Most of us by now will have experienced the wellbeing fad. Often introduced with all the best intentions by school leaders, the fads can rob teachers of precious time or, even worse, add to their already huge workload.
It’s got me thinking. What is school wellbeing not? Well, it isn't...
A compulsory yoga session
If a teacher is tired and in need of an early night, don’t keep them in school for any longer than necessary. They could go home for a recharge before attempting a bit of work later on. Just let them get on with it. When wellbeing becomes more about what a school appears to be doing than how teachers actually feel, it’s missing the point – badly.
A leader saying 'don’t do any work this weekend'...
… and then walking off quite proud of themselves, putting a “tick” in the wellbeing column.
“I don’t want to see anyone in the building after 4pm on Friday and don’t check your emails,” they tell you. Which is easy to say, but what about the work that isn’t going to get done? Teachers come back into school on Monday and the first question they’re asked is, “Have you got that progress report I requested last week?” We all know how that goes: if the data isn’t up to scratch, then reasons may be labelled "excuses". It’s better to just secretly do the work and then boast to colleagues that you did nothing all weekend.
Cakes in the staffroom
Yes, they taste nice. But without a reduction in planning for progress meetings, data inputs and marking demands, the sweetness on the tongue will only make the teacher feel more nauseous with the anxiety.
A 'colleague of the term' award
Thanks to @shuaib on Twitter for this one. The idea that printing off a certificate and getting people to clap a colleague because they opened doors a few times is laughable. It isn’t going to change the mindset of teachers in crisis. It may look lovely on the school social media account but it’s pointless without giving teachers time to celebrate their own achievements how they wish to.
Before you all jump on me, let me say that I completely see the value of this tool for teachers and for people in general. From my perspective, any schools that offer mindfulness classes but behave in a mindless way (unaware that a lot of what they're doing is harmful to either staff or pupils or both) are wasting their time.Throwing around the word mindfulness doesn’t translate to an understanding of what wellbeing is or how to facilitate it.
'Talk to each other day'
I’ve seen a school plastering this over social media recently. But I saw one tweet along the lines of this: "It’s 'talk to each other day' this week. It’s all over social media about how mental health is really important but they don't give us any actual time to talk to each other. But y'know, it’s the thought that counts!”
A lunchtime meeting to discuss wellbeing
Another lunchtime down the pan.
For me, wellbeing comes from two things in schools; time and respect. Time to live and work effectively and respect for one’s professional capability and character. When these two aspects intertwine, teacher wellbeing should rise. Fads are lip gloss, the real stuff has to be much tougher to implement, radical in its nature and embedded in school culture.
For more columns by Tom, view his back catalogue