Wellbeing is at the heart of so much of what we see and do. It takes up huge sections of the weekend papers! Radio and TV shows are devoted to it and I can’t count how many times I’ve heard the term, ‘Student Well-being’. It was only a matter of time that teacher wellbeing became a contemporary issue— BUT… what is wellbeing?
The best definition I could find comes from the World Health Organisation which defined wellbeing as “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.
So wellbeing can be look at as a few things:
- Absence of illness
- Physical wellbeing
- Mental wellbeing
- Social wellbeing
Starting with the easiest items and working on, let’s look at the Absence of Illness. These would fall into systemic issues such as the removal of asbestos and dealing with workers compensation injuries etc. Many structures already exist to cover this.
Physical wellbeing: Is this the responsibility of our schools or do we carry that as a personal responsibility? Many workplaces have gyms or corporate memberships to nearby gyms. I must admit when I was teaching in Singapore we had a corporate membership for the gym next door and that was great because we not only used it but going together also boosted the social cohesion of staff. The question remains though, who is responsible for our physical heath? Surely we as individuals bear the brunt of that?
Mental wellbeing: For the purpose of this blog I’m excluding mental illness. Anyone suffering mental illness, as with any illness should be entitled to the health professional support that they need. So what other factors could impact on mental wellbeing? How about stress, lack of respect, bullying, being overworked? All these things damage mental wellbeing. The solution is relatively simple, happiness. A happy workplace is relatively stress free. People are happy when they are respected both from clients, staff and management. People in the workforce are there to work, but overwork is not good for anyone. People should do their job and feel that they have enough time to do the other important things in their live, look after their mother, pick up the kids or go out with friends.
Social wellbeing is fundamentally tied to mental wellbeing as humans are social beings and having that positive social connection is crucial to mental health. Having said that surly having that ‘happy workplace’ where people are valued and respected leads to a healthy socially balance workplace.
So is the teacher wellbeing MYTH simply an acknowledgement that schools are not always the happiest places to work? Maybe a focused approach at bringing joy back into the workplace work cure many of the wellbeing ailments in the education sector.