As a new user of Twitter I’ve been rather dismayed by conversations around reports of numerous SBMs leaving the profession due to isolation, pressures of work and an increasingly challenging role in schools.
I don’t know why I’m surprised by this because half way through my own career I seriously considered abandoning the role of SBM myself. Without going into any of the horrible detail, suffice to say I found myself in a state of severe stress that had, I now see, begun to manifest fairly serious physical symptoms (that I am still unpicking).
I’m not quite sure how, probably that backed-into-a-corner trait and sheer bloody mindedness, I managed to secure a fantastic new job in another school and I started again.
Looking back, I’m proud that I did that myself. I had no support (apart from Barry, of course – he made me say that) from anyone in the SLT at the time, colleagues, HR, the LA or my Union. I quite literally felt I had nowhere and no one to turn to for help. It would have been very easy to walk away.
So I guess what I am most dismayed about is that SBMs are still, after all these years, leaving because they reach the point that I very nearly did, where the only option is to leave something you love completely because the support just isn’t there when the proverbial really hits the fan.
You would think the SBM group network would be the answer but I’ve long been dissatisfied with my local SBM group even though it is well regarded, large, popular and well attended. I no longer attend meetings because I feel like a fish out of water. Of course, should anyone ask me, I would encourage every SBM to attend their local group but I’m uncomfortable that I don’t follow my own advice.
However, since joining Twitter and discovering that there are actually like-minded business orientated professionals out there offering friendship and support, I’m realising that there is more help out there than I knew, but I still wonder if it is the sort of support that could be effective in a crisis.
When I hit my crisis point I desperately needed someone to talk to. It needed to be someone who had experience and understood the issues but be neutral. It couldn’t be a local SBM because I didn’t want everyone (or anyone I knew for that matter) knowing what had gone wrong.
What I needed was a mentor.
Someone to tell me what I was going through was normal, a result of chronic stress and that there really was a light at the end of my very dark tunnel.
So my advice now? If you are a new SBM, join the groups, build relationships and get involved, but don’t feel you have to go to every meeting if it isn’t your thing. What is more important is that you make a connection with a like-minded SBM, nurture that relationship and keep them in touch with your career development. Because when the crisis hits (and it will at some point) you need to talk it through with someone, you need help to make sense of it all and you need help to draw up a plan of remedial action.
Together, you can work through the issues so that you can keep working in the job we all love and, perhaps, you can go on to be a mentor yourself.