More Child-Time doesn’t necessarily mean physically spending more time with the children.
It can also mean being in the right frame of mind and feeling positive, energised and supported enough to be able to carry out your role effectively.
It means looking after yourself and your team and building resilience. It’s about changing habits which can be detrimental to wellbeing and prevent teachers from walking into their classrooms ready to give their all.
More Child-Time in this sense means proactively seeking to manage and improve wellbeing across your school, so that you can make a real difference to the ‘day to day’ and subsequently, the quality of teaching.
We have pulled together some easy to implement actions and links to useful resources to help improve staff wellbeing across your school.
More Child-Time actions
What can I do today?
Start scheduling emails
The use of email at night or weekends is always a contentious issue, especially when some members of staff actually prefer to manage their workload by attending to emails when they have a quiet few hours at home, citing that it helps their wellbeing. So, a blanket ban on out-of-hours email is not the answer.
Instead, if you have not done so already, 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 you are not sure how to do this, here are some simple instructions for Microsoft and Google, but there is help just a Google search away for any system you use.
Laura McInerney, from Schools Week, summarises the issues with email in this excellent article: How schools should manage out of hours emailsOrder Lift!
It’s hard to take a step back sometimes and see where changes can be made in your school, which is why it is important to seek ideas from outside of your own school. So, get on to an online book store and place an order for David Gumbrell’s book LIFT!: Going up if teaching gets you down. The book is a treasure trove of simple to implement ideas for improving wellbeing in bite-sized chunks. It is perfect to help with your own wellbeing, as well as providing ideas for wider staff discussions around work-life balance and changing perceptions. Well worth £11.75 plus pp.
Buy your copy here and enjoy the read when it arrives.
What shall I work on next term?
Introduce SLT Story Time
Shared by one school, via #WBWednesday (a Twitter hashtag for promoting wellbeing), this initiative sees members of 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.
We appreciate that it might not work in every school but it was extremely well received in the school that created the post and the benefits are obvious:
- Valuable time for teachers and support staff created at the end of the day for reflection and feedback
- Teachers feel valued and respected by SLT
- SLT get to know children better
- Children get to engage with SLT in a less ‘formal’ setting
- Children get to hear an adult read to them
- If SLT say goodbye to the children as well, it increases presence and engagement with the parents
View the Resilient Teachers webinar
Earlier this month, Steph Reddington from Juniper Education’s Pupil Asset division was joined by Sue Webb (Values-based Education) and David Gumbrell (The Resilience Project) to talk about the importance of resilience in managing the inevitable challenges of everyday life.
Part of the webinar was to showcase the exciting ‘VbE Resilience Survey for Staff’ which has been designed to ‘lift the lid’ on this conversation – to make staff feel valued and to help schools find bespoke solutions for their organisation’s specific context.
Watch this free webinar here.
What shall I be working on for the rest of the year?
Prioritise your own wellbeing
School leaders are not only carrying the burden of pressure on their teaching staff, they are also experiencing high levels of anxiety themselves, particularly at the moment when decisions are so critical to the safety of their school communities.
It is important to reflect on your own wellbeing and whether there is anything you can do to regain a more appropriate work-life balance.
Make a list of what you love
Start by making a list of all the things that make you happy. Then write down all the people that are important to you. Think about how often you see these people and how much time you spend doing the things you love.
Often when we are dealing with high levels of stress in our jobs, we give up the things we love in the belief that the extra time will make us more effective at work. This is rarely the case.
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 have not spoken to your best friends from university for six months, arrange a monthly online pub quiz, book club or wine tasting with them.
The headspace these activities give you will make you much more prepared to deal with the stresses of the school day.
Coaching is not for everyone, but it is certainly very effective for many.
There are professional coaches from within and outside the world of education you can call on to help talk through your plans and goals as well as work through some of the strains of the working week.
You could even consider a more informal coaching relationship where you and another local head agree to meet every two weeks to talk through issues and support each other in finding solutions to problems.
With everything that goes on in schools to help children make good progress, support parents at home and keep governors up to date, it is not easy to prioritise the mental health and wellbeing of yourself and staff.
Time restraints mean that even if wellbeing is defined as a priority, it is often addressed with well-meant but tokenistic gestures, such as thank you chocolates or a one off workshop in a bid to achieve a positive and healthy environment.
For wellbeing to improve, it is often the process driven changes that make the big difference. A policy of no weekend emails or a streamlined marking or assessment policy can impact a teacher’s wellbeing far more than a Twix and a thank you note can. The small ad-hoc gestures are still very important. They just resonate much more if there is acknowledgement across the school that the leadership team are open to more fundamental changes.
The result will be a teaching team that is mentally present to make sure every second they spend with the children in their class counts.
- Actions to Improve Staff Wellbeing