How a teacher wellbeing toolkit is helping Australian schools

By: Jake Reedeler, Contributor

“I’m a teacher, and this is why so many of us can’t do it anymore.”

The above quote was the title, and theme, of a recent open letter from an Australian teacher to the education system. And while the sentiment is saddening, it’s a feeling shared by far too many teachers across Australia. There is a sense of hopelessness in the face of a grim situation, widespread violence against education staff, and a lack of skills and support needed to address these problems. However, a new program is working to give teachers and principals the tools and skills they need to better manage stress, and build a communicative and supportive workplace.

Primary school educators in Australia are facing rising levels of abuse, leading to feelings of hopelessness among teaching staff and principals across the country. In the case of principals, a recent  2018 survey shows an alarming increase in threats of violence, with 45% of respondents claiming to have been threatened by students and parents, and 37% saying they had actually been attacked.

Aiming to address these issues, a teacher wellbeing toolkit is being delivered to empower educators to face and manage stress. The National Excellence in School Leadership Initiative (NESLI) Teacher Wellbeing Course is already delivering remarkable results, with a 98% success rate, according to results of a recent survey. The survey also found that the biggest positive impact of the wellbeing course were on physical health and optimism.

With Australian teachers reporting some of the highest levels of job-related anxiety, the positive results of the wellbeing course are signalling a more hopeful future for school staff. For a group that has felt overworked and undervalued for a long time, the positive impact of this course, which is empowering teachers to manage their health and wellbeing, is improving the classroom for them and their students.

What is in the Toolkit?

The actual course is made up of five, expert led, video tutorials, which are each complemented by peer learning sessions. This allows teachers to learn the basics, and then discuss how to use the skills within their schools to meet their specific needs. On top of this integrated learning approach, regular feedback is provided, which helps participants measure and gauge the progress they have made. While the outline of the course seems simple, it’s the design and approach that have made it so successful.

The toolkit is designed to meet the unique demands of different schools, allowing staff to take the course without compromising work outputs. The program duration and weekly commitment are determined by each individual school to fit their needs. This enables the program to fit into a teacher’s regular workload, without being a burden.  

The overall goal of The Staff Wellbeing Toolkit  is to guide teachers and principals in creating an educational environment where staff wellbeing is placed at the forefront.  The course does this by focusing on shared and individual concerns and opening up avenues for advice, discussion, and support within schools. It zeroes in on the mental and physical needs of educators, enabling them to overcome their own unique challenges. This collaborative approach empowers staff to manage the issues they face at work, while also improving student outcomes. Open dialogue among school communities is encouraged, which leads to greater trust and respect within the organization.

While the program is new, and still looking for room to improve,  the recent success rate shows that the NESLI is resonating with the educational staff it was designed to help. There is hope that with a successful run in Australia, the toolkit can soon empower educators facing similar problems around the world.

A Brighter Future for Educators

The growing and widespread problems associated with classroom management, stress, and student behaviour require comprehensive and in-depth solutions, with real and measurable outcomes. An inclusive and collaborative toolkit such as the National Excellence in School Leadership Initiative offers an encouraging path towards solving the issues faced by Australian educators. By putting the emotional and physical needs of staff front and center, this course charts a path towards teacher empowerment and success. Hopefully, this course will continue to be beneficial for teaching staff and the students whose futures depend on the invaluable work provided by educators.

Photo by Bonneval Sebastien on Unsplash

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