Teacher Wellbeing

Teacher Wellbeing: Five Ways to Help Each Other

Teacher wellbeing is essential to support the wellbeing of students and their schools. So how do we build it?

Wellbeing in teachers is determined by three factors: what we can do for ourselves (over which we have control); the socio-political climate (although we might influence this, it does not make sense to expend too much precious energy on things we cannot change) and the relationships we have with each other. The last factor is really about social capital, the connections we have with each other that are marked by mutual cooperation and trust.

In 2016 let’s focus on the development of social capital in the schools where we work. What can we do to promote reciprocal support, kindness, trust and respect? These actions exist in the everyday micro moments – not doing more but perhaps a bit differently.

1. Notice and appreciate

Most teachers do not seek fulsome praise, but everyone wants their efforts noticed. It makes a significant difference to wellbeing when someone shows that what you did is acknowledged and valued. Although you don’t necessarily go that extra mile for anyone but your pupils, it doubles satisfaction when someone shares and savours successes with you. In one school a newsletter goes out every Friday and on the front page is a thank you – not just to staff for academic, sporting or drama achievements but to anyone in the school for everyday on-going good work – teachers get a mention of course but so do the cleaners, secretaries and casual staff. Teachers told me that it was the first thing everyone read – who was being noticed this week!

So next year make a point of looking into classrooms to see what is different – talk with colleagues over morning tea about little successes and achievements, both yours and theirs – and also notice those who are struggling and might need a word of encouragement.

2. Connect

What do you know about your colleagues – their lives, passions and perspectives? Schools that organise regular social functions to which everyone is invited can break down barriers between people and reduce the toxic power of cliques. I sometimes do a simple activity in workshops where I ask participants to have structured conversations with people they don’t usually talk to. Finding out a little about someone’s story inhibits quick judgement and prejudice. Once you have discovered what you have in common you have a basis for a different kind of relationship – one that might lead to greater collaboration and/or mutual support.

So next year spend a little bit of time in staff meetings mixing people up and talking in pairs or small groups about things that matter. Just five minutes once every so often would make a big difference. Use some of the wonderful materials around to stimulate these discussions, such as strengths cards to facilitate positive conversations.

3. Be active together

It is much more motivating to do physical activities together than alone. Perhaps you can also involve your pupils? How about a dance session once a week – or yoga, aikido or zumba? Perhaps get in an outside trainer and find a partner or group to commit to a term of activity at lunch-time or after school for 30 minutes. Get that serotonin buzz. You will perform better afterwards once your body has been pumping blood to your brain – so it’s a good investment of time! And it’s fun, so an oxytocin rush too!

So early next year have a conversation about what activity to go for, who will join you, when you might do this and how you might get it up and running!

4. Give to each other

Many teachers give so much of themselves they may feel their buckets are empty and they have little resources to draw on. Yet the research says that giving provides more wellbeing for the giver than the receiver so let’s give it a go for each other. Even giving a smile can make a difference. One school had a “Random Acts of Kindness” board in the staffroom where people wrote post-it notes when a colleague had done something small for them. This became a focus of conversation across the school. It works even better when the school has a “Secret Angel” system in place. This is where everyone (who wants to) puts their name in a hat at the beginning of term and picks out someone else’s. They then just keep an eye on that person for the term – making them a cup of tea, checking if it is their birthday and perhaps taking a duty for them. As someone else will be doing it for them their own bucket will also be topped up from time to time!

So next year what might you do to give teacher wellbeing a boost in your school?

5. Keep learning

One of the best ways to learn the knowledge and skills involved in developing healthy relationships and resilience is to teach this to children and young people. Teachers facilitating Circle Solutions in schools in Australia say they are learning ways to make a positive difference to their own lives both at work and at home. Simple techniques matter – like being pleased for someone else’s success, giving them the credit, bringing out the cake, sharing the good news! So many of us are reluctant to do this – jealousy, lethargy or simple thoughtlessness gets in the way. Marital relationships where partners are ‘active constructive responders’ have a much better chance of survival.




