With the start of 2024, many of us are setting goals for the New Year. Last week, in a meeting with leaders from departments across an elementary, middle, and high school, we asked them to share an intention for 2024. It wasn’t a surprise to us that every single one of the leaders named an aspect of wellness that they hoped to focus on - expanded sleep, moving their bodies, building healthy eating habits, and working hard to find the balance between our lives as educators, and our lives as parents, siblings, and friends. This is no easy feat, and requires intentional focus, implemented actions, and the grace to forgive ourselves when we veer off track.
Focusing on wellness is something that our Innovageous team has intentionally spent time on this school year. We've been working with leaders to identify systems and structures to promote wellness among their staff, and working with educators to build their skills, mindset, and exposure to strategies that help them maintain balance and positive mental health. As a result of this collaborative work with schools, we’ve leaned into several foundational beliefs that guide our wellness work with educators.
Leaders need to reflect on their own leadership actions and school’s systems to identify how these actions and systems promote (or don’t promote) wellness and positive mental health in adults across the school.
Wellness activities require input and buy-in from teachers to ensure that offerings are directly aligned to teacher needs and interests.
Identifying and integrating teacher organizational skills and strategies to maximize their time planning and implementing instruction is vital to wellness success.
It’s important for teachers to build their own social and emotional skills to support their own mental health to fill their own cup before pouring into their students and colleagues.
Integrate wellness activities into the contracted day, not as something extra, so that teachers can understand the value of engaging in positive mental health activities as part of their role as educators.
These beliefs play out in our work with schools in tangible ways to empower leaders and educators to address specific issues within their community and lift educator wellness initiatives that impact teacher habits and coping strategies to address stress and frustration. These include:
Refined communication systems to align communication expectations and strategies across the school between leaders and educators, and between educators themselves.
Wellness choice sessions as part of professional development days, such as: dance, crafts, meditation, walking, and games.
Intentional workshops on time saving teacher strategies like creating weekly to-do lists, maximizing the use of Google Calendar, and tapping into the power of Artificial Intelligence.
Encouraging creative scheduling for teachers, including sustaining virtual professional development after school hours and on professional development days so that educators can be flexible and comfortable while engaging in their own growth.
Offering dinner meal kits, laundry pick up services, and embedded flex time to take care of health related appointments.
In a recent survey of Philadelphia teachers conducted by Elevate 215, it was found that teachers are frustrated with their current workload, salary, and access to resources and that they are most motivated by their love for their students and their ability to make a difference. With the need to focus on individual educator wellness, while also continuing to impact students' lives, our Innovageous team has partnered with RecThera to offer a live virtual session based on their new book Nature Walking for Wellness, and how we can use nature indoors and outdoors to promote wellness with ourselves and our students. This session is being offered worldwide on Tuesday, February 6th from 4-5:15pm ET via Zoom. Prior to the session, you’ll receive a copy of the book as a resource. During the live session we will be joined by the book’s author, Dr. Heather Porter, to share background and research on why nature is an important aspect of wellness. Then, our Innovageous team will share ideas to bring nature into your classroom and support your planning of wellness activities with your school community. We hope you’ll join us for the session, either live on February 6th, or for the recorded version. You can register to reserve your spot here!