This Much I Know About Mind Over Matter …

Improving Mental Health in Our Schools

By: John Tomsett


£16.99

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Ebook


Size: 216 x 140mm

Pages : 272

ISBN : 9781785831683

Format: Paperback

Published: January 2017


In This Much I Know about Mind Over Matter John Tomsett addresses, with refreshing honesty, the growing problem of the mental health issues experienced by children and young people, offering up a plan for averting a mental health crisis in our schools. Tomsett interweaves his formative and professional experience with strategies for addressing students’ mental health issues and insights from his interviews with high profile thinkers on the subject including Professor Tanya Byron, Natasha Devon, Norman Lamb, Tom Bennett, Claire Fox and Dr Ken McLaughlin. The book is replete with truths about the state of children’s mental well-being, about creating a school culture where everyone can thrive and about living in the shadow of his mother’s manic depression.

With his typical mixture of experience, wisdom and research-based evidence, Tomsett explains how he manages the pressure of modern day state school headship in a climate where you are only as good as your last set of examination results, a pressure which acutely affects staff and students too. He outlines his strategies for mitigating this pressure and turning the tide of students’ mental health problems. The autobiographical narrative modulates between self-effacing humour and heart-wrenching stories of his mother’s life, blighted by mental illness. His professional reflections are a wisdom-filled blend of evidence-based policy and decades of experience in teaching and school leadership. Tomsett writes with genuine humility. His prose is beautiful in its seeming simplicity. When you pick up one of his books you will find you have read the first fifty pages before you have even noticed: surely the hallmark of truly great writing.

Topics covered include: the real state of the nation’s mental health, the perfect storm that is precipitating a mental health crisis in schools, the problems of loose terminology – what do we really mean when we talk about a mental health epidemic? – and poor understanding of mental health problems and mental illness, the disparity between mental and physical health in public discourse, treatment and funding, beginning the conversation about mental health, the philosophical and psychological principles underpinning the debate, strategies to support students in managing their own mental health better, resilience, growth mindset, mindfulness, grit, failure and mistakes, coping with pressure, York’s school well-being workers project, evidence-based strategies that have worked in Huntington School, metacognitive strategies for improving exam performance, interviews with professionals in the field, the reality of living with a parent with a serious mental illness, self-concept and achievement, perfectionism, the relationship between academic rigour and therapeutic education and, significantly, what the research says, what the experts say and what Tomsett’s experience says about averting a mental health crisis in schools.

Suitable for teachers, leaders and anyone with an interest in mental health in schools.

Also by John Tomsett: This Much I Know about Love Over Fear, ISBN 9781845909826.


Picture for author John Tomsett

John Tomsett

John Tomsett has been a teacher since 1988 and a head teacher since 2003. He is head teacher at Huntington School, York. Tomsett writes a blog called This much I know '' and is a regular contributor to the TES. He co-founded The Headteachers' Roundtable think tank and is a popular speaker on school leadership. He is determined to remain a classroom teacher, despite the demands of headship, and believes that developing truly great teaching is the main responsibility of all head teachers.

Click here to read John's article for Schools Week ' We can turn the tidal wave of mental health problems'.

How I learned to stop worrying and love the data' via TES.

Click here to read John's interview with The Ofi Press.

Click here to read John's article in TES - 'Loneliness teaches us that it's good to let students talk'.


Reviews

  1. The subject of Mental Health continues to be given attention across society, yet the topic continues to be avoided by many, who still see the issue as a taboo worth avoiding. School teachers are perfectly placed to identify, support and discuss mental health issues with students, but many are not trained psychiatrists and the help offered can be clumsy if not managed carefully.

    Having read the book “The Dangerous Rise Of Therapeutic Education How Teaching Is Becoming Therapy” by Ecclestone and Hayes, John Tomsett became convinced that, “our navel-gazing curriculum has caused the so-called mental health -˜crises' in our schools”. In his latest book, “This Much I Know about Mind Over Matter: Improving mental health in our schools“, John Tomsett explores the mental health crises in our schools with a collection of interviews including Professor Tanya Byron, Natasha Devon, Norman Lamb, to name just a few.

