why should principals address mental well-being in 2018?
The job of principal is a busy one at the best of times, but the beginning of the new school year can be particularly stressful.
As such, having an effective well-being strategy is important – but not every strategy is the same and can vary depending on whether it is evidence-based and how embedded it is throughout the school.
Below, The Educator asks Principals Australia Institute CEO, Paul Geyer, how principals can ensure that their own well-being – as well as that of their students and staff – is robust heading into the new school year.
TE: What are some tips that principals can use at the start of the 2018 school year to ensure the mental well-being of themselves, their staff and students?
Schools that include whole of school well-being in their strategic plans will help principals be better equipped to manage their own mental well-being.
Better planning and focus on ensuring their school implements key programs, professional learning and time out for whole school well-being, will not only help the principal but also the teachers and ultimately this will have a positive effect on students. Schools are looking to include well-being into their overall strategic plans, but principals also need to role model their own well-being before they can impose it on others.
We have developed principal and teacher well-being workshops, which will continue to be rolled out in 2018. The key with such workshops is the continuous support and ongoing reminders for teachers and principals to continue to focus on individual strategies to support themselves and also work with their peers and colleagues.
PAI’s accredited instructors also deliver Youth Mental Health First Aid, a two-day workshop authored by Mental Health First Aid Australia. Participants learn how to assist adolescents who might be developing a mental health problem, or are in a mental health crisis.
The evidence base for Social Emotional Learning (SEL) programs reducing classroom behaviour problems is sound and schools should recognise the linkage to improving teacher wellbeing, including wellbeing for students, teachers and school leaders in school strategy or improvement plan is important to get focus and momentum.
TE: Looking at the mental health resources currently available – as well as principal workload changes in some states – would you say schools are on track for a better year in the context of seeing improved well-being for staff and students?
Well-being is now on the table, not just in schools but also in business workplaces. Schools are much more advanced and have a head start in driving change within their schools compared to business, but ultimately school leaders must also focus on themselves and their teams as well.
Some states are removing the pressure of workload by hiring business managers in schools. This is a positive step, but won’t fix the issues that arise from stress and a lack of personal well-being. School leaders need to look at ensuring their teams and staff are all focused and are on the same page in delivering their schools strategic plan. To do this a whole of school well-being program needs to be implemented and must become a key element in the rollout of KPIs and measures to track success within a school.
TE: Are there any particular initiatives the PAI are undertaking in the year ahead to ensure that the support it provides principals is strong, or enhanced?
PAI can support school leaders to develop and implement their whole of school mental health and well-being plan and incorporate this into their strategic plan for 2018. From school leader well-being, to teacher well-being to student well-being, there are many different options and programs that can be implemented.
PAI continues to develop PD in other leadership areas for school principals, collaborating with key partners to help roll out support for school leaders. Some of our latest offerings include Family School Engagement, Graduate and Grow program, Education based Leadership Coaching and a focus on Schools and the Law. In 2018 we will also support staff performance management and financial literacy support for school leadership teams.