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The Well-being debate…more than sweet treats?

It seems that well-being is the buzzword of the year in 2019 and the education profession seem fully engrossed in the debate. Whether it be staff or pupils it seems that we are more aware now than ever before about the emotional sides of spending the day in the learning environment.

And why not?! Some of the biggest companies in the world are also throwing well-being to the for front of their agenda for the pure reason that happier staff are likely to work harder and longer and gain a higher performance rate. Many companies are now putting their profits to looking after their staff, offering incentives and focusing on mental health.

Though is it just a case of adding more cakes to the staff room? Many on tweeter grip about how this is not real well-being, so what exactly is it?

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I would simply answer – culture.

Well-being doesn’t come easy and it encompasses more than one thing.

One of the best environments I worked in, looking back, was one of the hardest. It didn’t seem to matter what was thrown at us, we got through it…because we were a community, a family. We had our ups and downs but we supported each other. Sometimes it did involve cake…and that’s OK.

Wellbeing can start with cake, or chocolate, or sweets or…whatever else wouldn’t fit into a healthy schools initiative! I really don’t want people to down play the effect of a little treat leaf in the staff room. It’s when we start putting these little random acts of kindness down that we start the downward spiral. A positive is a positive, whatever it looks like. BUT it cannot be the tiny flame in a very dark room, it must be part of a raging fire of support.

What might it look like?

Imagine walking into a school and the staffroom, where you find staff doing different things. Some are working on PCs, some chatting and drinking a coffee, some reading a book (whether educational or fictional) and then the head teacher walks in. Then suddenly everyone…keeps on doing the same thing. The reason? Trust. Staff are trusted to manage their time, know their needs and follow through with it.

I think this shows a good culture of well-being. Well-being starts with a staff who are treated as adults who can manage their time and needs as they can. Some people leave on the bell and some stay later, some mark in their rooms and some take it home, some take their only moment of quiet time to sit down with a cuppa and a good book to do just that and some read the latest educational epic. As long as they get the job done, nothing is questioned. If some don’t, they are challenged, aided, advised.

Workload

It’s the schools job, as far as I can see, to simplify. I often find issues are complicated then they could be simplifies. I assume it’s because I am lazy by nature and always looking at ways to make life easier. This is how manager should be thinking too.

There is an abundance of information out there on how this is done. Twitter is a minefield of ideas! Feedback not marking, whole class feedback, class worksheet, good research is all available with a quick “#” search!

Why not give someone the job title of “Simplifier” and ask them to spend an extra free a week looking for ideas and then feedback and implement the best ideas whole school . You very own school ResEd Specialist!

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Mental Health

At times I though it would be better if I just crashed the car into a bush, not badly, just enough to get a few days off.

I thought this once…I didn’t trust myself to crash correctly that I wouldn’t get really badly hurt. I didn’t want to be hurt but I didn’t;t have the energy to keep going in my job. I was mentally tired. I needed someone.

A school needs to think about mental health and put I high in their issues. Allow staff to have access to councillors on site, in school time. You may pay out but it might save thousands in potential cover for staff absence.

The Manager Role

I asked my line manager to my room, showed him my 500 books that I had to mark in one week after the end of year exams, piled high, due to be done in time for end-of-year reports. I made it clear that since I had another job it might be wise that they support the next member of staff better or they would face a very stressed HOD.

At that moment I realised the role of management in well-being. To protect. That means understand the impact of their decision and see what it looks like on the ground.

How?

Invite a member of teaching staff into weekly SLT meetings, change the person termly and ask their advice on pros and cons of ideas. Use your talents.

Also if it is a minority failing to follow procedure then challenge them. Well-being also comes from looking externally, realising what effect your decisions have on others. A missed deadline by one staff member might highly impact many others, if it’s a regular issue then intervene. The hard conversations can be dealt with in a sensitive manor and if address earlier rather than later can nip a issue in the bud with little problems.

Main Advice

Listen to YOUR staff. Ask them! Have a well-being survey or meeting or shout! See what is needed in your school. What are the biggest issues. What do your staff feel they need.

Have an approach that is multi layer (and I mean that this might include layered cake!). Don’t down play the small touches that make someone smile, but don’t imagine that will combat larger issues.

Other Ideas

  • Free onsite childcare
  • Teambuilding – we have games at break on Friday…not big days out! Fun little games that create a culture of “us”.
  • Days off for family events (not just ones with children!)
  • Well-being library nook where staff can relax and read a book without judgement
  • Genuine “thank you” to people who deserve it. Not generic ones for those who did their job.

More ideas and a proposal to put to SLT can be found here – https://mrseducate.com/school-policy-proposals/well-being-school-proposal/

Next post will focus on pupil well-being!

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