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Why is teacher wellbeing important in Irish schools?

Why is teacher wellbeing important in Irish schools?

Wellbeing has become a term we hear frequently nowadays. However, wellbeing is not a new phenomenon, it has always been. When we think of wellbeing, we need to open our minds to the fact it is multidimensional in nature and should therefore be considered less of a state of being and more of a process of well-becoming. It is holistic and ever changing!

Wellbeing impacts everyone in Irish schools: both staff and pupils. “Healthy students learn better, healthy teachers work better” (Turunen et al. 2017). It is important to note that wellbeing starts with the staff. It is hard for one to promote the social and emotional wellbeing of others if one feels uncared for and burnt out themselves (Weare 2015).

We, as teachers and members of a school community, have a responsibility to foster and to cater for our wellbeing and process of well becoming. This may sound idealistic to some but in essence, it can be simple to undertake. A few simple changes can boost and reset wellbeing practice for any school staff and in turn the whole school community. Remember; schools are workplaces as well as centres for learning. This can sometimes be forgotten. Here at REMind Ed we love prompts. They are simple, easy to do and REalistic.

Given REMind Ed’s mission to make wellbeing part of the everyday routine, let’s look at staff wellbeing under the 4 Key Areas from the Wellbeing in Education Framework.

Think about your school’s Culture and Environment, the building, outdoor space, staff room, overall setting. Is it inviting, calming, stimulating…does it provoke positive feelings? How can wellbeing be fostered further for staff here?

  • Maybe there is a space for a wellbeing promotion board in your staff room.
  • Maybe there’s demand for a social group, or something small like celebrating special occasions.
  • Maybe it’s a simple gesture like cake and cookies for Croke Park.
  • Maybe a tablecloth or some cushions for the chairs would add some colour and boost wellbeing and relaxation in the staffroom.

These are a few suggestions, remember small changes can have a big impact on the atmosphere and environment. This quote reflects this thinking. “When a flower doesn’t bloom, you fix the environment in which it grows, not the flower”.

The Curriculum can be overwhelming for many school staff. The endless paperwork! The demand for content continuously whilst also trying to prepare interactive and engaging lessons. It is important to acknowledge this. It is exhausting! A recent INTO survey highlights this with 90% of teachers stating they are struggling with excessive workload (INTO, 2023).

  • Do you feel confident to ask for support if you are struggling with the curriculum overload? Maybe someone else is too. Speaking about it can help. Connecting with others is a small but simple and highly effective action. Social connection has an impact on one’s physical, mental and emotional wellbeing.
  • Maybe there is collaborative planning in your school or an opportunity to engage in this in an Education Centre?

REmember that sharing your expertise and experience will ultimately lessen your workload. REgroup, REmind and REflect. Each of these words has significance for REconnecting with others, talking things through, sharing and collaborating making curriculum content less of a burden on teacher wellbeing.

Is staff wellbeing promotion a priority in your school Policies and Planning? Could the staff create a shared wellbeing vision for the school community?

  • Maybe you factor in one thing you can do for yourself or as a staff collectively during the school day.
  • It might be a walk in the yard (move), a chat/joke (play/connect), a moment of deep breathing (breathe), or a positive affirmation (say), etc.

These small habits can change the flow and feeling of an entire day. They offer a brain break and a moment for your busy mind as a teacher or staff member. These prompts are similar to those for your class in Mind Moments. REdefine your day. REdefine wellbeing for you. However, know that not all days go to plan and that is ok too!

Staff relationships matter. Relationships with parents and pupils matter. Fostering links with support services and other schools matters. All of these help support our wellbeing as members of a school community. When we collaborate, when we REconnect, when we enter into Partnerships, we RElate. We RElax a little. Our bodies REspond to this and our wellbeing benefits.

Finally, we REalise how beneficial it is for our wellbeing to REMind ourselves to mind ourselves daily. School leaders and communities play a critical role in the implementation of whole school wellbeing initiatives. Simple steps and small changes make wellbeing doable, realistic and worthwhile for all.

REmember to RElax, REgroup, REdefine and RElate. Keep an eye on REMind Ed for more wellbeing prompts and support.