Respectful relationships education program


Program Guidelines


Research shows that violence against women is much higher in countries where the economic, social and political rights of women are poorly protected. Violence is consistently worse in areas where power and resources are unequally distributed between men and women (for example by an under-representation of women in parliament and on corporate boards, a pay gap between men and women, and a gender gap in superannuation). Evidence also reveals that the ‘constants’ in predicting higher levels of violence against women relate to social structures and norms, as well as organisational practices that support gender inequality, especially in the following ways:

  • the condoning of violence against women
  • men’s control of decision-making and limits to women’s independence, in public life and relationships
  • rigid gender roles and stereotyped constructions of masculinity and femininity
  • male peer relations that emphasise aggression and disrespect towards women.1

You can’t intention your way to extraordinary! Bruce Sullivan at TEDxUQ

Bruce Sullivan is a relationship specialist and a proven performer having achieved results with people for over 24 years. His practical, hands on experience is based on working with individuals, families, businesses and communities providing education and opportunities for personal improvement. It is this experience that has given Bruce a unique understanding of our ability to relate to one another in the workplace and at home.





The Whole Child Approach


Each child, in each school, in each of our communities deserves to be healthy, safe, engaged, supported, and challenged. That’s what a whole child approach to learning, teaching, and community engagement really is.


The demands of the 21st century require a new approach to education to fully prepare students for college, career, and citizenship. Research, practice, and common sense confirm that a whole child approach to education will develop and prepare students for the challenges and opportunities of today and tomorrow by addressing students’ comprehensive needs through the shared responsibility of students, families, schools, and communities.

All educators want to improve the work they do for students, their families, and the community. Whether it’s instruction, school climate, leadership, family engagement, or any of the other issues schools face on a daily basis, all educators need tools to help them improve their actions and methods. A whole child approach, which ensures that each student is healthy, safe, engaged, supported, and challenged, sets the standard for comprehensive, sustainable school improvement and provides for long-term student success.

more info at…

School improvement tool:



Patience, persistence, and a willingness to grow

Another good article by George Couros:


A good friend always talks to me about the willingness to just put in the work when no one is watching. I think about this all of the time, and what it means for educators, and what it means for our students.  The most meaningful things in your life will come with effort. We know this but do we aspire to it?

The image above is not only showing what people don’t see, but it is also shows what some people are not willing to see.  Many look for the easy route, but is this what we want to teach our students?

Another friend of mine talked about some of her frustration recently and reached out to me for some advice. What I told her was that, “You feel bad because you care and you want to do awesome things.  Understand that not everything works the way we plan, own it, and then move forward.” Sometimes it is good to cry, be upset, feel like you failed.  It is not about embracing failure; it is understanding that it exists, and then moving on, and moving forward.  One of my favourite movie quotes is from Jerry Maguire, and it is simply two words;

“Breakdown? Breakthrough.”

Patience, persistence, and a willingness to grow.

What if these were traits that all of our students walked out of school with?  The future would be pretty bright.

Some other resources:

Lessons from the middle of Australia…


So 4 kids in a motorhome…whose crazy idea was that 🙂

Well it has certainly been an “adventure”…a word we began to mistrust every time we heard it discussed as part of the next element of our holiday…

I thought I would take an opportunity to share a couple of stories about some places we visited and the lessons that they taught me and I hope have had an impact on my children.  After all it is our children who may have the opportunity to right some wrongs and promote the positive messages we heard or saw along the way. Plus share a couple of photos…

I wanted to talk about a couple of places we visited and some impressions of the things we saw, the people we spoke to and also the sense of the history of the place.  For the point of this article I will just talk about Woomera and Coober Pedy in South Australia and Katherine Gorge and Kakadu in the Northern Territory.



