How do you promote whole school wellbeing?

This week I will be leading a “topic table” on well-being at our annual Staff Meeting focused on School Improvement. We run it a bit like speed dating in that each topic leader sits at a table and groups of staff discuss the “topic of the table” then move on when the Head rings a bell. It’s fast-paced and fun, and because it is time-limited you get some pretty wacky thoughts that can translate into innovative ideas, some of which would never have been suggested if we’d all had time to consider what we were saying!

Last year, my topic was “The School Environment” and I took a map of the school along and asked staff what they would do with the school if funding allowed (it was almost like ‘Pin the Tail on the Donkey’). After staff got over the first few minutes of improving their own area or department, there were some really interesting ideas showing me the areas of the school that were considered really important by staff, which went on to inform my priorities.

I’m struggling with this year…me…whose first interest is well-being of staff…and I can’t decide how to get practical solutions out of my colleagues in the short time available and also leave them feeling that we, as a school, have their best interests at heart (and not just because they collectively cost us an arm and a leg!)

So I thought if I lay my thinking out in a blog, I might get something coherent to use by the end…

I think we all, at sometime during each (and probably) every academic year feel like we are not valued and our work is taken for granted. Of course I don’t expect to be told what a wonderful job I’m doing every day but I think we all need a little “well done you – keep going – you’ve got this” boost occasionally. For teachers (and I’m keen that this isn’t just about teaching staff because support staff are at the meeting too) there are particular work peaks and troughs in the year when they are sorely in need of a bit of TLC. How many times have you heard…”it’ll be gained time soon…or…just wait until the exams are over…or…if we can just get to Christmas”…then everything will be OK?

At my current school, we’ve talked about well-being weeks (or rather I’ve nagged, cajoled and banged on about it) for 7 years and we are now just beginning to bring staff around to the idea of fixing something firmly in the calendar. Perhaps my topic should be “when do you need that extra boost?” rather than “what would you like to do?” because I accept that there is no way we are going to be able to please everyone. (For example, the thought of a de-stress massage makes me recoil in horror!)

But I’d also, as part of our well-being cycle, like to offer our staff a programme of support with issues I know we all have such as;

  • self-care
  • healthy living
  • self-doubt
  • improving resilience
  • managing work relationships
  • teamwork
  • communicating
  • supporting others

These wouldn’t be in the form of ‘lectures’ but rather proposing a regular meeting to those who would like to be involved, for talking and devising tools, some generic, some particular to the nuances of our school, that we could all use, so that they come from our staff to our staff.

So, back to my topic table, Thank you so much for helping me with this. I’m going kick it off with a scenario.

“It’s September. We have a new NQT/TA in our school. As experienced teachers and support staff here what are the most important well-being tips you would pass on to them in their first year?”

This will tell me which support topics they would wish to see in the well-being programme idea and will also have the added benefit that when I present it to them in September, the idea will have come from them, not just me.

I’ll let you know how it goes…

How do you promote whole staff well-being in your school?

6 thoughts on “How do you promote whole school wellbeing?

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  1. Really interesting, that whole school dynamic. Support staff/ associate staff / non teaching staff, on the whole didn’t batter doors down to be employed. So many roles created after workforce reform as we know so why can’t we be more inclusive and improve all our wellbeing?
    I’ll be interested to see how you get on x

  2. Where I work, we have a wellbeing committee. They ask us for suggestions andorganise a range of activities based on that. They’ve offered yoga at school, given out water bottles, offered free fruit and organised shared meals. Those efforts are all great of course (here comes the but!) but they do tend to focus on the micro – what we as staff can do to support and maintain our own wellbeing. They don’t address workload issues, disparities within and between departments over marking, report writing, parent interviews (some people have 36 interviews over 2 nights, some have 4; some have 140 students, some have 80) etc etc. These are not easy issues to resolve but they do all lead to disharmony and exhaustion for many of us in core subject areas with large classes (as opposed to specialist subjects where students opt in and class sizes are smaller). It feels like some of us work three times as hard for the same pay. And then, some of us are working parents too which adds to the workload – I realise that’s choice but it does add extra pressure. In New Zealand at least, some big picture thinking is needed (and pretty quickly) as we face a massive teacher shortage exacerbated by teacher burnout and low entry rates.

    1. You raise some interesting and thought provoking points here. I’ve often heard PE talk about the longer day they work due to fixtures but (it is often said) they don’t have the same marking responsibilities. You’re right that core subjects would have a greater burden due to sheer numbers of students. You’re also right that current “wellbeing” only scratches the surface and a bigger picture view is needed if the teaching profession isn’t going to go into freefall with a mass exodus of skills. Thank you. Food for thought.

      1. In NZ, all secondary teachers are expected to support extra curricular activities. Mine are debating, film competition and school magazine production. Certainly makes for long days.

      2. I think we’ve got to start finding a way of rewarding staff for extra-curricular activities, especially as children are likely otherwise just on their own in front of a screen!

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