Dr Emma Kell has been teaching for two decades, mainly in inner-London secondary schools. She is now a middle leader with several years of senior leadership experience. In 2016, she completed her doctorate with Middlesex University on balancing teaching and parenthood and in January 2018, her book, How to Survive in Teaching, was published by Bloomsbury.
Emma is passionately loyal to our wonderful but vulnerable profession. Her heart is first and foremost in the classroom, and her writing and research is driven by the desire to give voice to both the broken and the successful members of our profession. Ultimately, her aim is to play her part to ensure that our young people whom this is all about have people in front of them who are well-trained, who want to be there, and who are able to be humans as well as teachers.
How did you manage to write a book at the same time as being a middle manager in a secondary school?
Emma had been blogging ‘almost to relax’ after the academic constrictions of producing her PhD thesis. She wanted to share her anecdotes and thoughts on the job of teaching. She was contacted by someone from the publishing house, Bloomsbury, out of the blue and asked to write a book for them. Emma checked it was a genuine offer and when it was clear that it was, she was given free rein to write whatever she wanted. She wanted the book to be based on her doctoral work which was about teachers and parents – their challenges and benefits and she wanted it to be for all teachers, to be frank, positive, honest and transparent about the issues in the workplace and in the profession.
Emma sectioned off her Sunday mornings – with the support of her family – and wrote in a local coffee shop. The writing process often flowed for her but not always. So her tips for writing include:
- Have safe places to stop on your journeys so you can stop and put notes on your phone before you lose them
- Use the voice recorder app on your phone to make audio notes of ideas
- Use post-it notes, notebooks etc. and scribble down everything as soon as it comes to you
Emma also had what she refers to as a responsibility to write the book because she had interviews and survey responses form thousands of teachers to work from – she felt she had to get it finished in response to what she sees as the crisis in teaching – reflected in the stories she had heard from teachers. She hoped to publish the book in order to make a difference before the crises gets even worse.
Did you realise there was a ‘crisis’ before you did the research or did the responses you received prompt you to write the book?
“It seems so obvious that happy teachers are better teachers.”
Emma believes that we invest so much money in our school buildings but we don’t invest in teacher wellbeing. This fact and the stories she heard before and from the research led to feelings of rage. She heard from many teachers very early on int their careers – even during their PGCE that there were being put off the profession by negativity and toxic politics. This was blended with joy, because Emma loves her job. She is fed up with the constant barrage of pity for her and other teachers. She wanted to celebrate those who are getting it right – schools and individuals.
Listen to the whole episode to hear lots more from Emma about wellbeing, the benefits and positivity of Ofsted and more!