    It would be disingenuous to share the conclusions here, but Tomsett advocates for a multi-factorial effort to crack the mental health -˜crises', including a political, parental, cultural, medical and educational endeavour. He also draws on Justin Tarte's -˜10 Things Students Want Educators to Know-˜, which every teacher should return to consider on a regular basis.



    John Tomsett is a fantastic story teller, and this is another engaging book that amalgamates personal stories and experiences with expert opinion to inform teachers and school leaders about the crucial role they hold in supporting the mental health development of their pupils.

    Click here to read the review on UKEdChat.
  2. As I write this review, mental health is in the national news headlines. The British government plans to provide training for teachers to recognise mental ill-health and to know how to respond. The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry are sponsoring the recognition of mental health as having parity with physical health. A local correspondent for Barnardo's claimed that on average there are three children in each class that are suffering from diagnosable mental health problems (Herald and Post, January 19th 2017). The publication of this book is timely as it coincides with these national initiatives.

    The book emerges from the author reflecting on life experiences and his role as a head teacher of a secondary school and his attempts to manage the rising numbers of students with mental health problems. It has 32 chapters of varying length which sounds a bit daunting, but several are very short, and the book has only 272 pages. There is also a range of depth from narrative to analysis in chapters.

    There are deeply personal sections narrating incidents in the author's life, e.g. about the author's mother and her bipolar condition, and his heart disorder. These chapters might be of great interest to some readers, but may irritate or embarrass others. There are practitioner accounts that will be of interest to leadership readers, and there is home-spun wisdom. They contrast with more probing chapters and interviews with well-known writers and scholars such as Clare Fox, Natasha Devon, Ken McLaughlin, Robin Parmiter (a philosophy teacher), Professor Byron, and Tom Bennett exploring issues about mental health and education. I would have liked more engagement with the issues these interviews raise.

    There are chapters that are well researched and fully referenced about mental health problems, mental illness, and the turbulence of teenage years. Possible causes of the rise in mental health problems are suggested, such as the recent increase in academic challenge; teacher anxiety about performance-related pay; funding cuts; inequality and poverty; the impact of social media; and a rise of a dubious claim to the entitlement to be happy. I did wonder whether there was sufficient detail on types of mental ill-health, and possible actions schools can take, but the reader can dip into the extensive bibliography for further analysis and solutions.

    The chatty style is both attractive and accessible to the reader. I enjoyed reading single chapters at a short sitting. It was not always clear to this reviewer how all the chapters related to the book's central theme, nor how the chapters related to each other.

    If readers require a more rigorous, technical volume about mental health issues in schools and solutions they may need to look elsewhere, but the practitioner experience and personal narratives will appeal to many teachers and school leaders, and be informative (e.g. chapter 19 on -˜Mindfulness -¦').



    Wise readers can draw on or distil the writer's experiences (e.g. Chapter 27 -˜Who Owns the Child?', and 29 -˜Metacognitive Tools -¦'), from the author's wide reading and web of contacts (Chapter 31, -˜Turning the Tide'), and apply insights to their own understanding and practice. The author has drawn on an immense amount of personal and professional experience, reading and study to make this book available to us.
  3. As I write this review, mental health is in the national news headlines. The British government plans to provide training for teachers to recognise mental ill-health and to know how to respond. The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry are sponsoring the recognition of mental health as having parity with physical health. A local correspondent for Barnardo's claimed that on average there are three children in each class that are suffering from diagnosable mental health problems (Herald and Post, January 19th 2017). The publication of this book is timely as it coincides with these national initiatives.

