Teacher’s Bookshelf: Having strong school infrastructure

Teacher Wellbeing, written by author, speaker, facilitator, and coach Amy Green is a provides inspiration and practical tools for teachers and leaders to unpack the many facets of teacher wellbeing. In this exclusive excerpt from the book, Green explores the systems, structures and processes in schools that support teacher wellbeing.

The infrastructure that surrounds how we do things in our schools – especially how teachers plan, work together, collaborate, mark, assess, and complete other tasks required in the teaching space that make up our professional responsibilities – is incredibly important. We need supportive systems, structures and processes to support teacher wellbeing and ensure we function properly.

At the school level, it really is the leaders’ responsibility to make sure the infrastructure built is supportive. That means the systems, structures and processes in place for how teams work together, how planning is done, assessment schedules and cycles, entering data and so on sit at a school level. As leaders and decision-makers, we must be mindful to ensure the systems, processes and structures we put in place support teacher wellbeing and don’t negatively impact it.

The infrastructure we use in a school is the way in which we do things. It covers just about everything you can think of that contributes to how we do our job:

  • timetables
  • lessons times and bell times
  • playground duties
  • planning templates for unit plans
  • day planners
  • assessment schedules
  • meetings – team meetings, staff meetings and professional learning communities (PLCs)
  • operational aspects of meetings; for example, agendas
  • technology used for things such as role marking, data input and recording student behaviour
  • how the school is organised on a daily basis
  • communication platforms and procedures.

Like the infrastructure of a city – such as roads, buildings and communal areas – our school infrastructure may have initially been designed and built with the best intentions in mind, however, at times, may not serve the purpose it was designed for. We have all questioned how we can experience traffic jams on a newly opened road, or wonder why the public transport system never runs on time, or why some parks don’t have any shade; the answer is, the infrastructure is letting us down. In a school, we need to review our infrastructure to make sure it is working as intended and that people aren’t stuck in a traffic jam somewhere along the way. The only way to really know if the systems, structures and processes are supportive of teacher wellbeing is to ask our teachers.

We need to support teachers to be open to sharing what they feel is and isn’t working, and in order to create the best way of doing things we need to include them in this process. Inviting teachers to share what negatively impacts their wellbeing will highlight gaps in how things are done. It could be that planning meetings are not being utilised because no one is managing how time is used. It could be that the day assembly is on isn’t the best fit for how students show up to class. It could be that the assessment schedule and turnaround time for marking and data input is too tight and causing stress and overwhelm. It could be that there isn’t a feedback and performance process so teachers don’t know if or how they can grow.

What is highlighted will depend on what is a priority and what you may choose to focus on first. If feedback suggests our systems, structures and processes aren’t working, then choosing to improve one at a time is the best way to tackle this – knowing that we can’t change everything at once.

It’s also important to note that while there may not be anything notably wrong, we can always be improving the way we are doing things. However, if things are going smoothly, and the systems, structures and processes are working, it does allow us more time to focus on other things.

That’s the thing with infrastructure: if it is designed and built well, it helps everything within the organisation run smoothly and operate as intended – and you almost don’t even realise it’s there. The more smoothly things operate, the more efficient and productive we are, the more engaged we become, and the more school culture is positively influenced.

If the premise of school organisational infrastructure is to ensure teachers can perform well, operate effectively and efficiently, and to better systemise the processes and ways things are done, it is imperative for teacher wellbeing that this is an area of focus for schools.

All of the items in the list at the beginning of this section, and I am sure more, contribute to the infrastructure of the school and can affect teacher wellbeing. It is these things that need to be looked at and adapted if they are not allowing teachers to perform well and work productively and with ease, or if they are causing frustration, stress or adding to teachers’ workloads.

I’m not saying we need to eliminate any of the above infrastructure – each piece is essential to how we work and operate as teachers. Rather, we need to ensure we are finding, implementing and using the most easeful, efficient and effective systems, structures and processes to support the infrastructure in our schools and support teacher wellbeing.

Teacher Wellbeing by Amy Green is available in print and eBook from all major book retailers and Amba Press, the publisher.

Are the systems, structures and processes at your school supportive of teacher wellbeing? Which systems hinder your ability to perform your daily tasks with ease?

As a school leader, how often do you seek feedback from teachers on these questions?

Consider your own school context. If you could change or improve one aspect of your school’s infrastructure, what would it be?