How to engage the full school community in a well-being week
(full downloadable resource pack is linked from this blog which will save you a lot of time).
I was initially inspired by the ideas and blog from @TeacherToolkit and @LeadingLearner. I used the following blog as a starting point:
I also used our LEA’s 5 ways to well-being to structure the week:
15 years ago, when I started my teaching career, well-being was a phrase that I never came across. I entered the teaching profession young, enthusiastic and full of energy. My responsibilities were more manageable and less stressful as I still lived with my parents and was provided with meals, clean clothes and had no household chores. As an NQT, my Wife and I got married, bought a house and shortly after had three dependent children. Family life was and still is great, but we were very quickly forced into learning how to manage a very busy home and work life.
Please don’t feel like I am suggesting that only parents are busy. I believe that everybody has their own challenges during an average day which can impact on well-being. Some people could have other added stress, for example, they may be caring for a sick relative. We have found that it is really easy to forget about your own personal well-being at the expense of everybody and everything else. You begin to feel like a hamster running around an exercise wheel who has forgotten to step off and stop. The wheel can continue spinning forever but eventually you are going to ‘burn out’.
What were the initial issues?
“If you want a job doing, find a busy person”.
“I can’t say no”.
“I need a holiday and it’s only the second day of the term”.
‘Wetting the appetites’ of the staff
Before we started Well-being Week we wanted to get colleagues thinking about issues surrounding the impact of workload on teachers. The following email/blogs were sent to all staff:
Well-being week will be starting next Monday.
This is primarily aimed at pupil well-being but it is important that staff reflect on their well-being as well. Below is a thought-provoking quote and two articles which will help focus your thoughts on the rationale of the week.
We also sent an email asking staff for any suggestions or things that they would like to include in the week.
Our school Chaplaincy Coordinator made 5 morning prayers for the week (we are a Catholic school) which were linked to the 5 strands of well-being that we were exploring. Obviously, if you were a school of another faith or a non-faith school, you could tweak the prayers or create a daily reflection instead.
The initial impact was very good. Colleagues connected with the concept of well-being. A member of staff who read the John Tomsett blog said that she started to think about all the times that she was too busy to spend time with the kids. This part of the process had definitely has an impact before the week had even started.
Launch the week for staff
A critical part of the week’s success was getting staff to fully embrace the concept of well-being. Not only would it help them to reflect on their own well-being, it would also ensure that they taught the importance of well-being to the pupils.
We started with a well-being breakfast during Monday morning’s briefing in the staffroom. Messages were kept to a minimum and colleagues had time to talk, eat and relax. Tranquil background music was played. The breakfast provided for staff included fresh fruit, croissants, fruit juice, tea, coffee, bacon butties and sausage sandwiches. You might be jumping back in your chair at this point and be crying out – ‘how can bacon butties be part of wellbeing?’ The irony was that although bacon and sausage are not healthy foods, they helped staff wellbeing to sharply increase because colleagues said that they felt like they had been treated. Let’s face it, the golden rule is everything in moderation and a balanced diet. After breakfast, the week was officially launched and form tutors went to deliver the daily form tutor resource to their registration group.
All form tutors had a link to the wellbeing form tutor resource which had a daily theme. The 5 minute well-being plan which was based on the plan created by @LeadingLearner and @TeacherToolkit was given to all staff and pupils. Form tutors delivered the theme of the day to their registration group and then the pupils filled in the daily focus on the well-being plan.
Other activities took place, for example, a colleague dropped into pigeon holes mindfulness colouring and sketching sheets to help staff to relax.
Evaluating the week and moving forward
The week was a fantastic way for raising awareness of well-being, however, it is not a quick fix. The annual ‘Well-being Week’ opens the debate and helps colleagues to become more aware of how they can feel better and cope with the stress of work.
We sent out a well-being week evaluation questionnaire, via Smart Surveys UK, asking staff for their thoughts and feelings about the week. Some staff wanted a well-being breakfast once a week which was, unfortunately, not financially viable, others wanted well-being week to become an ongoing annual event in the school calendar.
Our Head Teacher has responded by adding well-being week into the calendar for this year. He has also protected the week by banning evening meetings so that staff can have a week which allows them to go home early, relax and spend time with family and friends.
Looking to the future, we have now raised awareness around the issues surrounding well-being. However, as already stated, we have not found a quick fix to the workload and pressure that the Education Community faces. Hopefully, by raising an awareness, the teaching profession will stand together and challenge the Government to support colleagues across the country who are suffering from the consequences of long hours, a target culture and the pressure of delivering the ever increasing standards set by the Government.
10 Tips to protect your well-being
- Know your limitations, don’t be a hero – new babies, sick relatives and any other major event in your life can be physically, emotionally and mentally draining. Your workload should be balanced with stress outside of the ‘classroom’.
- Tell your line manager – a colleague once said to me that nobody at work ever knew that he had been awake all night with his restless newly born baby. Being honest about difficulties at home with people at work will make them more empathetic and compassionate.
- Learn to delegate – we can often fall into the trap of thinking that it is easier just to get on and do it ourselves; it’s not. Just getting on with things can lead to you ‘just getting on’ with an increasing workload. There will be people who want to help and will share the workload – use them.
- Short term gain, long term pain – don’t keep working for short term solutions. A workload problem may need a long term plan to get past the symptoms of the issue to the root cause. By dealing with the core of the issue, you are more likely to achieve a sustainable level of well-being.
- Share ideas to avoid duplication of work – the internet and social media has meant that is has never been easier to share ideas and resources. This can save you hours of your time a week.
- Learn to say no – you will be allowed to work as many hours as you are willing to work. It is your responsibility to set the limit.
- Working long hours doesn’t make you better at your job – colleagues who work sensible hours can potentially teach outstanding lessons just the same as teachers who work long hours can potentially teach outstanding lessons.
- Going into work ill can cause more harm than good – spreading germs and running yourself into the ground is not good for your colleagues and you.
- Avoid being too emotional at work – emotions are feelings that you take out of the school. Try to remain objective and rational so that you can leave work and switch off. Stress can often be a downward spiral – being too tired = poor performance = building workload = even the most simple tasks become stressful.
- You are indispensable to your family – NOT work – everybody can be replaced at work. Your family can’t replace you. There is no better reason to maintain a good level of well-being.