26 February 2023

How To Improve Teacher Wellbeing: 4 Critical Elements Modern Schools Need To Consider

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How To Improve Teacher Wellbeing: 4 Critical Elements Modern Schools Need To Consider

Supporting the wellbeing of teachers is essential to ensuring a healthy, productive and supportive education environment where both staff and students thrive. Teachers and support staff typically face a range of pressures where the needs and expectations of parents, students, managers and curriculum standards are constantly being juggled. These pressures can take a toll on teacher mental health and wellbeing, but are not inevitable if measures are taken both proactively and reactively when issues occur.

In this article, we’ll explore the importance of improving teacher wellbeing and mental health, while highlighting recent statistics from Australia. By considering four critical elements in the working environment – workload balance, leadership support, professional development programs and appropriate use of communication technologies – we can ensure individuals are performing at their best while maintaining a good work-life balance.:

The Statistics

According to the Australian Education Union, 30% of teachers leave the profession within the first five years due to issues such as workload, stress, and mental health concerns. Similarly, a survey conducted by the Australian Council for Educational Research found that 50% of teachers reported high levels of stress, 20% of teachers reported burnout and 40% of teachers believed their workload was unmanageable. Unfortunately these factors are major contributors to poor mental health, highlighted by a Beyond Blue study which indicated that 33% of teachers experience depression, almost half (44%) experience anxiety and just under 1 in 4 suffer with panic attacks.

Workload Balance

Establishing clear, reasonable expectations when it comes to workload is arguably the most important step to ensuring a good work-life balance for teachers. Individuals and teams need to communicate expectations clearly and outline in detail what tasks are the highest priority and what tasks can be shared, split or delayed if time is scarce. Unfortunately tasks that take up the most amount of time, might not always be the most important ones so ensuring management is aware of these issues is critical in re-allocating resources or upskilling staff where required. A good example of this is when teachers are not consulted in key decisions that have major impacts on workload. Theoretically changes might sound simple, but in practice they may be difficult or unrealistic given resources and time. Consulting staff before implementing new ideas ensures everyone is aware and onboard with changes as well as troubleshooting issues before they happen.

Support from Leaders and Managers

Support from leaders and/or managers particularly when dealing with parents’ complaints or trying to juggle competing responsibilities is essential in creating a positive and productive workplace where teachers feel heard and supported. Scheduling regular catch-ups, both in group meetings and one-on-one appointments gives teachers the opportunity to share feedback and air any issues they are experiencing. It’s important these meetings aren’t sporadic in nature, as this can come across as ‘tokenistic’ or highly reactive. Following a similar format each time also allows management to track progress and identify what’s working and what’s not. To help generate a few ideas, we’ve provided five questions below you can use as a starting point:

  • What tasks/areas of work are currently taking up the most time in a given week?
  • What tasks/areas of work are you finding challenging?
  • What tasks/areas of work do you consider to be the most important in a given week? Does this match with the time you are taking to do them or are you spending more time on tasks that matter less?
  • What’s currently working really well for you week to week?
  • What tasks/areas of work do you need help or assistance with?

Professional Development Opportunities

It’s no secret that sometimes staff learning departments feel a little undecided as to what activities or workshops to offer teachers on professional development days. Everyone has their own ideas on what is important and useful, so identifying common themes in a quick survey can usually be helpful. Think about separating PD days into individual professional development and organisational professional development to get a good mix of training (We’ve provided a few topics below to get you started). You also want to make sure that staff don’t see PD days as “additional work” and/or “added stress” in their already busy schedules. Getting their buy-in is essential to minimising this.

Individual Professional Development

Organisational Professional Development

  • Managing different personalities
  • Delegating tasks based on skill
  • Creating a positive workplace culture
  • Maintaining open communication channels
  • Optimising technology to reduce task and workload

"Think about separating PD days into individual professional development and organisational professional development to get a good mix of training"

Appropriate Use of Technology and Communication Channels

It’s become increasingly common for school employees to use digital technologies and communication channels to promote collaboration and engagement among teachers, staff, students and parents. However, when it comes to teacher wellbeing, it’s important to ensure that technology isn’t used as a substitute for direct face-to-face contact or worse yet, cause an overabundance of work. Establish protocols for appropriate digital usage in and out of the classroom, such as setting reasonable response times for email requests or setting up instant messaging etiquette reminders to support a healthy digital culture that preserves teacher wellbeing. 

A helpful way of reminding staff that everyone’s work hours are different, and they are not expected to respond straight away (particularly out of their own work hours) is by including a short message like the one below in their professional signature: “My work days are Monday-Friday. However, we work flexibly at “insert school name”, so while it suits me to email now, I do not expect a response or action outside of your own working hours.”

A Note from The Wellness Workshop
Thought about offering a Teacher Wellbeing Program at your school? Ask our team how we can improve teacher and support staff outcomes at your school, university, tafe or other education facilitity with a Wellbeing Program. Email us at info@thewellnessworkshop.com.au or call 0412 370 476 across Australia.

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