The community that has developed through #teacher5aday is integral to its success in promoting teacher wellbeing. It is not just the efforts of individuals but the sharing of their activities to connect, learn, be active, notice and give/volunteer that has boosted a sense of pride, joy and positivity in the profession – despite the many challenges in schools today.
In December there will be a whole week (2nd – 6th) devoted to teacher5aday to raise awareness of teacher wellbeing in every school in the country. Senior leadership will be involved and this article is to begin the conversation about what they might do to support this great initiative.
- The first thing might be to ask teachers what would make the most difference for them.
- The second is to have a teacher wellbeing working group to put ideas into practice.
- The third is to check how much happier teachers are working in your school and watch your retention rates go up!
The New Economics Foundation five ways to wellbeing that underpin #teacher5aday
Connect: A sense of belonging is now recognised as being central to wellbeing – and feelings of isolation damaging to our mental health. Establishing and maintaining positive relationships matters. In schools this encompasses relationships with colleagues, with students and with support staff. It is hard to have relationships if we don’t get to talk with people and find out a bit more about who they are. Here is one suggestion:
A social event in which everyone has conversations with people they wouldn’t usually talk with. One activity I use in Circle Solutions is Social Bingo. This is a piece of A4 paper or card divided into nine boxes, each with a question to be answered by a different person. These can include exploring things in common or simply finding out more about someone beyond their role in school. For example:
- Someone who has been to the same concert, film or play as you: What did you both think of it?
- Someone who can speak two languages – what are they? How did they learn them?
- Someone who is planning a big family event – what is this?
In a half hour event (perhaps with food and drink?) people can have brief conversations that make connections that change perceptions that might alter relationships for ever.
This activity could be completed during the week but it works better doing it altogether in a protected time.
What else might you do to boost connection in your school?
How do people get to know each other?
Are positive relationships at the heart of the vision for your school?
Learn: Schools should be learning organisations for everyone. In these days of scarce funds and time-poor schools, professional development is often thin on the ground. Teachers who continue to learn their craft are more professionally competent and feel valued – both important aspects of wellbeing. So how about the following:
- Support attendance at Pedagoo / teachmeet events where teachers share their own practice
- Instead of a speaker, show an education Ted talk once a month, followed by small group discussion. Find out what teachers would value?
- Invite students to conduct seminars with staff with topics of their choice
- Find ways for individuals to disseminate summaries and reviews for books they have found valuable.
How can you prioritise professional learning in your budget – the more wellbeing in your school the less you will have to pay for sick leave?!
What do governors know about the importance of teacher wellbeing for effective education?
Who might provide this learning and what might result?
Notice: Teachers often go over and beyond for pupils but acknowledgement of this is not always forthcoming. People might get noticed for the big things but not always for the little things. So during this week how about finding ways to acknowledge all the little things that teachers do or say that make school life just that bit better for someone.
- Prepare for #teacher5aday week by making a brief note of something positive you have noticed for every member of staff in your school – write this on a card and pop it into their pigeon hole during early December.
- Provide a place for teachers to display photographs of what they have noticed that has boosted their wellbeing – this could lead onto interesting discussions with pupils
How can staff be acknowledged for what they do so they do not feel taken for granted?
How can we notice when staff need more support – with health, work, or life outside work?
Stay Active (Exercise): Movement raises serotonin levels and opens up cognitive pathways – it therefore promotes mental wellbeing and learning as well as physical health. New government guidelines recommend 60 minutes per day of activity for students in school. With everything that teachers have to fit in how can they also be encouraged to stay fit. The answer is in variety / choice / doing things together alongside leadership encouragement and facilitation.
- Dancing is great exercise, often enjoyed by all ages. How about a regular school disco?
- Provide plenty of secure places to park bikes
- Encourage staff to dress in ways that facilitate physical movement. For whose benefit are suits, ties and high heels?
Are there opportunities for staff and pupils to be active together? Inside and out?
No pupil – or teacher- should be sitting still for more than half an hour – brief physical breaks need to be built into lessons – is this part of whole school conversation and policy?
How might senior staff model good practice?
Give / Volunteer : Neurological research says that the ‘reward’ areas of the brain are stimulated by giving – so doing good does you good! Teachers may be reluctant to volunteer for anything if time is of the essence so this aspect of #teacher5aday needs to not add to the demands on teachers. The cue is in the word ‘volunteer’ – nothing compulsory!
- Giving a kind word or a smile takes little time or effort but can generate positive vibes across the school.
- School leaders could volunteer to give an hour of their time by taking a session with all students in the hall. Ask staff what they would like to do with this extra hour
- There are families hungry and homeless – and the weather is getting colder. Perhaps hold a survey with staff and students about how the school can help. Doing things together boosts school belonging – valuable for everyone’s wellbeing.
Does teacher5aday give your own wellbeing a boost?
How can you give teachers over the year ahead a stronger sense that they are doing meaningful work that is valued by you and the community?
If you have read this to the end, congratulations, I am giving you a big thank you from me!