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The very real value of teacher wellbeing

Teaching is a challenging profession. It stretches us as people – physically, mentally, socially and spiritually. Teaching can test our professional ability at times and sometimes even test the very strength of our hearts and minds.

In short, teaching requires much more than many other jobs.

A focus on teacher wellbeing is helping many individuals and learning environments deal with the very real demands of teaching. That is not to say, that many external factors do not need to be addressed. But focusing on wellbeing gives teachers the strength and optimism to challenge and change the way they work without burning out or giving up.

The impact of valuing wellbeing in workplaces is well evidenced.  A workplace that supports the holistic wellbeing of its employees has higher retention, increased loyalty, increased conscientiousness and less sickness.

Teacher wellbeing is both an individual and a collective responsibility. It is holistic – and focuses on the spiritual, physical, mental and social wellness of teachers as professionals.  In practice, it looks different person to person, and place to place.

As teaching professionals, there are many ways we can improve our own individual wellbeing. Professor Meihana Durie and psychologist Jacqui Maguire discussed the importance of teachers taking care of themselves and each other in our recent podcast, available to listen to on our website.

Teacher wellbeing is, however, a collective responsibility too. Many ECE centres, kura and schools are already well along the road of exploring what it means to look after the spiritual, mental, physical and social wellbeing of their teachers.

ECE centres, kura and schools all have their own distinct ways of cultivating teacher wellbeing that reflect their own context. Below, you can see Sancta Maria College and Te Kura Kaupapa Māori Te Whanau Tahi talk about teacher wellbeing in differing ways, reflecting their own school and kura philosophies.

What is common to all of this conversation – whether the focus is on individual or collective teacher wellbeing - is the need to value teacher wellbeing as integral to the life of a teaching professional and to contribute actively to it.

Whether you are an individual seeking to improve your own wellbeing, or an ECE, kura or school promoting teacher wellbeing, there appear to be some common, overarching themes:

  • The environment where people teach needs to be conducive to vitality.
  • Teachers need to feel valued by and connected to the community and culture of the place they are a part of.
  • It is vital that there is reciprocity between the organisation and the individual and that this is valued and communicated. 
  • It is important to encourage wellbeing practices and techniques that allow teachers to flourish.
  • A frame provides the structure within which teacher wellbeing - their wairuatanga, mauri and mana, can be cultivated. We notice ECE centres, kura and schools using Te Aho Matua, specific school whakatauki or principles to provide this frame.

Te Kura Kaupapa Māori Te Whanau Tahi: shared values are the glue that holds a kura together

Video: Hauora ki Te Kura Kaupapa Māori Te Whanau Tahi

Read former Tumuaki Melanie and Kaiārahi Atawhai Wiremu's story

Sancta Maria College: a culture of wellbeing for every teacher, staff member and learner

Video: Wellbeing Sancta Maria College

The Good New Habits Booklet.

If you’d like to share a story from your setting of an innovative way your colleagues are supporting one another, please share it with us at teacherswellbeing@educationcouncil.org.nz.

Recommended resources 

Durie, M. (1994) Te Whare Tapa Whā Māori Health Model Hauora Maori

NZCER, Wellbeing@school – website, toolkit and resources for a whole school community self review. The website is managed by NZCER and commissioned by the Ministry of Education as a part of Positive Behaviour for Learning (PB4L).

Associated resources

Whilst care has been taken in curating this selection of resources, the Education Council does not endorse the following links and is not responsible for their quality or rigour.

Apps

Grateful: a prompt base gratitude app. Researchers at the Harvard Medical School have found that, “Gratitude helps people feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, improve their health, deal with adversity, and build strong relationships.”

Headspace: provides guided meditation sessions and mindfulness training to over 6 million people. Guided sessions are provided online, or via their mobile apps. Meditation has been shown to reduce levels of stress and levels of perceived stress. 

Podcasts

Teacher Magazine discuss a teacher wellbeing study, at the University of Queensland in this podcast, The Research Files Episode 33: Teacher stress intervention. This is an Australian podcast, which provides some interventions and the benefits on teaching and learning. 

Reports and studies

Hodgen, E; Wylie, C. (2018) Stress and Wellbeing among New Zealand principals, a report to the New Zealand Principals Federation.

Milfont, T. L., Denny, S., Ameratunga, S., Robinson, E., & Merry, S. (2008). Burnout and wellbeing: Testing the Copenhagen burnout inventory in New Zealand teachers. Social indicators research, 89(1), 169-177

NZEI Principal Health and Wellbeing Survey report

The Sovereign Wellbeing Index is a national representation of wellbeing in New Zealand, which defines how New Zealanders are faring on a personal and social level. It investigates the multiple components of wellbeing and their relationship to individual and population health. Summary of the 2013 report can be found here.

Resources and toolkits

Education Review Office (2016) Wellbeing for success: a resource for schools.

PPTA, Safety in Schools toolkit: Practical resources for dealing with and preventing bullying, harassment and assault

Vickers, Ian, The Good New Habits Book 2018.
Ian Vickers, has won numerous awards and recognition for his work in increasing understanding of best practice in relation to teacher wellbeing in New Zealand. This book provides concrete steps for focusing on and implementing a teacher wellbeing plan.

Worksafe New Zealand, Bullying Prevention Toolbox.