A ticking emotional time bomb: being a school principal in 2021
Being a school principal is not for the faint of heart. We are constantly inspired, in awe and concerned for the incredible principals we meet serving the wide variety of schools that Grow Your Mind is in. Even if you are not a leader the reasons why this particular role may be stressful are glaringly obvious: Students! Parents! Staff! COVID-19!
The ACU's 2020 Principal's Health and Wellbeing report found that our school leaders are not only overwhelmed by the amount of work they're doing, they're also having great difficulty sleeping, and they're experiencing high rates of offensive behaviour and physical attacks. Combine this with the fact that almost 6 in 10 Australian teachers (58 per cent) say they feel quite a bit or a lot of stress in their jobs (according to the latest data from the OECD's Teaching and Learning International Survey, TALIS 2018).
This places principals in a HIGHLY stressful position, whereby they are taking on the emotional labour of caring for so many within their community.
So leaders of schools, we are speaking directly to YOU now! If you don't prioritise your own wellbeing, it is without a doubt a ticking emotional time bomb. It's not even about lasting the distance, it's about authentically & sustainably doing the best possible job you can in your role. Because you are essential to whole school wellbeing. You are the rock, the support, the calm before, during and after a storm. Being too busy, too stretched and dare we say too important to take care of your emotional wellbeing will only erode the potency of your ability to make a positive impact on those around you. We need you to be mentally healthy, we need you to feel resilient and supported. And we get it, you need your staff to be the same. Beyond Blue has a tonne of ways you can start looking after your wellbeing. We do too! Take a look at the images below, do you or can you start adopting any of these positive mental health habits now?
Because here is the thing, it takes ongoing work and practice to look after your mental health. Twin sisters and authors of Burnout, Emily and Amelia Nagoski, focus on this fact throughout their fantastic book. Wellbeing is not static, we fluctuate and as such we must attend to it every day. It may be that we are on fire, full of energy and confidence or that we are depressed, that we are depleted, that we are burnt out or that we are languishing! Wherever we may be on our mental health continuum, looking after our wellbeing is an ongoing practice.
As you plan ahead to meet the professional learning needs of staff, please consider investing in staff wellbeing to begin or continue the ongoing practice of wellbeing. AND when you make your choice of which course your staff will do, do it with them! For all of the above reasons. There are brilliant organisations that exist that can support your school deliver engaging staff wellbeing. We are really proud of our offerings too and the impact they are having:
Grow Your Mind has created super flexible PD, whereby you can select from a group, individual, pre-recorded, in person or live via zoom option. You can choose from 2 hugely popular wellbeing courses we have created for staff, and you can do it anywhere, any device, in groups or individually. This year alone we have found ourselves delivering the course in person to over 300 staff members from Wesley College in Melbourne and we have had teachers complete our courses digitally across the country and globe. Essentially, flexibility is our middle name...
Jump onto our website now and take a look at these resources to support teachers.Support staff wellbeing Staff resilience course
The feedback we are getting from staff is that they are functioning but exhausted. Another glaringly obvious fact: The pandemic has forced significant change in the way educators teach, lead and adapt, and this has required a high level of tolerance to uncertainty and incredible levels of resilience.
This is why we have made creating staff wellbeing courses a priority. There is no effective student wellbeing without staff wellbeing.
Need more convincing? Research suggests that teacher wellbeing not only improves the health and wellbeing of the teachers themselves, but also has a positive impact on students and their learning outcomes. Professor Donna Cross cites the following factors that protect against teacher stress and burnout:
- Resources to increase sense of self-efficacy
- Connectedness with students and colleagues
- Support by colleagues
- Receiving recognition for their work. (Klassen et al., 2012; Flook et al., 2013; Gardner 2010; Schwarzer & Hallum, 2008)
Investing in the wellbeing and resilience of educators not only allows teachers and school leaders to better manage the challenges of their jobs, it also benefits the students and broader school community. As we bang on about at Grow Your Mind, we all have mental health and we can all learn to look after it. Mental health education must be a whole of school approach: this means that the school itself recognises that all aspects of the school community can impact positively upon students' health, safety and wellbeing. This ALSO means that staff wellbeing is a priority. And that you, SCHOOL LEADER, see your wellbeing as a priority too.
And here's the big picture thing: in addition to helping staff and yourself through the current challenging times, whether that be a lockdown, or the ongoing impact of the pandemic on schooling, there is ALSO a longer term benefit when we prioritise wellbeing PD. The resilience skills we share with educators are not just about strength through adversity, but ALSO about the ability to grow and adapt throughout life.
And finally, save this JPEG on your phone or laptop and start filling your cup today!