One of the first things I say at the conferences I'm lucky enough to be invited to speak at is, 'I'm no expert but I'd like to share what my school have done so far and I'd like to hear where you are on your well-being journey too.' I want teachers and educators to share best practice and what works when it comes to well-being. In fact, one of the KHDA (Knowledge and Human Development Authority) events here in Dubai I presented at recently was exactly that - 'What Works - Well-Being'. I got to share my ideas and I was able to listen to a wonderful variety of speakers share theirs. Isn't this hugely valuable to teachers and educators striving to increase their own well-being and that of the children in their care?
Now, I have to be really clear that I too, like many teachers feel stressed quite a bit of the time. I know the deadlines, QAs, performance managements, meetings, observations, planning, paperwork, extra hours, late evenings, marking (cue eyeroll), lack of time, working during breaks, oh yeah and actually teaching! (The list goes on but you get the picture). Doing this while trying to study for a masters, job craft my own passion for well-being and actually speak to other humans is a bit of a slog at the moment. So I get it. I get why teaching is usually at the higher end of 'top stressful job' articles published around the world. 'But you get all the holidays' I hear non-teachers cry - this is true and for those breaks I'll be eternally grateful. For this time is when I recharge, reset and begin to feel like Ashley again. Although, the first thing I did at the beginning of this half term was to write a to-do list of all my non-teaching jobs - go to the doctors, get car serviced, catch up with uni, plan a morning at school to mark my writing assessments and change my continuous provision (wait, that is related to teaching, hmmm). The only luxury is that of more time.
Here's the point. I'm well aware that some schools are still at the tick box stage of well-being. I also know that a bowl of fruit in the staffroom, although kind, isn't going to help the pile of marking on your desk. I know that a yoga class on Tuesday afternoon in the PE studio isn't going to help you get home any earlier. During a panel discussion about well-being here in Dubai recently, the wonderfully humorous Ann Mroz, editor of TES, mentioned these things in the eloquent way that she does. I had to giggle and be honest. I held my my hands up and sheepishly admitted in front of the busy auditorium that I'm that teacher. I've taken in the fruit bowl before. I've taught the yoga sessions. I know that it's a small offering and doesn't hugely affect the well-being of my hardworking colleagues but the point of my admission? I'm trying. We have to start somewhere.
After reading all the articles talking about how hard going it is to be a teacher, and I agree with the majority of what they say, I can't help but think, 'Ok, we know these things and have lived it for a long time. So, what's next?' Wouldn't it be more valuable to share what we think well-being could and should look like for us and the children? Wouldn't it be time better spent sharing ideas and what works? This was the thought pattern for beginning my humble little blog. This was the starting point for my masters in positive psychology and character strength cards - I can't change all of the embedded strains we face but I can work around what's there and offer what I can until more and more people take notice and join the journey. The huge shift that is needed to genuinely embed well-being into education and the careers of teachers is going to be a long, hard journey. But isn't anything that's worth having? It isn't going to be an easy transition but it will get there a whole lot quicker if we, the people who want it, collectively design and share with management and governing bodies what we need, what will work.
The more we talk about the good stuff, the more people offer their thoughts and best practice. I love the well-being movement in Dubai which is accelerating rapidly. Before we know it, it will filter into all aspects of education I'm sure. And good. But my suggestion (if anyone is interested :) ) is instead of looking at well-being as a tick box and the responsibility of someone else, think about what you can offer, what you can suggest or share, even if it is a bowl of fruit or a yoga session meantime. Imagine if everyone worked together for the greater good of well-being? A Pollyanna vision? Nope. One that will flourish if we work together towards the goal of multidimensional flourishing in our school communities, in spite of the hundreds of things that get thrown at us daily in education. What's one more plate to spin when we are masters at that anyway? When maybe, just maybe, it might all work out for the best. What have we got to lose?