4 simple ways to improve teacher wellbeing

Creating a school culture where wellbeing can flourish doesn’t need to be complex – one teacher offers some tips

Christian Pountain

How to improve teacher wellbeing at your school

It’s every senior leader’s dream: a happy and productive team of staff, willingly volunteering to deliver maximum yields, year in, year out.

Achieving this dream, in reality, might be easier than you think.

Admittedly, there will be hurdles to overcome, but following these four steps can help you get there.

How to improve teacher wellbeing

1. Make sure you’re meeting staff needs

According to Maslow's famous hierarchy of needs, there are six basic human needs: certainty, variety, significance, love and connection, growth and contribution.

If you can recognise that these needs exist in your staff, and vary with different levels of importance and in different measures from individual to individual, this really is half the battle to creating a flourishing team of staff.

It might be as simple as helping staff to figure out their two most important needs, and then tailoring bespoke CPD towards those needs. Remember, unhappiness is often caused by the gap between what we love to do and how much we do it.

Staff Pulse

2. Cultivate curiosity

A hummingbird is a curious bird; it moves all day from plant to plant to plant. A woodpecker, meanwhile, just pecks away at the same piece of wood all day.

You want to encourage your staff to be hummingbirds, rather than woodpeckers.

Create a "have-a-go" culture at your school and do this primarily by modelling it yourself, alongside your senior team. Show your staff that you’re not afraid to fail, and encourage them to take risks wherever possible.

Commit collectively as a staff to the power of curiosity. Try new things. Commit to lifting your game in all areas of leading and teaching, but remember that passion is no substitute for curiosity. 

3. Allow space for connections

School is about the connections we make with others.

A friend of mine runs a consistently successful English department in a large secondary school. He puts a large part of his success down to the connections that he deliberately cultivates in the staffroom.

He has tea and good coffee ready for everyone at break, to create an environment in which “structures” are not needed. There is no expectation of attendance, but making it a pleasant environment means that people want to attend.

The department WhatsApp group includes everyone in the department and there is an unwritten rule that it should contain no “work chat”. People are discouraged from emailing each other (unless it is to share resources or documents) and encouraged to speak in person instead  an approach that saves time and ensures that barriers are not allowed to develop.

I have seen this work at first hand and these principles are so simple that they could be replicated anywhere.

4. Listen to your staff and lose the ego

Above all, don't let your ego impair your ability to listen to what your staff really need.

By all means, set a course early on based on your instincts and the school culture. But if problems arise, be humble enough to listen and reflect, without making last-minute, knee-jerk reactions.

Christian Pountain is head of RE and director of spirituality at a secondary school in Lancashire

Staff Pulse

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