The 3 wellbeing hazards schools need to address

Ritesh Patel

Ritesh Patel is currently subject lead for DT and SLE at an outstanding Secondary school in North London. Passionate about driving collaboration, Ritesh has led large-scale TeachMeets for the past three years, and is a key member of the #Teacher5aDay community. He is the founder of See It Together.

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Image courtesy of author. Image courtesy of author.

We are all different; whatever you are thinking will not be the same as others. In an academic environment where teachers work as a team, not as individuals, there needs to be consistent mindfulness and consideration to others. We will all have those bad days. Your day or mood does not belong to anybody else. We are here to serve young people. Professionalism is imperative in setting high and positive standards. In this article, I will share three examples of how this can be developed.

1. Chilling in the Corridor

Acknowledgement is an essential form of respect, and will have impact if not executed in the correct manner. When walking past a colleague in a corridor, do you look up and greet them? It doesn't matter if it's the headteacher, admin staff or a cleaner. Ignoring someone in person can be demoralising. A little extreme? Not really. If you do this, please stop. A simple “good morning” or “hi” would suffice. Or could you try the following:

  • Smile. I believe this is the most powerful form of giving. When I receive I smile, I will instantly return one back and then give another to someone else. It’s contagious! As school leaders, I also feel it’s vital for us to become more approachable. And for those that ‘fake smile’, keep doing it, because you will feel the reality soon!
  • Name drop. Saying “Hi” or “Good morning” is great. But in addition to that, how about dropping a name in? This will add a personal element of acknowledgement. This will make the greeting more memorable, and someone can walk away feeling like they have been addressed, which radiates respect.

2. Staff room gloom

A staff room is a key hub in any school. It’s an area for reflection, planning and, simply, just taking a time out away from teaching. We should never abuse this space, and must be mindful of our words and actions. I will pinpoint some examples of negative conduct that should be avoided at all times.

  • Don’t be a gossip. There will be times when we need to open up about our emotions at school. When you tell someone something in confidence you would expect it not to go any further. However, this is not always the case. Don’t lose trust. Be very conscious that any form of disloyalty can flare up negative ramifications to staff, as well as children. Zip it and keep it real.
  • Read the room. Picture the scene: it’s PPA time, you are trying to work away in the corner of the room, yet there are some staff having a conversation which is fairly loud. Please, please think of this area at these times like a library! Take your conversation elsewhere, or tone it down a tad.
  • Staring. This is an interesting one. Let’s be brutally honest, we all do it. There are times when we do tend to stare without even thinking. In a professional setting we need to try avoid this action. We can always acknowledge a person by smiling across the room. This is a positive move, and establishes a friendly connection. Staring at someone with a face that looks like it wants to go 10 rounds with Tyson make a person feel intimidated, uneasy and, quite frankly, paranoid. Let us not make anyone feel like this at the start of a day or anytime for that matter. Stop staring with suspicion and look with love!

Remember: “Strong minds discuss ideas, average minds discuss events, weak minds discuss people.” - Socrates

3. Email etiquette

This is a big one for me. Communication is vital in our work to inform, clarify and learn. However, the use of emails can get out of hand at times. From my experience, when you feel the need to write an email that could potentially have content which might upset the recipient, just stop before you hit the send button and check your words very carefully. Is it true, is it kind and is it necessary?

Here are my simple tips for sending those challenging emails that could fuel negativity:

  • Begin the email with a friendly opening such as, “I hope all is well” or “I hope you are having a good day”. The small things matter.
  • End the email on a positive note. Reinforce appreciation of situation and commitment shown. Say thank you and please.
  • Avoid writing at the start of the school day. This will probably be the first thing the recipient reads, while at the same time trying to prepare for a lesson with 30 kids. Do you know what kind of morning they had?
  • Conversely, avoid writing at the end of the school day. This will be probably be the last thing the recipient will read, while at the same time thinking about winding down and going home to be with family. Wellbeing. Don’t ruin someone’s evening or weekend. And no, don’t send one of these emails on a weekend!
  • If all of the above are not enough, don’t send an email - arrange to meet in person. It could initially seem challenging, but will feel a lot better after, and you’ll be respected for being open.

To conclude, I believe embedding a passion for positive professionalism towards all staff can ignite a more assertive and progressive learning environment for our students and colleagues. From the children, to the headteacher, to the teachers, parents, administrative staff and the cleaners, we are in this together.

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