A crisis can’t be resolved overnight. In order to come out the other end of a period of intense difficulty, it takes time and dedication - the problem needs to be slowly chipped away at in order to find a resolution.
With regards to the teaching crisis, it’s been stated that in order to resolve it we need to first focus on reducing teacher workload, although this isn’t truly achievable. Schools don’t have the budget to spend on time-saving software, don’t have the capacity to hire new teachers to reduce school sizes - hence the crisis. However, something that we do have control over and make an impact on is teacher wellbeing which, in turn, can help to improve teacher retention.
Regardless of your job or where you work, the culture of the company should be something that drives you to work there and what everyone, not just management, should want to foster and support. If your place of work isn’t enjoyable, you’re not going to want to work there. The same mentality can be said for schools - if we focus on creating a positive work environment for our teachers, this will have a positive impact on their wellbeing, boost morale and ultimately in the long term, help to retain valued and experienced teachers.
How to improve school culture
Improving school culture needn’t be a costly task, simple processes can go a long way and have a powerful impact. Knowing where to start and what changes will make the biggest impact on your school can seem daunting, but by simply asking staff what changes they’d like to see, you can start taking steps in the right direction. Knowing what is affecting your staff outside of the obvious pressures, as well as seeking ideas for initiatives that will make your school become a better place to work, will not only give you insight into what your staff are feeling but provide you with the knowledge you need to make improvements.
A positive work culture is naturally linked to a transparent environment. Transparency across departments and levels shows honesty and openness which in turn builds trust, which needs to be at the core of any school in order for teachers to feel happy. Within your transparent environment you should celebrate wins, analyze failures and encourage praise and give recognition when it’s deserved. We understand that praise is important for our students’ development, it’s also important for our own personal development and self worth. Being appreciated in a time of need helps teachers to realise their self worth and reignite their passion for the job.
Operating as a team is also a strong driver for employee wellbeing. Strong employee relationships not only drive engagement, they also create unity amongst staff. As well as this, having people who are subject to the same stressors as you makes them easy to confide in and relate to. In addition to this, being open about mental health will help to put your staff at ease - it’s no secret that teachers are suffering from mental health issues due to the pressures they are under and we therefore need to be accepting of this and offer ways in which we can support them.
Encouraging the practice of mindfulness in schools can be beneficial to you, your staff and students. In recent years the popularity of mindfulness has skyrocketed due to its proven health benefits which include heightened attention, reduced stress and improved emotion regulation. Simply making your staff aware of mindfulness and the health benefits it can have shows that you’re not only open to discussing mental health issues it shows you’re supporting a healthy work environment.
Awareness in general is important to securing your staff’s wellbeing, being aware of the signs of teacher burnout and the practices that serve against this. Making these common knowledge across your workforce will then enable you to protect teachers from this but also help your reactions to when this does occur.
There are many smaller initiatives that can be put in place to help promote teacher wellbeing - promoting a healthy lifestyle through offering fruit as snacks in the staffroom and organizing group exercise classes in the gymnasium after school. Cut off days can be introduced where it’s encouraged to switch off, leave work at work so teachers can unwind during the evening, and incentives shouldn’t be overlooked. No matter how big or small they are the boost morale and encourage staff interactions.
However you decide to focus your efforts on improving staff wellbeing, be sure that whatever you do, you lead by example. No matter how good your intentions are, if you don’t live by the new practices you put in place, you staff won’t either and we’ll be no closer to solving the crisis.