Sunday, 9 July 2017

Teacher Wellbeing- some research highlights

As I write this we are in the last days of the end of the second term of the year, in the middle of winter where it is cold and miserable and the flu/bug season seems to be incessant. Many schools have mid-year reporting happening, so there is the added stress and it shows for many of us.

Let’s be honest though, teaching as a profession is inherently stressful. We are working with people all day and human beings are complex, sometimes tricky even. And relating to people is only the start of what a teacher is doing as you all know, but I am not going to spend time talking about what stresses us for two reasons; 1. There is plenty of research and anecdotal data to confirm that teaching is stressful and 2. Spending energy on talking about what stresses us often feeds the problem and doesn’t necessarily provide any solution to it.

In the last year I have conducted a small study as part of my masters in education qualification exploring positive wellbeing for primary teachers in their mid-career. I propose that the findings are likely to be relatively generic although to confirm that I would obviously need to conduct a much larger study. I do think however it is worth sharing some of the findings here as food for thought and a possible contribution to the important conversation about teacher wellbeing. Don’t think for a second that teacher wellbeing isn’t important either, there is plenty of research to support the notion that happy healthy teachers have happier healthier classrooms with happier healthier learners who appear to achieve better- simply put, your wellbeing is important to the learners in your care.

So here’s some of what I found out about what may contribute to positive teacher wellbeing in our current educational climate: 

1. People-centred leadership practices.
How the school leaders work with their staff in the school can make an appreciable difference to teacher wellbeing. In my research it was noted that it was the small acts of kindness and appreciation that really mattered such as a sincere thank you, a surprise coffee or chocolate treat (or appropriate healthier option), noticing when workload increased and doing what they could to alleviate the stress in small ways. It really centred around relationships and ethical behaviour.
Consider: How do you enhance your relationships with your staff if you are in a leadership position? What are the small acts of kindness that you know will be appreciated by members of your team? How can you build relationships with the leaders in your school? 

2.      Supportive relationships.
It is said that teaching is about the three R’s, relationships, relationships, relationships. The relationships teachers have are numerous; students, colleagues, parents/caregivers, leadership, school management/parent committees, community members, PLD staff etc. The reciprocal nature of student teacher relationships is really interesting, when teachers are doing well their students tend to follow suit, and when students are succeeding that tends to support teacher wellbeing as well. Our relationships with our colleagues can be protective too, it appears that where teachers work in a collaborative, supportive environment that still allows for autonomy and individuality they thrive.
Consider: How do you build and maintain relationships with your students? What is it about your classroom environment that enhances wellbeing for all? How do you acknowledge your colleagues positively? What do you do to create a positive working environment at your school? 

3.      Strong sense of purpose.
For the people in my research making a difference to the learners in their care was clearly a motivating factor and something they returned to time and time again when speaking about what ‘filled them up”. Having clear beliefs about teaching and learning, then following them as well as sharing school values can be empowering for teachers.
Consider: Why did you become a teacher? What do you believe about teaching and learning? Do you share your school values? 

4.      Self Efficacy
Adopting an “I choose…” mindset appeared to have a positive impact for the teachers in my research. They acknowledged they didn’t achieve true balance much of the time, if at all, but they all stated that the way they worked/lived was a choice they had made. This seemed to be empowering, they were in control of what they could control and owned it. They were also clear about what was out of their control and found ways to shift their focus. Think about a time that was challenging for you, what lessons can you draw from it? This is one way to reframe negative experiences that appears to help stop these events eating away at your self esteem. Another way to build self efficacy is to be self aware, knowing your strengths and weaknesses as well as addressing your health and wellbeing needs. The teachers I talked to weren’t afraid to ask for help and could track how they steadily shifted and changed their teaching practice to meet learner needs and improve management of their own personal resources.
Happy healthy teachers have
happier healthier classrooms with
happier healthier learners who
appear to achieve better. 
Consider: What choices do you make around how you work and why? Are these choices working for you or do you want to change anything? If so what? What are your strengths and weaknesses? What can you share with others to help them improve their practice? Who can you ask for help when you need it?

Basically teachers, like most people I would suggest, need belongingness, connection, a sense of identity. This, for me, is like our essence that we can come back to when we are decision making, when we are under stress, when something doesn’t go right. The people around us can have a huge impact on how we feel, as can the stories we tell ourselves.


As I stated earlier, your wellbeing is important to the learners in your care so I hope that you will do what you can to help yourself to be the happy healthy teacher you know your learners deserve.  


If you would like to read more from my research I am happy to forward a PDF copy to you, please just let me know in the comments and I will make arrangements with you personally. 

39 comments:

  1. Meg I would love a pdf of your research. Such and important field of research.

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    1. Kia ora Bette

      Thank you for your interest in my dissertation. I will send you a copy via Facebook if that is OK. I agree that it is a really important field for educational research.
      Thanks again
      Meg :)

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    2. Yes please ☺ sarah.jane.richardson@gmail.com

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  2. Enjoyed reading this from the comfort of my bed where I am recovering from that incessant cold you speak of! All really important points and so important for school leaders to consider. A copy of your research would be much appreciated. coramb@shellypark.school.nz

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    1. I am sorry you are crook, it is a stink way to start the non-contact time. I do however hope that you give yourself permission to indulge in resting and getting better. :) Thanks for your feedback and interest, I will flick through my dissertation tonight. Get well soon!

