Prioritise teacher wellbeing and create a thriving community
Teachers are the backbone of our schools and prioritising their wellbeing is critical to creating a positive learning environment for staff and students. Unfortunately, the demands on teachers are becoming increasingly overwhelming, leading to burnout and poor wellbeing. Educators and school executives have a responsibility to create a supportive environment that promotes the mental and emotional health of teachers.
In this post, we'll explore strategies to prioritise teacher wellbeing and create a thriving educational community. Let’s dive in!
Create a wellbeing culture
The school culture sets the tone for teacher wellbeing. To create a positive working environment for teachers, prioritise respect, appreciation, and open communication. Teaching staff should feel like they are part of a team and have a shared purpose of creating the best possible learning environment.
Creating a wellbeing culture also means starting conversations concerning wellbeing and actively working towards breaking negative stigma about mental health. As a school leader, the best way to send a positive message about wellbeing is to discuss this openly across staff meetings or school events. Sending a message from the head of school is a clear sign that wellbeing is a priority at your school and will help make teachers feel supported.
Some other practical ways to promote a culture of wellbeing include:
- Staff-wide communication that discusses and explains concepts related to wellbeing and mental health
- Resources in staff rooms that outline key mental health services (e.g., printed flyers with helplines)
- Clear support pathways for teachers when struggling (and clear communication that advertises these pathways to all staff members)
- Wellbeing workshops or seminars to discuss wellbeing at school and its promotion at the staff and student level
- Open door policies about speaking to support staff or senior staff members when needing support
For more information about wellbeing, you can visit the educator’s wellbeing hub which provides several helpful resources on the topic.
Offer in-school support
It can be helpful to offer in-school services as a more direct form of wellbeing support. This could include access to school counselors, creating peer support groups and appointing welfare advisors who can act as a point of contact for teachers that need extra support. Making sure that these can be accessed anonymously is also important to ensure that teacher’s feel they are able to seek support safely and without judgment.
Provide links to external support services
If in-school services are unavailable or short staffed, a good alternative solution is to direct teachers to external wellbeing services. This can be as simple as putting up posters outlining helplines and other mental health services in your local area. Further steps could include having a welfare officer explain these services and how to access them or sending out staff wide communication that map out how teachers can access external therapy or counseling services. Where possible, subsiding these services will also make them more accessible to teachers and make them feel like mental healthy approaches are being actively encouraged.
Wellbeing services for teachers
- Lifeline: 13 11 14
- Suicide call back service: 1300 659 467
- Beyond Blue Counselling Services: 1300 22 4636
Beyond Blue and Reach Out have some great alternative online support options that don’t involve helplines. For more information on mental health, Black Dog offers informative resources for several different mental health concerns. To find local psychologists, use the APS tool.
Harassment and bullying strategies
An important part of maintaining teacher wellbeing is to have strong anti-harassment and bullying strategies in place, as well as clear support networks available if these incidents do occur. Running anti-bullying workshops, or online inductions, for new staff can be particularly helpful to make sure staff are on the same page about the school’s bullying and wellbeing policies.
General healthy school habits
A big part of creating a positive wellbeing environment is promoting healthy habits that allow teachers and staff members to actively look after their own mental health.
Promote work-life balance
Encourage a healthy work-life balance by encouraging teachers to take breaks, use their allotted leave time, and disconnect from work during non-working hours. If possible, provide flexible scheduling options and opportunities for mental health leave.
Keep track of teacher workload, ensuring it's manageable and balanced. This is especially important around ‘stress periods’ like exams and end of term. Try to avoid overloading teachers with administrative tasks and paperwork. Delegate responsibilities where possible to ease their burden.
Promote self-care practices among teachers. Provide workshops or invite in guest speakers to inform teachers about stress management and healthy lifestyle choices. Encourage hobbies and interests outside of work to help teachers recharge.
Provide professional development opportunities
Invest in ongoing professional development opportunities that help teachers stay updated with best practices and innovative teaching methods. When teachers feel confident in their skills, this can reduce stress and boost overall wellbeing.
Professional development also includes offering resources for teachers, such as access to workshops, books, journals, and online courses that align with their interests and goals.
Recognise and celebrate achievements
Acknowledge and celebrate the accomplishments of your teachers regularly. Publicly recognise their efforts, whether it's through awards, acknowledgments in school newsletters, or simple gestures of appreciation. Making teachers feel valued and appreciated can significantly impact their wellbeing.
Your teaching staff are your school’s greatest resource, and supporting this resource should be a priority. Investing in the wellbeing of your teachers will not only create a thriving educational environment, but also foster successful student learning. Start by encouraging conversations around wellbeing and fostering open communication. This should be followed up by more concrete changes within the school environment that offer teachers clear support options and allow them to feel supported and heard.
This blog was written by Amira Skeggs. Amira is the founder of Kindred, a non-profit providing mental health resources for young people. Kindred's resources are free, expert-reviewed and available for young people, educators and mental health professionals. Amira has previously worked as a clinical researcher at the Brain and Mind Centre and is currently based in Cambridge England, where she researches young people's mental health.