Boost Teacher Mental Health and Wellbeing by Sending a Colleague a Buddy Box
Give a fellow teacher a box of goodies to brighten their day and show them they’re appreciated
Is there anything more satisfying than receiving a gift? Usually you might be given one because it’s your birthday, anniversary or other celebration, but what if you were to receive one out of the blue, packed full of goodies to help your wellbeing?
How good would that make you feel? Would it make the feeling even better if you knew you’d made somebody else feel the same way?
That’s what the Teacher5aday Buddy Box scheme has been doing since February 2016 – sharing and caring about others in the profession by bringing teachers, educators and school staff together from different parts of the country.
What is a Buddy Box?
The scheme is quite simple really: teachers and educators from across the country (and a few from further afield) sign up at our website to join in.
Participants are matched based on the number of boxes they would like to send. Matches take place every two to four weeks (depending on my workload!) and emails are sent out with details of buddy matches.
Participants then make contact with their buddy, get to know them and eventually exchange addresses. Now comes the best bit: finding goodies for your pal and sending them a box of happiness.
How did it all start?
The scheme started in February 2016 when I was having a very difficult time at a school at which I was employed.
It was a new school and the workload was relentless. Working over 50 hours a week made me lonely and unhappy. I needed something to help my wellbeing and that came through helping others with theirs.
Since then, over 1,400 people have signed up to take part, with many more setting up their own programmes in their schools and colleges. Teachers from across the Key Stages have joined in, as well as from across the world.
International participants can be found as far as Singapore and Australia, although the majority reside here in the UK.
Why should I join?
The main idea behind the scheme is that of wellbeing; both yours and that of others. Teachers, educators and other school staff work extremely hard, there’s no doubt about it, and too often our wellbeing is overlooked; often we think about the students first and forget about ourselves.
Teacher5aday Buddy Box returns the focus to us. It came about as a result of the #Teacher5aday initiative first publicised by teacher Martyn Reah, which is a wellbeing movement that comprises monthly and annual events occurring both online and off.
The Teacher5aday Buddy Box scheme encourages us to share our challenges, highs and lows with somebody in a similar situation, while also getting to enjoy the gift of giving.
What do participants say?
Ed Brodhurst and Melody Berthoud signed up in October 2016 and have been a perfect match. They’ve sent each other a box each term and have been there for one another throughout the year.
Ed says, “Sorting out a Buddy Box for someone else has helped me, as a member of my school’s SLT, to keep the wellbeing of other members of staff at the forefront of my mind, and I’ve taken a much more active role in staff wellbeing as a result. It makes you consider what makes someone tick and what they might like, and this can only be a good thing. It’s great to look forward to a parcel that isn’t an inspection copy of a textbook too! On a side note, three or four more staff from my school have got involved in the scheme as a result of Melody and I being paired up, which has helped their wellbeing directly.”
While Melody initially signed up to inspire colleagues to join Twitter, the first box she received from Ed was more of a surprise than she had anticipated.
She says, “The first box Ed sent was like a breath of fresh air, full of coffee (which we share a passion for), chocolate, bath bombs and his favourite outdoor photos for when I am stuck indoors. The arrival of my Buddy Box always sends a ripple of excitement around work. Everyone crowds into my office to see what has arrived this time, sighing heavily with longing.”
When Teacher5aday was set up in February 2015, I never considered the potential impact of the scheme. Yet it has helped keep me in teaching, developed my passion for staff wellbeing and has introduced me to so many amazing people. The best part, though, has been the long-lasting impact each and every box has has on both the sender and receiver.
For Melody, planning for and the anticipation of receiving a Buddy Box got her through tough times at work. “Knowing that there was someone on the outside rooting for me, thinking about me and sending me a parcel of treats still puts a smile on my face,” she says. This is certainly the case for many other participants as well.
The reach of each and every box that is sent and received stretches far beyond the participants. Melody for instance, gets her two children involved; they know who Ed is and what he likes to do, helping with the shopping on occasions. Others have set up their own voluntary schemes within their schools to support staff wellbeing.
What should I include in my box?
What to include is completely up to you. The recommended spend is £10, but many participants enjoy spending far more than that – I think it’s knowing they will make someone smile that encourages them to splash out.
Most boxes contain foodie treats like chocolate, sweets, snacks and other delicious offerings; a bit of stationery like pens, pencils, notebooks and sticky notes, along with more personalised items like photos, cards, books and keepsakes – the more personalised, the better.
Ed says, “The sort of things I’ve sent have been quite varied. I’ve sent coffee cups, chocolate coffee beans and actual coffee, as Melody loves the stuff; other food like biscuits and sweets, plus random stuff like a mud face mask, ‘knock knock’ sticky notes, a leather notebook and a daily mood flip chart.
I’ve also tried to put in some individual things, such as my copy of a Douglas Adams book that I loved growing up and a DVD of my favourite film.
In return, Melody has been exceedingly generous and gifted me really useful items like a laser pen for my classroom, a mug, a copy of her book and many, many more touching presents. I really appreciate the cards we’ve exchanged too – words make the best presents.”
How do I sign up?
It’s easy. Head to our website (teacher5adaybuddybox.com) and click on the ‘Sign up’ tab. Read our FAQs, then fill in the form with your details. While you wait for your buddy’s details, explore the ‘Sent and received’ tab for inspiration and check out the blog to see what else is happening in the world of Buddy Boxes.
Why I love Buddy Boxes
“When you receive a box, it makes you smile, no matter what kind of a day you’ve had. It’s so much fun to build each box.”
“Join up and make someone happy. It gives you a wonderful sense of belonging, while also being supported. You become part of a family.”
“This job is tough. We should support each other to help us all to keep making a difference.”