I had diarized to write this monthly blog over two weeks ago. I have in this one sitting already started typed the opening sentences and then deleted them three times. I thought I’d take the liberty of sharing my half-formed thoughts here in the hope that you may find benefit in some way shape or form.
Life has certainly sent us some lessons to learn over the past few weeks as we respond to our global pandemic. From juggling learning from home with work commitments to the challenge around buying toilet paper! For me personally, I have been flooded with thoughts, feelings, challenges, and opportunities of which have taken me weeks to distill down. The paragraphs that follow are a snippet into one aspect of my experiences that of schools.
When Covid 19 hit our small island of Tasmania, ironically an Island on an Island with an ocean to protect us against the global outbreak… I was privileged, through work and life to have a front-row seat to three very different school settings and their responses to the challenges they faced. During the uncertainty of those first few weeks prior to school closures here is what I witnessed.
Teachers are amazing. I know I’m biased, as teachers are my friends and colleges however the capacity to lift during those weeks was something to behold. From learning new ways of communicating and teaching, in amongst actually teaching (think – trying to eat a chocolate ripple biscuit whilst brushing your teeth!) while taking on board the daily and ever-changing Covid 19 response protocols, which in some cases caused great angst, where circumstances to actually follow the protocols to the rule (which teachers like to do) was quite simply impossible.
All of the above was done while simultaneously developing work from home packages and responding to the mountains of emails from parents who had already opted to keep their children at home, quite simply it was a superhuman feat. In amongst the challenges, here is what I observed worked well.
Decisive leadership. In amongst such uncertainty, it was the leaders who consulted quickly, hedged their bets and made decisions early in amongst the ever-changing landscape who supported their school communities best. Decisive leadership along with clear and regular communication gave teachers, students and parents alike a sense of certainty and “we’ve got this” which had a positive impact upon wellbeing.
A wellbeing focus. Schools who had already done the work and invested in wellbeing priorities (prior to wellbeing strategies now saturating our newsfeeds and social media) were able to buffer the challenges much better than those who had not. Schools with legitimate wellbeing priorities navigated through the choppy waters as if they were being led by a GPS using their shared framework and language while deploying tools that had been well-practiced during calmer times.
Humor. Schools with a genuine strength of humor culturally embedded faced the same challenges as schools who did not, however, the sense of comradery that the humor contributed too made the work in these schools look and feel so much lighter and easier.
So while for some, the world has been slowing or even coming to a halt, for others, teachers in this instance, it most certainly has not. My hope is that we can start to change the discourse around the teaching profession to help reshape school systems as wellbeing institutions where both teachers and students feel truly valued, appreciated and respected for the work they commit to every day – including the holidays!
If your school is ready to prioritize wellbeing and you would like some support around affordable, practical, evidence-based ways to do this please reach out, as I would love to help you.