Teacher Staffroom Episode 21: All about wellbeing

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Thanks for tuning in to this episode of Teacher Staffroom, where we catch you up on the latest evidence, insight, and action. I'm Dominique Russell.

You might’ve noticed we’ve been placing a real emphasis on wellbeing at Teacher recently. We’ve looked at new research into student wellbeing, resilience, and launched a new publication dedicated to educator wellbeing outside of the classroom.

Like all episodes of Teacher Staffroom, I'll take you through these topics, along with other noteworthy stories. I'll also be posing some questions throughout this podcast, so feel free to pause the audio as you go, gather some colleagues and discuss together how these stories could be relevant to your school context. Let's jump in.

We know from our annual reader survey that your personal wellbeing is a concern that’s always on your mind, so that’s why, this month, we’ve launched a brand new publication – Wellbeing by Teacher.

We wanted to create a space for you to talk about the issues that impact your overall wellbeing and provide strategies to help you manage them in your life outside of work. We’ll be focusing on topics like mental health, nutrition, fitness, relationships and sustainability. We’ll also be sharing recipe ideas, fitness tips and book reviews. A subscription to Wellbeing by Teacher is free, so visit teachermagazine.com/wellbeing and follow the prompts to begin receiving this content direct to your inbox.

So on the topic of wellbeing, we recently published an article which takes a look at the research into the prevalence of stress and burnout for educators. We also had a look at some of the protective factors and some of those to emerge from the research include: resources to increase sense of self-efficacy; connectedness with students and colleagues; support by colleagues; and receiving recognition for your work.

We also had a look at student welfare – a report came out recently looks at the results from a survey of over 25 000 young people across Australia. The survey was conducted by Mission Australia who asked 15-19 year olds about issues of personal concern, education and employment plans, and what they value most in their lives.

The survey has been done every year for 19 years now, and in recent instalments, has pretty consistently found that students are dealing with high stress levels and are concerned about their mental health. This year, however, saw that young people are also really concerned about equity and discrimination.

Four in 10 respondents to this year’s survey said this issue is in their top three most important issues in Australia today. There are so many more interesting findings to come out of this report, so you’ll be able to find our full article at our website, teachermagazine.com. Mission Australia’s CEO, James Toomey, had this to say about the survey findings as a whole.

This year, we’re hearing loud and clear that our young people see discrimination as a major issue in Australia, and are very concerned about unfair treatment, with gender inequality being at the forefront of their concerns.

So, these survey findings bring me to a point to consider. Think about your school context. Do you have any support systems which directly address issues of equity and discrimination? How are you supporting students who are experiencing unfair treatment based on their gender, their race, or their mental health?

Changing pace now – you might have also listen to a recent podcast episode where our editor spoke with Maura Manning, Director of Learning at the Catholic Education Diocese of Parramatta about a program adopted by two schools from the Diocese called School of Now.

These two schools were moving from teaching Year 7 to Year 10, to teaching up to Year 12. So, the School of Now was implemented to broaden the choice of subjects for students at the school for students in Year 11 and 12 so they could have access to a full suite of subjects.

Throughout the episode, Maura discusses how the model takes a blended learning approach by having a mix of lessons being delivered online in real time, online on demand, and face-to-face teaching. One part in the episode that stood out most to me was when Maura described how the School of Now is giving equity of access to students. She had this to say:

One of the great things about School of Now is that it enables equity of access for students. It shouldn’t matter where a kid goes to school, in terms of what opportunities are available to them, or the level of expertise that their teachers have. So School of Now levels the playing field, it makes access equitable and it makes opportunities to engage with teachers with proven results and expertise available to those kids.

That was Maura Manning there. The next topic I’d like to take you to is librarians and school libraries. We’ve looked at two studies at this recently – one from Australia and one from Sweden. Let’s look at Sweden first. I spoke with Catarina Schmidt, a professor who conducted a study on children participating in book talks in libraries.

After observing book talks and conducting interviews with librarians, teachers and students, she found that there was a differing lines of priority between classroom teachers and librarians when it comes to reading aloud, and this suggests they should work together more cohesively.

The study uncovered that once a book talk is completed and the children leave the library, librarians aren’t aware of the effect or influence the book talk has had on the students. So, making the most of a book talk before and after it occurs is one way to enhance the relationships, cooperation and cohesion between classroom teachers and librarians. Here’s what Catarina told Teacher about this:

Before [a book talk], information about current topics as well as specific needs and/or the languages represented among the children, are essential for the librarian to know about. During the actual book talk, access to books is realised, but what happens after? Will one book be read together and worked with in the classroom, and how?

So, considering this, as a teacher, reflect on the relationship you, and your wider school community, have with local libraries. How is it enhancing the reading culture at your school? In what areas are there room for improvement?

The second piece on this topic was a podcast episode on a census of school libraries in South Australia. We spoke with Dr Katherine Dix, a Senior Research Fellow at ACER about the census which looked at on school library staffing, facilities, funding, and support. Here’s Katherine:

So, quite often schools refer to their libraries as the ‘heart of the school’, it’s a hub where lots of different activities happen that bring the school together as a community and across the school, rather than just being isolated in the different classrooms. So, we were really interested in finding out to what extent do schools actually have libraries these days, what do those libraries look like?

That was Katherine Dix there. Katherine also wrote an article for us on the topic of wellbeing which I found really interesting. She, along with Pauline Ho from Evidence for Learning, discuss their systematic review which investigated the impact of wellbeing-related interventions on student academic and wellbeing outcomes.

In the article, they say the evidence shows there are three actions for schools to consider when planning a student wellbeing program. These are: prioritising school belonging and connectedness; providing targeted support to students with additional needs; and setting time and opportunities for building teacher capacity in wellbeing support.

So that brings me to a few points to think about. What is your whole-community approach to supporting school belonging and connectedness? How do you determine if some students require additional support with their wellbeing? What data collection sources do you have in place?

The final topic I’d like to take you to, is a three-part series all about resilience. Dr Sarah Tillott, who has taught in universities for over a decade and leads a resilience organisation, wrote three articles for Teacher looking at resilience theory and the brain, adaptive and maladaptive traits of resilience, and classroom strategies for building resilience.

I’d like to highlight the article on resilience theory and the brain here, but you can read the two other articles at our website. I found one point from Sarah on this topic really stood out to me. She had this to say:

The earlier the child experiences stress without supportive platforms in place, the more likely that this stress will compromise the cognitive platforms on which the mental constructs of resilience are developed. This experience of early adversity can result as a trauma in the brain, thus compromising the ability for the child to use the executive skills that support the development of cognitive resilience.

Sarah went on to say that ‘being exposed to adversity is inevitable. How we manage and adapt as a response is what can make the difference between poor outcomes, or outcomes that signify growth from the experience.’

So, that point there brings me to one final question for this episode. As a teacher, how do you help to build resilience in the students you teach, to help them when they are faced with adversity? Have you found any strategies to be particularly helpful?

That's all for this episode, and you're now all caught up on the latest evidence, insight and action in education. Links to all the content and resources I've mentioned will be in the transcript of this podcast, available at our website, teachermagazine.com.

This podcast from Teacher magazine is supported by Charles Sturt University’s Master of Education (generic and with specialisations). Flexible online study that suits your life. Search Charles Sturt Master of Education to find out more.