Talking about wellbeing is something that we, as a society, are getting better at, especially within education. We are now fully aware of the impact teaching has on a person’s wellbeing and as schools, are encouraging a culture in which we can be more open and transparent, and can discuss mental health and poor wellbeing.
Recognising there is a problem is the first step to solving it, the second is actually doing something about it. Teacher wellbeing has long been a cause for concern, and it can be difficult to remember the steps we’re already taking to address these issues. It also takes having an aerial view of your school to think of new ways in which you can help to improve it.
Sometimes, stepping outside of your institute, talking to fellow educators, or listening to advice, can help spark new ideas that you can apply to your school, or reaffirm that you do currently have processes in place that are tackling the wellbeing issue. It’s also key to remember that these initiatives don’t have to be huge, or expensive, to have a profound impact.
We recently hosted a teacher wellbeing coffee morning and there we were able to hear the ideas from real members of SLT and low budget ways they’ve managed to address the wellbeing issue. Here are some of their easy to implement ideas:
Create a culture of praise and recognition
Encouraging a culture that celebrates success between colleagues can have a huge impact on the wellbeing of your staff. Showing appreciation is an easy way to make people feel valued and it costs nothing - the hardest part is encouraging this culture. One school’s way to foster appreciation and recognition is to incentivise staff members with KitKats and open up a dialogue in the staff room. Staff are encouraged to give kudos, and the receiver gets a KitKat as a thanks for their hard work, following the mantra of ‘you can’t always have a break, but you can have a KitKat’.
Put staff at ease when discussing uncomfortable issues
Every school strives to improve the wellbeing of their teachers, but discussing matters linking to mental health and personal wellbeing can be difficult. No matter how much we try to put our staff at ease during training sessions that explore these issues, or in staff meetings, it can be difficult to get people to let their guard down. One way in which you can help your staff to open up and put them at ease is to start meetings off with a unique icebreaker of blowing bubbles. An activity like this helps people to relax, feel at ease and also encourages interactions between people making it easier to discuss what are otherwise difficult issues.
Implement legitimate office hours
This seems like an obvious one, but it’s not always as easy to implement as some may think - a good way to tackle this is to introduce universal working hours for your staff whereby there is an expectation that emails sent before or after a certain time do not warrant a response. By doing this, you take the pressure off your staff to reply to an email once it comes through on their phone, and take away that stress. It also encourages staff to wait and think about the urgency of what they’re sending. However, what’s most important with this rule is that in order to achieve this you need to ensure that: 1) SLT follow this rule and lead by example, and 2) it is communicated across the school to all staff, old and new, in order to achieve consistency.
Taking steps to improve wellbeing doesn’t need to cost money to have a positive impact, what needs to happen for these initiatives to actually work however, is commitment and belief in what you are doing.