    The book emerges from the author reflecting on life experiences and his role as a head teacher of a secondary school and his attempts to manage the rising numbers of students with mental health problems. It has 32 chapters of varying length which sounds a bit daunting, but several are very short, and the book has only 272 pages. There is also a range of depth from narrative to analysis in chapters.

    There are deeply personal sections narrating incidents in the author's life, e.g. about the author's mother and her bipolar condition, and his heart disorder. These chapters might be of great interest to some readers, but may irritate or embarrass others. There are practitioner accounts that will be of interest to leadership readers, and there is home-spun wisdom. They contrast with more probing chapters and interviews with well-known writers and scholars such as Clare Fox, Natasha Devon, Ken McLaughlin, Robin Parmiter (a philosophy teacher), Professor Byron, and Tom Bennett exploring issues about mental health and education. I would have liked more engagement with the issues these interviews raise.

    There are chapters that are well researched and fully referenced about mental health problems, mental illness, and the turbulence of teenage years. Possible causes of the rise in mental health problems are suggested, such as the recent increase in academic challenge; teacher anxiety about performance-related pay; funding cuts; inequality and poverty; the impact of social media; and a rise of a dubious claim to the entitlement to be happy. I did wonder whether there was sufficient detail on types of mental ill-health, and possible actions schools can take, but the reader can dip into the extensive bibliography for further analysis and solutions.

    The chatty style is both attractive and accessible to the reader. I enjoyed reading single chapters at a short sitting. It was not always clear to this reviewer how all the chapters related to the book's central theme, nor how the chapters related to each other.

    If readers require a  more rigorous, technical volume about mental health issues in schools and solutions they may need to look elsewhere, but the practitioner experience and personal narratives will appeal to many teachers and school leaders, and be informative (e.g. chapter 19 on -˜Mindfulness -¦').



    Wise readers can draw on or distil the writer's experiences (e.g. Chapter 27 -˜Who Owns the Child?', and 29 -˜Metacognitive Tools -¦'), from the author's wide reading and web of contacts (Chapter 31, -˜Turning the Tide'), and apply insights to their own understanding and practice. The author has drawn on an immense amount of personal and professional experience, reading and study to make this book available to us.
  4. This Much I Know about Mind Over Matter ... is a truly authentic exploration of mental health problems in our schools. Tomsett writes sensitively and perceptively about a topic which is difficult to discuss. It is a book for our time and everyone working with young people should read it.
  5. Amidst the increasingly apocalyptic tone of debates about the contemporary state of young people's mental health, this book makes a crucial contribution to thinking about the nature of the problem and what schools, colleges and universities should do about it. John Tomsett's book weaves brilliantly his own experience of his mother's mental illness, his father's stoicism and resilience and changing social responses to mental illness with a genuine desire to understand what's going on with young people today.

    His thoughtful, compelling and provocative book offers practical responses for head teachers, teachers and parents. Most importantly, his book is a rallying call to regain confidence in the power of subject-based education and the power of authentic, engaged relationships between teachers and students as key to enhancing young people's wellbeing.
  6. John Tomsett is the head teacher I would have wished for myself, and now for my children. He balances good research with even better experience, and comes as close to anyone I have met in not just understanding mental health in schools, but having sensible things to say about what to do. I read it from cover to cover - now it's your turn.
  7. It must have taken courage to write this book - it's personal and it covers an issue which people don't want to talk about, but which increasingly cries out for attention and discussion by school leaders and those who hold them to account. It deserves the widest readership and is a wake-up call for all educators.
  8. I love this book. It feels like an important one. Written in John Tomsett's wonderful, unique style, blending deeply personal anecdotes about -˜mother' with the insights of an experience-hardened, compassionate head teacher, you won't find a more rounded exploration of this important issue. We need to hear the perspectives of Fox, Byron and Bennett: we need to get beyond ineffective calls to -˜do something about this crisis'. This book is a guide to moving forward, understanding mental health and doing things that might actually make a difference. 

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