Not a lot to say about this place…really just a spot on a map that is famous for it’s missile and rocket testing.  Mostly by the British and later the Americans.  The town has a park and a museum filled with rockets and missiles.  Only military staff and families work in this town.  Huge parts on the map around Woomera listed as no access zones around the town.  Lots of talk in the museums about all the great work of the various military forces and scientists etc…what was missing…not a lot of talk about the local indigenous population, nuclear testing or the effects of the environment and the traditional owners of the land.  It was sad to see but I guess a lesson to be learned.



Like this piece of junk from a movie set (Pitch Black with Vin Diesel)  the town is littered with lots of broken bits of old cars, mining equipment and other random junk.  The whole area is made up of holes in the ground where many people come to make their fortune mining for opals.  It is a little sad what we do to our country in some places in search of wealth.  Though the locals seem to love it…definitely a quirky place.  We heard lots of other stories in our “adventures” about some of the crazy things early settlers did in some places in order to make their wealth.  One story of an early sheep farmer who brought 120000 sheep to Wilpena Pound (Flinders Ranges SA) and in two years turned it from a lush landscape into a desert.  It was good to see that it is now on the mend as a National Park.



I taught in Katherine 20 years ago in my second year of teaching.  It was like the wild west to a young man from Brisbane even after doing a year in Alice Springs.  I like many city kids could not believe the state of behaviour and conditions of and for indigenous Australians and though as a child witnessing a lot of that casual racism within my own family and being ashamed of it at the time it was easy to fall into thinking about these stereotypes and feeling they were justified.

20 years on there are still big problems with alcoholism and racism in our country and it is on show in central Australia, however, we did have an opportunity to listen to a number of indigenous and non-indigenous tour guides and park rangers who gave me hope for the future of this country.

One young man who was our tour guide for the Katherine Gorge was indigenous but not from the Katherine area (he was from the Whitsundays).  He decided as it was his last week running the tour that he would alter his tour information.  He spoke of the local traditional owners and the great things that they were doing in the area to manage this beautiful place.  He told of their struggles and the history of the place.  One fact that had an impact was that it only became illegal to kill and Aboriginal person in 1960.  He talked of the destruction of the area and the effect on the local people in a little over a 90 year period (NT history of “colonisation” was a lot later than other parts of Australia).  He talked of the impact that a decision made in another part of the country depicted in the Paul Kelly song:

had a positive impact in Katherine and the traditional owners were able to fight for their land back.  In one of the greatest acts of forgiveness I have heard about the traditional owners decided to share their lands, despite everything that had happened to them, and openly encourage non-indigenous Australians and others to visit and share their culture.  Like a number of other indigenous Australian speakers I heard on this holiday he spoke with a pride and a confidence that I had not seen previously in this part of Australia and in other parts of Queensland that I have visited.



Lots of crocodiles (salt water crocodiles)…don’t put your hand out of the boat…ever…

a very beautiful part of the country…despite the crocs


Again stories from tour guides and park rangers spoke of the skills of the traditional owners in managing the land.  Lots of information that puts some of our curriculum into perspective when it comes to learning about indigenous culture.  A culture that managed the land for tens of thousands of years and of a people who speak often 4 or more languages.  Their languages are part of their culture and the words tell a story about the objects they are describing that teach you about how to survive and the laws of their people.  It was fascinating.

All in all it was great trip…I am glad to be back though and I will end this post by sharing some photos that show how beautiful our country is and we should all be proud of it.







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Parents, It’s Time To Stop Undermining Our Kids’ Teachers

Frustrated elementary teacher

This interesting article was sent on the linkedin Principals group that I am sure we can all relate to…

We are doing a huge disservice to our kids. We are raising a generation of children who are going to be incapable of succeeding in the modern era. They are being taught to be egocentric and to give up, often before even trying.

In this post I want to recount a number of lessons I have gleaned from contact with so many teachers over these last years.

Parents, you are not your child’s best friend, you are their parent


If I only get one point across to my fellow parents in this post it is that you are not your child’s friend, you are their parent. Your job is to instill good behaviours and morals and enforce the rules. Too many parents I meet think that they are supposed to be their child’s best friend first, and parent second.

