“As a school, we have been dealing with so many changes to policies, but we’re so conscious of focusing on the children and their needs, as they are the most important thing. I’m often waking up in the middle of the night with so many ideas about ways to do things better.”Liz Stewart, Head teacher , Patterdale C of E Primary School, Cumbria
The stress and anxiety we saw and experienced during the protracted Brexit negotiations now seems almost minor in comparison to the Coronavirus Pandemic and its impact on our health and finances. Today, in modern history, globally, we are all sailing in unchartered waters – waters that are becoming more turbulent each day, and with maybe a massive storm lurking ahead on the horizon.
Stress, anxiety, and other more significant mental health conditions like depression, and even psychosis, can be fuelled by negative thinking. As humans, we have an innate ability to sometimes catastrophise events by looking on the negative side, and in no time at all, we are facing an emotional rollercoaster of emotions that do not serve us well.
If we feed our minds with positive thoughts, these will feed more positive emotions which in turn will lead to more positive behaviours. The very nature of thinking, feeling, and acting positively, precludes our minds from focusing on the negative outcomes. It builds our 100 billion neural pathways in our brains to search for positive outcomes, and that is aided by the secretion of more serotonin, the happy hormone. Conversely, if we focus on the negatives, stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol start being produced rapidly, and over time. this chemical imbalance will cause anxiety and the possibly of other mental health issues. We must not catastrophise events, we should be looking for the upsides, and equally, we should be ensuring we are acting safely within government health guidelines.
Consider booking a whole staff self-care and wellbeing INSET for your school to provide teachers and support staff with strategies to manage anxiety and stress. Click here for more details
Modelling Positive Behaviours
If you are a leader of a school it is vitally important that you model this positive belief. It might be tough at times, but great leaders always pull through. You may well have doubt, and negative thoughts from time to time, but your self-talk must address this immediately and you must empower others to feel valued and for them to be their best. A simple strategy to do this is to imagine the Coronavirus has ended, and after all your actions, how will your school, family and friends view you….as someone who kept strong by being positive, and who empowered others to be their best, or someone who buckled quickly and let events take over and everybody left to fend for themselves?
It is vitally important that beyond positive self-talk and leadership modelling, we create positive routines and structures that allow us to live one day at a time, and not focus too much on the future. Routines that include exercise, good diet, communications with understanding, but without judgment, and distraction time such as reading, watching a movie, or enjoying a craft or hobby, are the cornerstones to navigating each day successfully. Try and be daily producers rather than solely consumers.
This is the ability to ‘compartmentalise’ the day which means to not look at yesterday or tomorrow but focus on what only can be achieved today. Of course, school planning is crucial, but at the onset, it should be about steadying the ship and reassuring the crew, then you can go to work on your forward strategies.
Build Positive Relationships
A school will not achieve optimum functioning if the relationships within and between stakeholder groups and individuals are lacking. A study by New South Wales Commission for Children and Young People in 2009 showed that what children want most from their teacher was very similar to what teachers want most from their colleagues -to be greeted by name and with a smile; to have others believe in them and value their strengths; to feel respected and have their efforts acknowledged and their opinions sought and to have others support them to feel good about themselves by helping them to achieve things. These simple steps go a long way to creating a school culture that maximises wellbeing for all, yet these ordinary things seem to have been lost in many schools.
Take the first step towards developing Positive School Culture by booking our INSET CPD course for the staff at your school
“engaging, inspiring and reflective”
Ross Montague, Head of Upper school, Hampstead Hill School
“We were all buzzing when we left”
Aly Tresize, Canadian International School of Hong KongDelegate feedback on the Positive School Culture INSET