A term we’ve wrestled back & now one we must take ownership over & never submit.
Having logged into Twitter on Friday evening, I was alarmed with the number of people using the hashtag #teacherwellbeing or #teacher5aday. Alarmed in the most positive way of course. Teachers are dropkicking excessive workloads & clothes lining, often unnecessary hours in Stone Cold fashion! The conversation about wellbeing really started around 18months ago. Although I’m not naive enough to suggest that teacher wellbeing hasn’t always been in the mind of Educationalists. Yet the stark figures around retention & recruitment, wellbeing is now firmly embedded in pedagogical conversation.
I once remember hearing my Mentor say “some schools go through teachers quicker than laxatives going through the human anatomy, wellbeing isn’t a thing…yet”. Crass but upon reflection, true. But dialogue has become more prolonged & more profound about how teachers are caring for themselves. In the future, I hope these discussions continue & we begin to see Teachers as people first, and teachers second.
How often are people told “you have to do what’s right for you”. Then, later on accused of being “selfish” after they have taken that advice. We all want to do the best job possible but is that possible when we’re: tired, exhausted, struggling, upset or anything in between? But any longevity in teaching is based upon the ability to care for ourselves & our own wellbeing. Also working with our schools to have the systems in place to support our wellbeing.
The role of a Teacher encompasses more than the immediate vicinity of the classroom. Planning, marking, duties, data, interventions, detentions, lunch, and a copious to-do list. It’s not a 9-5 job & although it’s often a widely-held belief amongst the ‘13weeks holidays brigade’, overtime as a teacher is virtually a primordial characteristic. There’s 24hours in a day, work, in theory work should last 8 hours, 16hours you have to refuel, replenish, rest & relax your mind, body & soul.
The hours of work will inevitably impede on your day to day life & whenever I hear “you need to work on your work-life balance”, I glare at the commenter & wonder if they’ve ever asked themselves such a rhetorical question. But wellbeing is about how we spend time away from work & what can be done to help us at work to, well, feel better, cope better & do a better job. Taking ownership over this important term isn’t about suplexing Education Ministers old & new but more about rights & responsibilities as employees.
Wrestling, grappling, struggling & taking ownership.
Having spoken to so many wonderful Teachers, it’s absolutely imperative that we differentiate what is & is not wellbeing. This has been a feature of a previous blog but I’ve added it again, just for emphasis & for those confused about exactly what wellbeing is:
We’ve worked so hard to give the word ‘wellbeing’ both a place & gravitas in education. So when I hear “we care about our staffs wellbeing by offering the coffee at briefings”, I facepalm. Really, what should be of conversation is how your school is dealing with the BIG issues that have forced the wellbeing card to be played. To name a few:
•Mental Health Support,
I’m not annoyed at the coffee, I actually don’t mind a Kenco flat white here & there. You see, if the support and systems were in place in schools, they’d be fewer wellbeing issues. That’s what wellbeing is about not Mocha blends or Arabica aromas! Once we put these big wellbeing questions into submission manoeuvres, we can start to assess the true cases of burn out & poor retention.
Ownership. How can I do it?
I really like the idea I saw on #Edutwitter. A Teacher writes down five non-work related things they will do a week. Almost like a ‘Wellbeing To-do List’. Some simply stop working at a set time, others will avidly use the gym or bake, spend time with loved ones, catch up with friends. Wellbeing is now an open-ended dialogue. How you take a break from work is based on what suits you. And the possibilities are endless which is the beauty of having ownership over it! I’m not the only one wrestling with my teacher guilt. There’s no universal model of wellbeing & suggesting all schools hold it in the same regard, that’s too idealistic. But how do you start a paradigm shift? A cultural change? You begin to undertake conversations that matter. Wellbeing matters.
I truly hope we keep the wellbeing conversation going. Not just for our sakes but for the sakes of our students & the sakes of the next generation of teachers. Because as Philosopher George Santayana so eloquently puts it, ‘Those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it.’ So let’s keep rewriting history & keep wrestling for better terms, working conditions & support.
Remember, you’re a person first & Teacher second. And that’s the bottom line because Stone Cold said so! (Sorry I HAD to throw that in).
Thank you for reading.