That is a mistake. A best friend is a person who supports you in good times and bad but does not hold you accountable for your actions or discipline you. That is why we have parents.

Parents, learned helplessness is your fault, not your child’s

If there is one true failing that our generation of parents have instilled in our children it is learned helplessness, which is simply the knowledge that if they say “I can’t do something” their parent will complete the task for them. In doing so, we are raising a generation of kids who either give up after one try or don’t even try in the first place.

Failure is part of growing up and kids need to learn to fail, then pick themselves up, brush themselves off and try again. They need to figure out how to follow instructions and they need to figure out what steps to take when they are not given instructions but simply a task to accomplish.

Show your kids how to do something (or give them the instructions), then step back and let them try themselves. Sure they will do it less efficiently than you might, but that is part of growing up. They will get better if given the chance, but if they are never given the chance they will never learn.

There is nothing that frustrates a teacher more than a child who won’t even try to complete a task, yet that is what they see every day because too many helicopter parents do all the hard things for their kids leaving their children incapable, ill-equipped or unwilling to try and figure out how to accomplish tasks on their own.

Parents, you must advocate for your kids but you must also support your child’s teacher

A lot of parents have been taught that it is their job to advocate for their kids. That is absolutely true. But remember, advocating for your child should not take away from your responsibility to support your child’s teacher. Supporting your child’s teacher means listening to them and acknowledging what they say about your child because, believe it or not, your child may behave differently out of your presence than they do in it.

Many parents also seem to miss the fact that teachers are professionals. Just because everyone has gone to school does not mean everyone is an expert in teaching. When you contradict or question your child’s teacher in front of your child, you are telling your child that the teacher’s authority is not to be respected.

When a teacher tells you about something, don’t turn to your child and ask if what their teacher is saying is true. You may think you are involving your child in the discussion, but what you have actually done is to question that teacher’s reliability to their face. Think of it from the teacher’s perspective. You have essentially told them that you won’t believe what they just told you until your child confirms it.

Parents, your child’s teacher cannot replace your role in your child’s education

A lot of parents have been incorrectly led to believe that teachers can teach their kids all the life lessons they need in school. As parents we are the people responsible for instilling good and respectful behaviours in our children, not schools.

A lot of parents also say “I’ll leave that for my kid’s teacher to cover.” Well, think of the numbers. Your child’s teacher is with them for about seven hours a day, five days a week, for about 30 weeks a year. That is not enough time to teach them how to behave on top of teaching them the curriculum.

Your job as a parent is to set an example and teach your children the important lessons of life. Your child’s teachers can supplement your lessons, but you are the ones who your kids will imitate, so give them something good to imitate.

The finished product: What we will be aiming for in the first 4 years


The finished product

(What we hope to achieve by the end of 4 years – items in this list include elements of the Full School Review and elaborations from discussions with staff)

Supporting all students with diverse needs to succeed in an engaging learning environment.

  • The Teaching of literacy skills
  • A Curriculum Plan
  • Planning Process


  • Budgeting and resourcing aligned with improvement agenda and teaching and learning processes
  • Collaboration
  • Explicit Improvement Agenda
  • Communication and transparency
  • Ongoing review processes
  • Line management
  • Assessment Schedule
  • Data literacy
  • Moderation – rigorous process
  • Wellbeing Framework
  • Identifying and addressing student needs
  • Professional Learning Plans
  • Induction
  • Coaching and Mentoring
  • Pedagogical Framework
  • Student goal setting
  • Networks – across schools and with community

Work-Life Balance for Teachers


Busy time of the term and a busy time of the year…it is important to remember if you don’t look after yourself it will be a struggle to look after anybody else.  This means that sometimes you have to make a judgement call on when enough is enough.  This might also mean you take some time to address how you are doing things and how you can do it better.  I know I make that call myself from time to time…trying to make short term and long terms plans is important.

One of our goals will be to develop a Health, Safety and Wellbeing plan to benefit all of us.  Some resources I found when looking for information are below that may or may not be useful:


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