How did we reach the cusp of May already? Spring has most definitely sprung, despite last week’s wintry intrusion, the blossoms are out, the evenings are drawing out and the teaching profession finds itself in the midst of exam season. At this high water mark of the academic year it is important to keep ourselves grounded and healthy for ourselves and for our learners.
Today we launch #MindfulMayHT, our theme to accompany the #SayYes2Wellbeing campaign. Through the month we would encourage you to be mindful of yourself and for yourself, as you would be mindful of others and for others. Please share your thoughts, ideas, links and motivational quotes through this challenging but ultimately rewarding month.
The benefits of being mindful are many fold. In a role which by its very nature is pressured, stressful, increasingly target driven, it is easy to lose sight of our personal priorities and of those of our loved ones. Poor sleep patterns, irregular mealtimes, lack of exercise and failure to remain hydrated may all result from work-life imbalance. Being self-aware is a challenge and often we are more aware of the needs of others than we are of our personal needs.
Being Mindful of Ourselves
This is far from a comprehensive list but here are a few strategies that school staff can try for themselves.
- Electronic shut down, digital detox, phone free Friday; call it what you will but devices do intrude on our lives and interactions with our peers in a face-to-face environment. Twitter won’t fall down without you!
- Eat mindfully. Do you take the time to appreciate the flavours or textures of your food? If not, you may as well live on those gels the riders in the Tour de France consume. You may munch on a sandwich in your classroom while wading through marking. Even if you take just twenty minutes at lunch break, eating with your colleagues is a social interaction which can be good important for your wellbeing. Of course not everyone is comfortable in the staffroom situation, which we address in the section below.
- Other eating habits to consider include alcohol free times, avoiding caffeine after a particular watershed, avoiding processed foods and of course remaining hydrated. We have also been looking at the health benefits of particular foods and would like to hear what you are trying this month or have adopted into your diet on a longer term basis. We have been particularly interested in the benefits of mint.
- Have you considered meditation? There is a huge difference between ‘mindful meditation’ and full meditation. The first may take a few minutes and apps such as ‘Headspace’ and videos that can be found on YouTube support this, the latter would require an expert practitioner and a greater time commitment. However in our experience we have found positive impact from both.
- Live for now! You are amazing, you are in the best and most rewarding profession that there is and what you do is for the good of others.
Being Mindful of Others
Particularly for School Leaders:
- Trust your teachers. You employed them, so you know they will plan and deliver.
- Don’t spring any surprises! Plenty of notice for all key events and deadlines is essential. Emergencies aside, nobody will appreciate ‘lastminute.com’ style leadership.
- Be aware of who isn’t coming to the staffroom at lunch and breaks. They may be getting the job done, but there may be other reasons they aren’t joining their colleagues. Take the time to make sure they are doing alright. They may just be quiet; they may be managing their time; equally they may be masking something that may need some support, counselling or intervention.
- Have a rule about emails that you model and set the example for. Have a cut off time, lets say 5pm, after which there is no expectation of emails being read or replied to and make sure this extends to weekends. You want your life; your staff want theirs.
- Ultimately your staff need calm, safe and secure space to work. Your good intentions must be concrete not abstract.
- Please appreciate boundaries. Don’t expect all of your colleagues to be the life and soul of the party. Respect their personal and professional privacy. It is ultimately up to the individual what they share about themselves in conversation.
- Think about what you say before you say it. Appreciate the sensitivities of others. Some people can give as good as they get in staffroom banter, but others may feel uncomfortable.
- Think before you post. Texts, emails and tweets composed in haste may upset of offend. ‘Send’ or ‘enter’ is a trigger without a withdrawal function.
- Have you ever tried a random act of kindness? Do you make a pot of tea for your colleagues? Leave them a note to say ‘well done for….’? Leave an anonymous thoughtful gift in their pigeonhole or one their desk? Do you know the names of your colleagues’ children, what their partners do or ask after the health of their elderly parents? Small things: big difference. As that great philosopher says:
Please join us this month in #MindfulMayHT. Remember being mindful is about yourself and others. We look forward to you sharing what you are doing for yourself, for your colleagues and in your schools. Thank you.
Be mindful and help us all to #SayYes2Wellbeing.