'Wellbeing' is a word that has been bandied around for a while with regard to teaching as a profession. It generally stems from the issues that come from teaching being a stressful job. I imagine it has always been so: taking 30 young minds and guiding them (sometimes unwillingly) towards educational enlightenment is stressful. However, when you add the current climate in teaching in our country, “stressful” isn't a strong enough word.
Last July educators across the world, from Kidderminster to Kuala Lumpur, came together to celebrate teaching with #High5aTeacherDay. Taking place on the first Friday of every July, this palm-smacking, Twitter-based event serves to champion those working in the profession via the classiest method to hand. On Friday 7th July, people are encouraged to high-five a teacher and then send photo / video evidence to @InnovateMySchool, where the feat will be shared around the world.
I've always had the privilege of working in schools where a network of teachers look out for one another and support each other's wellbeing in numerous ways. Even at moments when it seemed that the leaders didn't have wellbeing at the top of their list, the relationships between members of staff kept us all afloat in the more testing times. Although I think I have the ultimate responsibility for my own wellbeing (after all, I'm the one who knows my own triggers, warning signs and limits) I have also recognised the value of these relationships where teacher wellbeing is concerned.
Leading a school is a privilege, and a tremendous opportunity to have a positive influence – to lead in the way you think it should be done, to focus on the priorities you believe to be the right ones and to create an environment where it is possible for those you lead to be their best selves. You have the chance to make a difference to the lives of students, and of staff, on a scale unlike any other you have ever known. There’s huge reward and satisfaction in this, and, in my experience, joy.
It’s the beginning of 2017, the holidays are over, hangovers have dissipated, and let me guess, you have about a hundred New Year’s Resolutions sitting in the back of your brain. Or better yet, you have them written down in your brand new diary, like talismans of success signposted for the near future… but we have to be honest here, how many of these resolutions are you realistically going to achieve? I’m trying not to be a Debby Downer here, cause I am all about goals and goal journeys, achievement and success, but when you really think about the resolutions you make, year in and year out, how many do you actually make happen?
I truly believe that poor, ruthlessly judgemental leadership of teaching and learning will damage morale, unnecessarily increase workload and therefore create avoidable anxieties that inevitably damage teacher wellbeing. On the flip side, and what I feel this article is all about, is how we can enhance wellbeing through effective leadership of teaching and learning throughout our schools.