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  4. Kia ora Meg. Thank you for sharing. This is something that has been on my mind recently and has now got me pondering even more - thanks. I would love to read more of your research if that's ok. Thanks Katrina

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    1. Thanks for getting in touch. I am happy to send you a pdf of my research... wondering what is the best way to do this?

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  5. Hey Meg,
    I'm currently a Masters student myself. Teacher wellbeing is a high priority for me as a leader, as it is something I have struggled with in the past.
    Thanks for sharing!
    Natalie

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    1. All the best for your study Natalie, it is a major undertaking at times but a great feeling when it's done :) I hear you about the personal struggle, it has been a good reflective exercise for me x

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  6. Meg, I'd love to read your paper in full. Great summary. Lyn

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    1. Thanks for getting in touch Lyn, I am happy to send you a pdf of the dissertation, just wondering what is the best way to do this?

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  7. Hi Meg,
    I'm hoping to embark on some study into teacher wellbeing and the impacts on student wellbeing. I'd love to read your paper. As a senior leader in education I am becoming more concerned about teachers and their personal wellbeing.

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  8. Thanks for sharing your blog posting. I'd love to read more from your research. My contact details are annec@stmarysrotorua.school.nz

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    1. Thanks for your interest Anne, I have sent a pdf copy to you :) Happy reading

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  9. I add my thanks to the others Meg. I really appreciate your sharing and I would love a copy of your research. My email is akireirihapeti@gmail.com

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    1. Kia ora Erika, thanks for your interest. I have sent a copy through to you x

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  10. Thank you Meg for sharing this with us. I totally agree with your findings - such an important issue - I am big on the concept of Hauora for Teachers and Learners alike. Please send me a PDF copy if that is OK.
    oloatauaf@peninsulaprimary.school.nz

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    1. Kia ora Oloa, thanks for your feedback. I used Mason Durie's Whare Tapa Wha model within my research to explore hauora, I know it is just one model but it was useful for this context. I have emailed a copy of the dissertation to you, happy reading x

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  11. I would be very interested in a copy of your research also please. I work in the realms of developing Teacher and Leader emotional intelligence.

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    1. Your work sounds really interesting and valuable, it's a huge area! I am happy to share a pdf of my dissertation with you, what would be the best approach?

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  12. Talofa lava Meg, thank you for sharing your blog and also findings from your research. I'm on the final leg of my post grad in educational leadership and hoping to do my Masters real soon. I would love to read more about your research please. Can I please have a PDF copy please - email address is vasativ@mangerecentral.school.nz

    Fa'afetai tele lava
    Kind regards
    Vasati

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    1. Thank you for your feedback, all the best for your study adventures... it can be hard work but such a good feeling when you complete :) Take care x

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  13. Many thanks for sharing your research with us. You've raised some interesting points here which I really appreciate as a teacher/leader. Sometimes, I find that I'm so caught up in the busyness of each day/term/year thus forget to pause and take time to reflect on my own wellbeing. Thank you!

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    1. I am so pleased that this has given you the reminder to pause and reflect, it is so easy for us to forget to do this in the day to day rush that teaching can become. Thank you for reminding me of the importance of this too :) All the best for a good break x

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  14. Thank you so much for sharing. Can I please have a pdf copy - m.campbell@papakura-central.school.nz

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    1. Kia ora Marena
      I have emailed you a copy of my dissertation, happy reading. If you have any questions or suggestions please feel free to get in touch.
      Thanks for your interest.
      Megan :)

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  15. Thanks Meg, I'm looking forward to reading your dissertation!
    nat.looney13@gmail.com

    Thanks a lot!

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    1. Kia ora Natalie
      I have emailed a copy through to you, happy reading. Please don't hesitate to drop me a line if you have any questions or suggestions.
      Thanks for your interest
      Megan :)

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  16. I too would love a copy of your research. Thanks so much for sharing this as am on a learning journey of well being myself as understand how important it is for the whole school community. Please email to carla_werder@yahoo.co.nz

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    1. Kia ora Carla, I will email a copy to you shortly. I really do believe it can be a game changer in school communities when we honour the importance of wellbeing in teaching and support each other to achieve it in whatever way works best for them. All the best with your learning journey xx

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  17. Thank you for sharing your thoughts & research - I would like a copy please to read & share. I appreciate the opportunity to reflect & question your blog has given me! (kathym@cambridgeeast.school.nz)

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    1. Thanks for your feedback Kathy :) I hope you have received your copy by email, if not please feel free to get in touch and I will try again. I hope you are having a great term.

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  18. Hi Meg, I am most interested in your research. The timing is amazing. I would love to read the whole thing if that is possible. Would you mind sharing it with me too. Please email me at lynne.tanner@xtra.co.nz

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    1. I am more than happy to share it with you Lynne, I have sent you an email. If you have any questions please don't hesitate to get in touch again, you now have my email address :) take care and have a great term. Kind regards Megan :)

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  19. I would love a PDF copy please. rme@lincoln.school.nz Thanks. Rachel.

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    1. Kia ora Rachel, just checking in to see if I ever sent this document to you? If not please let me know and I will get it sorted as soon as possible. Thanks

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  20. I would very much appreciate a copy of your research Meg. I am towards the end of my career ( early sixties). Managing time and well being are the keys to sustaining your passion and love for teaching.

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  21. Oops forgot to put my email akireirihapeti@gmail.com.

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