Charlie Burley, teachers’ health coach, explains the wellbeing journey he’s been on…
For years, I found balancing teaching and learning, ever growing responsibilities and my wellbeing near impossible. This came to a head in the sixth year of my teaching career; it was a turbulent time both professionally and personally.
Shortly before the week of the Y6 SATs, a pupil was finding it difficult to regulate their emotions after an incident at breaktime. They came rushing into the classroom, hands aloft and voice very much raised.
Suddenly, it hit me.
It was only the second time I had experienced a panic attack. The rapid heart rate and chest pain, the inability to control my breathing and the sense of dread and dizziness hit me like a tidal wave.
But, why? This wasn’t a particularly challenging incident for me at this stage in my career, surely? I had to leave the classroom.
To cut a long story short, I went through an afternoon and evening of tests and consultations at the hospital. There was no physical reason to explain what had happened.
That’s when a doctor spoke to me about my stress management, work-life balance and mental health. I had never personally connected physical symptoms with a mental cause until that day, but it changed the way I taught, and the rest of my life.
Four years on, I now work with teachers on improving their physical and mental health through managing their wellbeing at work, nutrition, movement, mindset and lifestyle.
So, what is wellbeing in school? The latest agenda? An educational buzzword? Another policy in the making?
Wellbeing means health – plain and simple. It’s the only true non-negotiable we have in our schools. If we don’t have the mental and physical health of our staff, we truly have nothing.
“If we don’t have the mental and physical health of our staff, we truly have nothing”
No matter the area you’re focusing on, wellbeing will be the first foundation. Children’s wellbeing? Attainment? Progress? Staff morale? Community engagement? Teachers’ wellbeing will be the stone that will cause the positive ripple effect in each of these areas. It’s inescapable.
Unfortunately, many schools struggle with implementing real, actionable change when it comes to their staff’s wellbeing. Budgets are tight, time is short, morale is often low.
In a bid to improve wellbeing, we often look to niceties as a short-term fix.
Please don’t misunderstand me here; these things are very much appreciated and are signs of a growing awareness of staff wellbeing. However, they don’t create impactful change. The expensive soap in the bathroom, takeaway pizza during twilight staff meetings or cakes in the staff room are kind and thoughtful gestures, but they don’t tackle the root.
Welbeing is about communication, collaboration and consideration.
It’s about building cultures where everyone in the community feels valued and appreciated, no matter their role or position. It’s about looking at the factors that impact everyone’s health and making real change for the better.
That might be addressing imbalances in teams, reducing workload or doing what we can to help staff with their health habits. It could be looking at channels of communication, resolving conflict or simply providing opportunities for everyone to feel seen and heard.
Contrary to popular opinion, staff wellbeing isn’t the sole responsibility of the headteacher or SLT. In fact, it’s the shared ownership of everyone who plays a part in school that makes true positive wellbeing so transformational.
As cliché as it might be, it really is a team sport.
It’s simple, but it certainly isn’t easy. There are many, many barriers to change when it comes to wellbeing, as previously mentioned.
This is why we’re running Rewriting Wellbeing: The Health & Wellbeing Event for Educators on the 22nd October 2022 in aid of the education charity, Edsupport.
Join us in the heart of St. Paul’s, London, from 9am for brunch before we hear from the first of our incredible speakers, including Andrew Cowley, Kimberley Wilson and Alfresco Learning.
Enjoy our breathing, yoga and other workshops during the intermissions and spend time chatting with our speakers, ambassadors and other guests as lunch is served at noon.
Through the day you’ll be able to browse our Expo Hall and network with like-minded organisations and businesses and discover new and exciting ways to address both your own wellbeing and that of staff in your school.
In the afternoon we’ll hear from more of our speakers, including Johnny Lawrence, Le’Nise Brothers and Dan Chaplen on topics from mindset and women’s health to promoting healthy movement in your school.
We’ll round the day off at 4pm when the bar will open for drinks until 6pm.
We look forward to welcoming you on the day and to rewriting your wellbeing with you.
Find out more about Rewriting Wellbeing: The Health & Wellbeing Event for Educators.