Lynn How on managing the role of a SENCO and developing healthy habits to support your wellbeing.

There is no shortage of challenges in both individual schools and nationally and, although it’s always better to have a glass-half-full mentality, SENCOs everywhere are exhausted and flagging. So, it is essential to protect your own mental health and wellbeing, as this will help towards being your best self at work and home. Instilling some daily wellbeing wins, and reflecting on them can be useful strategies, combined with self-awareness, and mindfulness about your role. Lack of resources and time;  too much paperwork and not enough time with the pupils; the post-pandemic knock-on effect of an ever-growing SEND register, and specific issues in our Y1 and EYFS cohorts particularly—we need to look after ourselves now more than ever. 

What gives you energy? What saps it? Once I discovered my own patterns, it was easier to plan for them. Monitor areas such as diet, sleep and relationships (work and home), to identify areas of need as we all need things that bring us joy. Whatever your hobbies, add them into your daily routines or try new things until you find something you love that nurtures you. Who saps your energy? Are you surrounded by ‘radiators’ or ‘drains’? The radiators send positivity out and the drains do the opposite. In your workplace, there may be a minority who can be added to the ‘drain’ category. Stay optimistic, and work to get the ‘drains’ onside early before you facilitate any SEND training. 

As a SENCO, I have often been chased up the corridor by a teacher just needing to talk to me ‘for a minute’, and there are always those daily curve-balls that interrupt our flow. Try to improve your time management—create your weekly timetable, print it out and annotate what actually happens. This is a useful exercise to support workload conversations with your head. Petition for admin support—admin is not an effective use of your time. Try not to interrupt colleagues. In a mentally healthy school, colleagues will respect that you may need some time when you are not to be interrupted, apart from emergencies such as alien invasions or escaped lions. A suitably worded door sign works well. This enables you to take pockets of time throughout your day, not only to complete paperwork but also to practise regular 5-minute mindfulness exercises.. This can be restorative in a stressful job. Supervision: as SENCOs, we deal with a lot of ‘stuff’ and some of the children’s lives can be complicated. We worry about them. Is there someone you can regularly talk to?

Look after yourself. Avoid negativity, nurture your support network, remind yourself you are making a positive difference to individual children. Go for a ten-minute walk out of school. There are many things in your ‘circle of concern’ you don’t have much control over, and we often spend too much time worrying about these and not enough on what really is in our circle of Influence.

Lynn How
Author: Lynn How

Lynn How
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Lynn How is the founder of the award-winning SEMH, SEND and staff mental health blog, With 20 years of primary teaching and SLT experience, she has been an Assistant Head, Lead Mentor for ITT and SENCO. She is also the editor of @TeacherToolkit website. Her areas of interest are wellbeing (staff and pupil), SEND, children's mental health, mentoring and coaching. She holds regular online CPD and training for SENCOs and for teacher wellbeing.

Twitter: @Positive_Y_Mind
Facebook: @coachingforteacherwellbeing
LinkedIn: @Positive_Y_Mind


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