Monday, 15 April 2019

Staff & Student Wellbeing - Super Important!

Last Monday and Tuesday I was lucky enough to spend two days at Christ's College in Christchurch at The Positive Education Conference, along with about 600 other people (Twitter feed: #positiveeducation2019 ). The conference was focused around student and teacher wellbeing, and gosh it was amazing. I left feeling slightly overwhelmed as there were so many amazing presentations, a lots of information to take in, but also so happy that wellbeing is at the forefront of so many educators minds.

I was, and am continuing to learn what Positive Education actually is. Essentially, it aims to teach students specific skills to enhance their wellbeing and lifestyle. Geelong Grammar School is leading Pos Ed, starting to teach Pos Ed courses/lessons about 10 years ago. Charlie Scudamore, the DP, was the opening keynote for conference, and was very insightful as to what Pos Ed actually is - this video also helps to explain. Geelong believe for Pos Ed to be successful, we must Learn, Live, Teach and Embed - and all steps are important as you can see below.

As we move into an integrated curriculum next year, our timetable is also changing. There is going to be an option line for students to complete their own inquiries/passion projects, as well as time for academic and pastoral mentoring. I can see how Positive Education could be included into these lines, because some of the initiatives and activities in Pos Ed are extensions of Health, and some are basic life skills like how to save money (here are Geelong's key concepts). I need to reflect a little further around this, but would love to put something together for our kids during this mentoring line (especially as one of the key messages from conference was that Positive Education cannot just be put into form classes once a week, but must be embedded within the teaching and learning curriculum/timetable).

Some of the things which left me thinking further about were:
  • Sometimes what we see as misbehaviour, may actually be an imbalance in emotions which students don't know how to cope with, such as high stress. In this case, it is important we respond to the emotions, rather than the behaviours.
  • Students (and staff) need to learn about emotional regulation - the ability to recognise when any given emotion is inappropriate at a given time and to respond accordingly.
  • Our 'thinking brain' can be taken over by our 'emotional brain', therefore we may not be responsive if our emotions are out of control - this relates to a lot I've learnt about arousal levels and the importance of teaching students strategies to calm their 'emotional brain', so that their 'thinking brain' can be effective. Three steps to attempt to make this happen: recognise, rebalance and rewire.
  • "Don't work from the rakau, work from the ngākau" - move away from a tickbox to get things done or meeting standards, towards working from and for the heart.
  • Our mental health system currently only has the capacity to help/support 3% of our population, so it's incredibly important we are looking out for one another and ask 'How are you, really?'
  • We need to encourage and allow children to be the boss of their feelings, rather than their feelings bossing them around.
  • If you were a fly on the wall, how would you feel, and what do you think the environment would be like?
  • Mindfulness can be considered as mental fitness; thinking about the way we think, regulating our attention and being more aware of our surroundings.

Teacher wellbeing was a large focus of the conference. We are all aware how hard teachers work, and how we often put everyone before ourselves. I have definitely found that I have been quite stressed recently and that my to do list just gets longer and longer. The two key messages I took away were to recognise and nurture the things that support our wellbeing, and to only control what we can control. There is only so much we can do in a day, and only so much we can change, so there is no point obsessing over things out of our control. Darfield High School shared some of the ways they are embedding the 5 ways to wellbeing from Mental Health Foundation within their practice, to increase teacher wellbeing. I was really amazed how high a priority in their PD and use of time teacher wellbeing was - see some of the ideas alongside.

Moving forward, I need to consider how I could include some of the things I have learnt within my practice. I can be more aware of students and their emotions, I can look out for my peers/colleagues, and I can consider my classroom environment even moreso than usual. As mentioned there is great scope for Positive Education to be included in our 2020 curriculum, I just need to think how... And I would LOVE if teacher wellbeing became more of a focus for us too...

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