Who knew that a walk in the wet forest could offer insights into teacher wellbeing!
This morning I went dog walking and got drenched! I wasn’t prepared. I had a jacket but no gloves or hat so my head got wet, my fingertips shrivelled and I was left feeling miserable. But I kept walking – I had no choice! Maybe I could have stopped under a tree, but who knows how long I would have stood there miserable and cold.
Instead I embraced the opportunity to walk in the rain, to feel the drips from the trees and listen to the sound of the rain on the canopy above. And you can bet that I made the most of all the dry spots I found! I embraced the situation, because I had no option.
Workplace Climate & Teacher Wellbeing
That whole forest experience got me thinking about the weather of our workplaces and teacher wellbeing. There are some aspects of our work environments and culture we can do something about. But in terms of the weather that comes at us: the demands, the expectations the workload, that’s not something we can do a lot about in the short term.
We need to have a voice and participate in constructive conversations about the intensity of work demands and the impacts on teacher wellbeing. That requires space for conversations that allow us to hear and be heard. And it requires time and space for conversations that allow us to navigate difficulties, and generate possibilities and solutions. That takes time and in some workplaces it seems like those spaces will never emerge.
So in the meantime, what do we do so that we don’t end up like me: in the forest and at the mercy of the environment?
Teacher Wellbeing Lessons From a Walk in the Rain
- Be prepared. Look at your calendar and look at what’s coming up so that you can be prepared for it. If you are new to your school ask your colleagues for the low-down. You might have a calendar of events, but get clear about what’s actually required for each of those upcoming events so that you are not blindsided
- Pace yourself. My walk in the rain was a one-off. I was able to go home and have a hot shower and put warm clothes on and I was fine. You can approach your workplace and your workday like that too: embrace the intensity of it, go through the day at a million miles an hour and then go home and recover. But you can’t do that every day. It’s not sustainable and you will end up unwell, exhausted and eventually, burnt out.
- Understand the climate. Know what you can control. Just like I couldn’t control the weather and had to find a way to make the most of it, there are parts of your profession and role you can’t control. What is within your control are your thoughts, your actions, your beliefs, your reactions and your responses. You can get your mindset in a helpful place by understanding that the control you have is over your voice, your behaviours and your mindset. This mindset allows you to show up as your best self and be well.
Change Takes Time
Let me be clear. I am not advocating that as educators we should shut up and put up. Absolutely not. I believe it is vital that we have a voice, that we talk constructively and honestly about teacher wellbeing and those parts of our role that feel unmanageable and overwhelming. By speaking courageously, constructively, respectfully and relentlessly about what matters, change happens.
At the same time, I know that change takes time and so I am most interested right now in how I can support you to maintain hope and enthusiasm. I want to help you learn the tools and strategies that will allow you to show up as the best leader and human you can possibly be, to find joy in your role and of course, to be well.
As I look out the window now, a few hours after my morning walk, I see a clear blue sky and the dogs lying on the grass soaking up the sun. The weather has changed, the rain has cleared and they are making the most of the sun while it shines. I think I’ll step out and join them.