A sunny afternoon in SATs week. The staff trickle into the staff room for this second of two sessions on resilience and wellbeing. All I can think of is how much they must want to be outside enjoying the sunshine. On the other hand, if they’re not with me, I know from experience that they will probably be in their classrooms. They remain focused.
I guess it helped that it was my second session working with the teachers at Bishop Henderson Church of England Primary School. They were open and honest and working with them was a joy. I was reminded again that, although every context is different, there are many common themes concerning what gets in the way of teachers looking after themselves. It’s always a challenge to speak openly about what we may regard as our own inadequacies when the boss is in the room, but I was very pleased that Ed (the boss) was there too, making copious notes and modelling that whatever the position in school, everyone has something to learn. He was quiet for most of the session. As often happens, we got on to the subject of choosing how we respond to situations. I stated my position: ‘no one can make you do anything’; I sensed unease in the room. Inviting a challenge, I was told ‘Ed can make us do things’. With a smile and a look of genuine surprise he responded ‘Can I?’ as though someone had just revealed to him magical powers of which he was previously unaware.
At the end of the session, it became apparent how closely he had listened to his staff’s concerns: to how they found it hard to leave things, even though they know the job is never done; how hard it is for them to leave ‘early’ (defined by them as anything over an hour-and-a-half after the end of the school day) because of feelings of guilt; how difficult it is to spend less time marking even when being encouraged to do so by the SLT; how hard it is to say ‘no’, look after yourself and ask for help. At the end of the session, he summarised the learning with 10 Ls of wellbeing. They were unique to that session and that school, yet also highlight a number of experiences which are common to all schools I work with. I share them with you with his blessing.
Ten Ls of Wellbeing – for teachers everywhere
Learn to live with the undone (after all the job will never be finished)
Live and let live (support each other in work and well-being, ‘Have a great evening!’ rather than ‘Leaving early?’ will be so positive to hear)
Leaving buddies (walking out with a friend may make that ‘early’, end of day, departure easier)
Limiting time for tasks helps to create focus (we can achieve more in less time, leading to more time to do less – or different)
Lists (help us when we can prioritise the content and act on it, including the dull things we may choose to avoid)
Let’s say ‘No!’ (sometimes we have to be sensible with what we take-on for others)
Learn something new (maybe a skill, maybe about yourself, maybe to do something differently)
Look for support (before you need it, because it will help you and it can encourage and empower others too)
Look after yourself (because you are worth it and others will benefit)
Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control, the fruit of the Spirit – our values – let’s live them.
Changing the habits of a lifetime is tough and we will often fail. With support from those around us (and especially leaders who model behaviour they want to see in others) we can change the culture where working hard and working long are regarded as synonymous.