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Supporting schools to support staff to support students

By June 22, 2020 No Comments

In this clear and engaging talk, Richard Chambers, clinical psychologist and mindfulness expert speaks about the need for mindfulness in education “It needs to be the sauce not the side-dish in education. We need to integrate it into each moment of the classroom and not just as an add-on…”  Melbourne University demonstrate how this can be achieved by bringing the teachings into each academic field in the most relevant way.

He goes on to describe examples of this and mentions the vast improvements on an academic, well-being and social-emotional level. His talk was 3 years ago and his mental health predictions were for this year. Despite getting more airplay, long-term, sustainable strategic approaches to mental health in education is a long way from meeting the needs we face. He claims then “We need it now more than ever” and if we add the unpredictable events of this year into the equation, imagine the impact and need for this now.

I have been working in this field for the last decade and am encouraging all the schools and local authorities to get in touch and discuss their current well-being needs so we may work towards supporting our teachers, students and communities as a whole.

From my experience, working with other educational organisations, EP services and Public Health towards a longer-term vision creates a more lasting, wide-reaching and effective support. Even though this is a very busy time with the re-introduction of students to the classrooms it is also an important time for schools and support services to consider getting strategies in place for when the time is right. Offering immediate support can alleviate some of the initial overwhelm and long-term plans as Richard mentions can “Improve their mental health, help them to study more effectively and create a totally different trajectory for life.”

Stress and burn out are commonplace in the industry.  Allocating sufficient time and resources to look after staff, students  and the well-being curriculum is essential. Educating staff to better understand, manage and live in a way that promotes their own mental, emotional and physical health not only addresses the stress related illness in the industry but also demonstrates naturally how students could live, learn and ‘be’ well.  Hopefully with the new Relationship and Health guidelines for schools and well-being featuring highly on the agenda, there is more scope to make positive change.

Guy Winch, speaker, psychologist and advocate for psychological health describes how we learn physical health from an early age, we learn to put a plaster on a wound and clean our teeth but we are not taught emotional health.  Every day we are subject to emotional injury from failure, loneliness to rejection and these can get worse if left untended. “It is time to bridge the gap between physical and psychological health…Can you imagine a world where people were psychologically healthier!”

Learning to recognise and regulate the daily stressors in our lives affects our ability recognise and support others.  The widely used metaphor about putting the emergency mask on yourself before tending to others is a visible reality in our current climate.  Providing relevant, practical and manageable ways to support our educators will help support our students.

There are over 4 decades of medical research demonstrating the effectiveness of mindfulness as a way to manage mental health.  Mindfulness is recognised and promoted by the NHS and mental health support services.

Here in the North East, Hartlepool Borough Council has led a remarkable example of how we can bring mindfulness into our education system borough-wide.  Their aim was to make every school a mindful school and over a three-period school staff from each school were taught to live more mindfully before training to teach the ‘Know Your Mind’ course to children. It has been an incredibly effective foundation, on which they can now build. With mindfulness teachers already placed in school to work with students, Mud and Lotus offer additional staff training to support all staff members and  provide resources for adults and students so each class can make mindfulness ‘the sauce not a side-dish’.

Professional training is as essential in mindfulness as in any other field.  Unfortunately some people feel that anyone can do it. This can place unnecessary burden and stress on those in roles who are unqualified yet feel pressurized to deliver it.  From my work with counsellors, teachers, NHS staff …they have often expressed this pressure and the additional stress it creates. It also means it will most likely be unsuccessful and close doors if not done well.

From experience, I firmly believe teacher-led, interactive learning is the most effective means to develop enduring change and create a natural well-being culture. On-line resources are brilliant and best used when healthy foundations are in place. Please use the free available resources and arrange for teacher-led sessions to create in-depth understanding, relevant and practical learning.

Well-Being at Work

Mindfulness can be applied to all areas of life.  Talks and training can be tailored to apply to what you need.

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