As a forward-thinking teaching agency within the Home Counties, we put wellbeing at the heart of everything we do. However, who are the education professionals leading on teacher wellbeing? How are they making a difference to the happiness and health of other teachers and teaching assistants?
In this blog, we take a look at some of the top teachers across the country and how they have been able to maximise the well-being of their school staff members and students.
Caseby's Casebook – The Workable Wellbeing Series
Vice Principal at an Oxford all through school. Roger Caseby has a strong interest on the link between teacher wellbeing and student outcomes. He's published a trio of blogs on how he implements wellbeing and positive mental health to his team of teachers.
1. Free tea & coffee in our staff room.
This is essential really, I feel it makes breaks a proper break and it's the fuel that keeps staff going in between! I've worked in schools where staff pay into a kitty for tea & coffee – it's a lot of effort for a very small sum in terms of a school budget and usually a nightmare for the colleague who has to get everyone to cough up. Chocolate biscuits also help at high pressure times and several colleagues share cake on their birthdays.
2. Considering the impact of new policies on staff wellbeing.
Change seems to be the one contestant in schools. As we plan and implement new policies and procedures it's important to consider their impact on workload and wellbeing. I have described this in more detail here.
3. Thank yous.
It only takes a moment to say thank you, but in a busy day doing so can easily slip, whether acknowledging an email response, on paper or in person. It's well worth getting into the habit of thanking people in even the routine tasks like a request for photocopying to reprographics. Use key points in the year such as the end of terms to voice appreciation or drop people a note.
Performance management reviews are also an opportunity to thank colleagues for their contribution over the past year. At our Performance Development (we don't call it appraisal) day this year, we picked up on the idea from Cheney school, Oxford, and started a staff Thank You board where anyone can post thank you's to colleagues.
The Musings Of A Teaching Enthusiast
With marking, assessments and planning burning a hole in many a teacher's weekly schedule, arguably the most important part of their career centres on wellbeing. Every teacher will find challenging obstacles in their quest for a positive state of wellbeing, but I am hoping to offer some tips and ideas to help get us through the dark times and remind everyone that teaching is a fantastic career.
Start the day on a positive note
A good start to the day will help create a positive frame of mind for the challenges ahead. Why not allow yourself five or ten minutes to speak to a colleague about an interest outside of work, or sit with the children at Breakfast Club and discuss what they did the evening before. Take your mind off the day ahead for a few moments to allow breathing space before your focus is diluted to your class.
Add something new to your lessons
I challenge you to add a new idea or activity to each of your lessons. Try something new that you would not normally teach to help keep not only the children but also yourself engaged. Why not end a measuring lesson with a long jump competition? Or play battleships when teaching co-ordinates.
Wellbeing has deliberately been put at the centre of our School Improvement Plan. We want to be held to account for getting this right.
Our feedback policy has been revised, with the aims of reducing the time spent marking while giving children better guidance about what they need to do to improve their work. Maths feedback is now all verbal (apart from ticks and crosses showing right or wrong answers). Teachers now have more time to think about what children are really struggling with and to decide what are the best things they can do to help them, instead of writing long comments in their books and battling with the children to get them to act on them – or even read them.
Marking of writing will now focus on how children can improve the piece of work they have just finished rather than identifying 'next steps'. Again, lots of this feedback is verbal. This should make sure the children really understand what they are being asked to do, and that they remain motivated by not being repeatedly told how their work could be better in the future.
Our PPA arrangements have changed so that teachers now have a full day every fortnight in their year teams. We have also kept our planning days – each half term year teams have a day together to plan the next half term's work. This means that teachers have four full days together every 6/7 weeks. The cost of this takes a significant part of our school improvement budget, but it is worth every penny to see the inspirational ideas the teachers come up with to deliver the curriculum.
Staff are challenging each other to take part in some form of activity outside school, and then celebrating this. September is exercise – staff are sharing their exploits on a board in the staffroom, showing how far they have run, walked, cycled or swum. People have set their own targets, and there is lots of encouragement and interest in what each other are doing. We have plans for October – possibly a bake off – and will try something new every month.
Teaching is tough: balancing the needs of individuals and the whole class, meeting the curriculum objectives, preparing for end of Key Stage tests, dealing with parents, carers and the demands of those running the school is an endless task. We are very good at looking after the wellbeing of pupils but rarely make time for ourselves; we need to model wellbeing and self-care to our pupils!
- 'Control the controllables' – focus on the things that you can affect.
- Instead of trying harder, work smarter – try something different
- Notice energisers and drainers – Think about which of your colleagues you need to spend most time around. Who brightens your day? Who inspires you and gives you new ideas? Who are the 'mood hoovers'? Who dampens your spirits?
- Spend time with family, friends and loved ones.
- Get outdoors – run, walk, sit and take in the beauty around you.
- Allow yourself some 'you time' to indulge in that little guilty pleasure – watch trashy TV, read, bake, dance, sing. Be you!!
- Be positive – make a conscious effort to see the good in every situation. There is something positive in everyday!
- Learn to say no – sometimes you just don't need any more plates to spin!
Remember if everything gets too much, you must speak to someone!
The senior leaders in your school are there to support you and they will! If you feel that you can't speak to someone at school try your family and friends – they love you, they want you to be well – they will support you! If you feel that you need something more, speak to a medical professional!
Finally...remember how important and inspiring you are to every child in your care.
Teachers change lives but can only do so if they are fit, healthy and positive!
If you know of any other great teachers and educators actively encouraging positive wellbeing, let us know in the comments below!