The return to school, which for most English schools is this week, is a time of expectation and anticipation; change and new beginnings; hopes and fears.
Many of us will begin with INSET days before the children arrive later in the week. Maybe it will be on a school priority, reading , writing, behaviour or SEND will feature somewhere tomorrow. Perhaps one of your days will be on Wellbeing; if it is, then a look back at our previous blogs https://healthyteachertoolkit.wordpress.com/2016/11/06/wellbeing-it-isnt-a-tick-box-exercise/ and https://healthyteachertoolkit.wordpress.com/2016/12/18/putting-wellbeing-and-workload-into-practice/
Wellbeing can’t be ‘done’ in a day. It needs to part of the school culture and needs to be embedded and embraced by everyone. Principally however that culture needs to be led and developed to enable everyone to benefit most fully from it. After all, we want our teachers, teaching assistants and other staff to be at ‘peak wellness’ through the year. Here are a few thoughts that SLT might want to bear in mind not only tomorrow but through the year.
- Don’t spring surprises! Ideally everything should have been in place at the end of the summer; draft timetables, policies, curriculum maps, class lists. Change brings stress and anything new announced in the next day or so will add to that. Hopefully you haven’t been sending long emails with multiple attachments. A diary, agenda and newsletter surely would suffice.
- Keep this as your mantra for the year. Nothing should be a surprise! Sports Day, Nativities, assessment and display deadlines should all be known now. The only short notice event should be OFSTED.
- Ensure your communication shows your priorities; if you talk for as long on teacher dress code as you do on student behaviour for example, this can lead to questions about prioritisation.
- The most precious resource your teachers have is time, so don’t waste it. Unnecessary and lengthy meetings, tasks with little perceived purpose and no discernible outcome and unscheduled assessments eat into teacher time. If it can go into an email of staffroom notice, then put it there.
- Do you protect PPA and set it in stone?
- Are you addressing workload initiatives and concerns?
- Are you still collecting and inspecting plans on a weekly basis? Why not trust your teachers? If you have a new teacher or someone struggling, then monitoring but also helping planning is a necessity, but does your most reliable teacher with fifteen years in post need the same scrutiny?
- What is your email etiquette? Curt or chatty? Do you have a ‘no mails after 5 or at weekends’ protocol?
If we really want to model what we would like to see in a true wellbeing culture, then perhaps we need to consider a few points about our own conduct. All simple, all effective.
- Are ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ prominent in your vocabulary? How about ‘well done’? Words are our most potent weapon. Don’t underestimate the power of words to build confidence and show appreciation.
- Do you publicly acknowledge your staff’s achievements? Fairly, equally and with conviction?
- Do you know where your staff have been on holiday; the names of their children or partners; the health of their parents? If you don’t, then any conversation with them will only be about school and education, which we love, but to be honest can be a little dull. Do you want to be labelled a ‘soulless automaton’?
- Are you aware of the physical and mental wellbeing of your staff? Can you identify changes in mood and behaviour that might indicate some level of stress related to work or to personal circumstance?
- Do you prove that you can step up in a crisis?
There is much more we could add, but this is a ‘think piece’ aimed at developing more discussion. There will be further blogs relating to how Governors can support wellbeing, how NQTs can support their own and how the whole school can contribute to the wellbeing culture.