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VIEWS & OPINION


Three positive changes to improve your


staff wellbeing Comment by GRAHAM COOPER, Chief Marketing Officer at Juniper Education


Why is wellbeing so important in schools? Quite simply, when you are in the right frame of mind and feeling positive, energised and supported, you are much more able to carry out your role effectively – and make a difference to the pupils in your classrooms. However, it’s all too easy to talk the talk about wellbeing, without


walking the walk. Wellbeing means looking after yourself and your team and building


resilience across the school. It’s about changing habits which can chip away at people’s mental health and prevent them entering the classroom on top form and giving their all. So what can school leaders do, starting from today, to make a genuine and sustainable improvement to staff wellbeing?


Start scheduling emails The use of email at night or weekends is always a contentious issue, because some members of staff actually prefer to manage their workload by attending to emails when they have a few quiet hours at home. So a blanket ban on out-of-hours email is not the answer. Instead, consider making it a policy across the school that any emails


drafted outside of hours, say between 6pm and 7am, are delayed so they are delivered during working hours.


If anyone in your team is unsure how to do this, there are some simple


instructions for Microsoft and Google. For other systems, help is just a Google search away.


Share the load Offering to take on a simple task for a colleague helps to promote wellbeing and gives everyone in the team greater understanding of each other’s role. One idea a primary school shared via #WBWednesday – a Twitter


hashtag promoting wellbeing – sees members of the SLT volunteering to read stories to classes so that teachers and LSAs can grab 15 minutes together, over a cup of tea, at the end of the day. While it might not work in every school, some of those who have tried


it reported some clear benefits. Staff gain additional time for reflection and feedback, and they feel


valued and respected by the SLT. At the same time, the SLT get to know the children better, and the children engage with heads and school leaders in a less formal setting.


Prioritise your own wellbeing School leaders not only carry the burden of pressure on their teaching staff, they can experience anxiety themselves, so it’s important to reflect on your own wellbeing so you can support yourself and others. Giving up time you spend on what you love does not necessarily make


you more effective at work. So start by making a list of all the things that make you happy, then write down the names of all the people who are important to you. If walking or singing in the choir is on your list, make sure you spend


time every week doing these things. If you realise you haven’t spoken to some of your friends for six months, arrange an online chat, book club or wine tasting with them. The headspace these activities give you will make you more prepared to


deal with the stresses of the school day. By making some small but decisive changes which work for your


school, you’ll have a teaching team which is positive and resilient enough to make sure every second they spend with the children really counts.


Teaching children to live with uncertainty


Comment by FELICIA JACKSON, Chair of the Learn2Think Foundation


One of the things that all our children face today is uncertainty. It doesn’t matter whether it’s about what will happen to their schooling, what will happen to the climate, what will happen about intolerance – the only thing we all share is lack of knowledge about what’s coming next. Even the uncertainty about whether we will come out of lock down towards the end of June is increasing anxiety and confusion for adults, and that affects children. For children especially living with uncertainty is an extra challenge, as


they tend to thrive on structure and stability – that their parents will come home, that the sun will come up tomorrow, that everything will be fine. As adults, many of us struggle too, but we’ve had longer to get used to it. It is very human to want certainty in an ever-changing world – it is wired into our brains that ambiguity could mean threat from the unknown and it can result in us living in an increasingly anxious way. That means that we need to do our best to get comfortable with


uncertainty, to understand that answers aren’t always black and white but that rather by becoming comfortable with uncertainty and ambiguity we can not only reach a place of peace ourselves, but thrive in that complexity. There are a number of steps that we can take to help children cope


with uncertainty and one is most important. Its important to stay grounded, to be present when dealing with children whether in class or at home. Steady rhythms created by routines can help provide structure, and


24 www.education-today.co.uk


it is very important to be careful about the information sources you share – sources that yell for attention are likely to be less constructive than those that ask questions, provide facts and support the development of your own opinions. Children need to be taught to not react in the moment to stimuli, but to notice and reflect before responding. We teach that in pedagogy and by action, modelling the behaviours they need to see – and that helps adults too. Strange as it might seem, it is important to express gratitude for the


things that are going well – say it out loud and it helps your dopamine receptors. Remember to live in the moment and accept reality, no matter how confusing that might be – that doesn’t mean resignation to the unknown, but it does mean not borrowing trouble. Humans can feel the emotions from situations that haven’t happened yet, that is what anxiety is often about, and it helps no one. Finding meaning in chaos helps, as does supporting others. The central thing we can do to help our children however is to get them


to embrace uncertainty. Instead of thinking about what might go wrong, or what you don’t know, we need to encourage curiosity. Instead of inducing fear, make uncertainty about hope and possibility, about new ways of doing things. Dr. Deborah Sevani wrote, “Confronting what we don’t know triggers creative thinking…It can spark empowerment in the face of the unpredictable.” Not only that, but the curious child is always going to have a defence against the unknown because that unknown will be full of wonder. It may be, as mathematician John Allen Paulos once wrote, that


uncertainty is the only certainty there is, and knowing how to live with insecurity is the only security. The pace of change in the world around us is speeding up, and with modern technology, it is increasingly hard to protect children against the reality of uncertainty. What we can do however is equip them with a sense of curiosity, the tools to build and develop that curiosity and build their creativity as thinkers. With that as a framework for growth, they’ll be equipped to handle whatever life might throw at them.


June 2021


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