Stop Talking About Wellbeing

I suppose it’s an odd time for this post but I had started…so I’ll finish!wellbeing

Like so many other wonderful plans our recent Professional Development Day was cancelled and as yet not re-scheduled.  The right and sensible thing to do was to stop and re-group to make plans for the situation we all find ourselves in now – working from home and getting through this.

But…

We had great plans!  The amazing staff at RPCC had written CPD sessions, organised resources…purchased more than 90 Cadbury’s Cream Eggs! There were interactive sessions…there were wellbeing goody-bags…there was to be massages and a quiz and dog walking!

I have since been considering the presentation I was to deliver on this day and am convinced that most of it still applies now, even in this new working normal.  So, this is what I know…

Kat Howard’s book ‘Stop Talking About Wellbeing’ was a revelation to me – not only because I am a big fan of the slightly satirical and ambiguous title but also because even from my once-cynical standpoint I am completely engaged by her straightforward and very sensible approach to this ever-popular and important subject.

“Wellbeing is fulfilling our why, our purpose and of being in a workplace that allows us to build productive relationships that make us feel we have accomplished a balance between satisfying all of our life roles.”

Although we are now facing unprecedented times in Education what I have learned is that the teaching community offers support and reassurance and familiarity even in this strangeness.  My plan was to talk to the staff of RPCC about the value of each other…this still applies of course.  Although we can’t see each other we are in contact remotely and strangely the remoteness has brought a newly defined camaraderie as we seek to take care of each other and our students from behind screens and phones.

A manifesto? Everything else is superfluous

Kat Howard suggests a sensible manifesto and I like it!

  1. I don’t send emails late at night because I don’t want to read them
  2. I resolve conflict by the end of the day so that I can go home (*continue to stay home!) in peace
  3. I don’t write long to-do lists because they make me feel inadequate
  4. I invest in my professional self – I want to feel like I’m becoming better
  5. I don’t accept that my purpose should be compromised.

This manifesto can still be applied to the lives we are leading right now we just need to realign our approach and we are proving that this is a thing we can do each day …our teacher planning is re-defined, our marking and feedback, moderating and pastoral support are all newly defined now and we are doing it!  The new danger is that we forget about ourselves.  I am (irritatingly) optimistic but I see the opportunity here for us to prioritise the importance of a manifesto for our new normal – 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 still count!  You just have to do them whilst wearing slippers!  Ask yourself – what will you do to take care of your own wellbeing today?  Now, make a commitment each day at a time.  (I am using daily post-it notes because…teachers love post-it notes more than any other human beings and why change this now!)

The unique characteristics of working in Education are also unchanged by this enforced way of life.  Kat Howard reminds us of the pertinent research that explores our particular community of workers:

  1. The complexity of working in a school has a psychological impact that is underestimated and misunderstood (even by those in school-based roles)
  2. Working in a school receives lower prestige than ever (in society) – only WE regard our work highly because only WE know the incredible hard work that goes in to our jobs…

I would suggest the validity of number two has altered in the last few weeks.  We know that it is valued that teachers are going in to school to care for children of ‘essential workers’ and we know that parents value our efforts in conquering the steep learning curve that is remote-teaching/marking/guidance/support and we know that our students are gratefully gobbling up the work that we are providing for them to do at home.  So perhaps as a result of this very difficult period there could be a realignment in our ‘societies’ that will re-evaluate the importance of education and seek to appreciate more the people that work in Education.

We want to feel a sense of belonging but…”our own contentment can only be defined by us (Freya O’Dell)

Nigel Marsh presents a powerful case for taking responsibility for your own wellbeing in his TED Talk.  What I take from his insight is the following ‘guidance’:

  1. Have an honest debate about your wellbeing with those that you know and love
  2. Design your life
  3. Build realistic time frames for your day
  4. Be balanced in the following four areas:

Emotional

Physical

Intellectual

Spiritual

What was startling as an observation was when I asked RPCC staff to plan their time away from work with the same due diligence that they planned their lessons and time in work-mode many could not do it! There is a lesson here that we could take some time now to re-think the way that we organise our lives and the structure of your new working day – this is going to be vital now more than ever.

I am newly interested in looking at the ways that wellbeing is being discussed in educational establishments around the world and this data throws up some interesting insight:

Happiness

(The top 20 HAPPIEST countries)

The release of the 2019 World Happiness Report confirms that Nordic countries are in the top five happiest nations and this data concludes that happiness may NOT be linked to even distribution of wealth…Not be linked to seasons…Not be linked to limited aspirations…BUT linked to effective work/life balance. Surely we don’t all have to apply for teaching posts in Finland – that would be silly! But we can take from this that there is room for discussion and some gentle change?

All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us JR Tolkien

I did love a bit of Tolkien (or at least from my vague A Level memory I thought he was alright!) but I have to disagree with him on this front – we have to take time, claim it for our own and spend it in the bests ways possible. In this current situation when there is none of the usual clocking in/out we must define our days for ourselves and be mindful of the importance of doing this.

(See! Not a single cheesy Yoga reference in the whole wellbeing piece (not that there’s anything wrong with Yoga…I’m just jealous of the bendiness!) )

Take Care.

Published by Natalie Reed

Assistant Headteacher - Teaching & Learning

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