Stop talking about wellbeing

by Sarah Creed @mrscreedmaths

As a relatively new user to twitter I found myself getting lost in all the useful information for teachers, with fantastic tips for teaching and leadership, I was starting to become overwhelmed by all the possibilities and then I stumbled across #WomenEd and their book club- @WomenEdBookClub. I knew this was something that was manageable with my time and set myself a June goal to read for half hour everyday allowing ample time to read the books being shared. The first book for me was Stop Talking About Wellbeing by Kat Howard - @SaysMiss.

This really spoke to me as teacher: wellbeing always seems to be a failing statistic in national polls as school’s rush to implement wellbeing policies that seem more tokenistic than effective. When you have a to-do list that seems never ending who really wants to go to a mandatory yoga class? My wellbeing would be helped by tackling that list! It was so refreshing to see Kat acknowledge this and laugh about the things that teachers have been ‘forced’ do to, all in the name of wellbeing.

One of the things I found most effective with the book was the way that Kat used other people’s experiences.  It helps to know we are not alone in the unrealistic things that have been asked of us, but also in reading about schools and individuals who have got it right, who have gone away and really made an impact on wellbeing in their schools, not only sharing their success but also how it was achieved.

This book does not just criticise the current system, pointing out all its flaws, it gives suggestions and evidence on how to make a difference and improve the lives of our fellow teachers.

There is a discussion of the problem and then how to uncover a solution. It is not rigid in its solutions, rather it educates the reader to better understand the issues and how to make a positive impact in their setting. This was even more useful during the book club discussion, having Kat explain why we need to stop talking about wellbeing, the need for collective purpose and how she wants to ultimately impact the system. To have her explaining her thought process was enlightening and motivational. Being able to engage with fellow teachers about how they had interpreted different chapters, the actions they were taking was inspiring. I could not quite believe how quickly the hour passed, since this was the first time I had taken part in a twitter discussion. I was not sure what to expect but it was enjoyable and informative in a way that I did not think possible. Considering the discussion was taken place on social media I felt very connected to all those taking part. As Kat is clearly conscious to wellbeing, the book provides a recommended reading route so you do not have to feel so daunted by the size of it. Being a current Head of Department and aspiring SLT member I decided to read through the whole book and found it relevant and engaging throughout. An area I particularly liked is the end of each chapter where is a reflection section with questions and thoughts to ask yourself, with some chapters having different reflection questions depending on your role within the school which is a fantastic consideration. I know sometimes I will read something fantastic and then not have a clue where to start so this was really helpful.

I have set up a new notebook, (because who does not love an excuse to buy new stationary!), where I am going back through and writing my thoughts, reflections and actions. The plan is that every term I will revisit these so I can see if I am still on track, have the priorities changed and to keep wellbeing in the forefront of my mind.

This may well be one of the most influential books I have read in a long time and I encourage everyone to read this.

Not just for the impact on me now, this impact will continue a considerable way into the future. At a time when education is an unfamiliar place and we are all trying to do our best for the students, there is a very real danger that the demands placed upon the teacher are going to increase exponentially as we try to play catch up with whole cohorts of students. To come to terms with the issues that the last few months have caused, both educationally but also mentally, as someone who is researching into recovery curriculum and looking to launch a whole school initiative, I know this book will ensure I keep an eye on the demands placed on colleagues and to always find the solution that provides the best experience for the student in the most time effective way for the staff. Life-work balance is a real thing and for that reason we should stop talking about wellbeing and do something about it.

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