who has a good understanding of the situation you are in. Be open to their advice.
- Be part of a support group (this can be online or in ‘real’ life) where you can talk to other people who are in similar jobs / roles. You can share ideas, advice and support each other.
- Talk to your line manager or mentor and explain in detail where you are struggling (use the list from step 1) and ask for their advice.
- Talk to a member of SLT. There is normally a member of SLT who is responsible for teaching and learning. Again, share your list and more importantly, what you have already tried to implement. Ask for their advice.
- If none of the above have been successful, it is time to talk to your union rep and get their advice.
- Finally, if you are feeling completely overwhelmed to the point that it is affecting your emotions and mental health then contact Education Support Partnership. They have a free helpline and you can speak to a trained counsellor. You can phone them or text them 24/7. Text number is 07909 341229 and telephone number is 08000 562 561 for anyone in the U.K. You can find more information by looking at their website HERE
Have you ever had to ask for help at school before? How did it go? Let me know below.
Until next time,
P.S Are you a NQT? Are you a part of my support group on Facebook? It is completely free and you can join by clicking HERE.