Water does not resist. Water flows. When you plunge your hand into it, all you feel is a caress. Water is not a solid wall, it will not stop you. But water always goes where it wants to go, and nothing in the end can stand against it. Water is patient. Dripping water wears away a stone. Remember you are half water. If you can’t go through an obstacle, go around it. Water does.Margaret Atwood
As we go back into whatever work may look like for many of us, wellbeing and workload are being discussed again, as many teachers share their concerns and anxieties. These do not simply rest with teaching and learning, understandably, and it isn’t as easy as less marking, less emails, less admin. Teacher wellbeing- everyone’s wellbeing- runs a little deeper than that at present, as we try to make sense of what is a rapidly changing and uncertain state of affairs (and that’s putting it mildly).
What does remain at the centre of what we do is people. There has never been room for ego, hero leadership or quick-win silver bullets when it comes to wellbeing, and this has never been more relevant. One person cannot take the load. One solution will not fix the problem. One-off gestures will not last the distance required to hold us together as a profession.
So, where does that leave us? How do we endure a situation where much of what affects us feels out of our control? I have spoken many times about the importance of a discourse in schools and it is this element of our profession that I want to highlight once again. When we speak less, there is less clarity to what we do. When we fail to take the temperature of how people are, as opposed to how much work there is, is when we have stopped listening. When there is a failure to balance external distractions from the success to act as a collegiate that we have experienced as a school community, over and over, we allow others to frame our narrative for us, and speak on our behalf. It leaves us feeling not only isolated, but also indadvertedly under the impression that help isn’t freely available to us, when in fact, this could not be further from the truth.
I have found that when communication is honest, supportive, and in thick abundance, we build a series of moments where relationships can take place. When we work hard to be more intuitive to where people are, not in relation to a to-do list, but as human beings, we learn to assess how much or little people need from us. When, as a profession, we create the boundaries necessary to find a balance between allowing enough information to filter through that is necessary, but not so much that it feels overwhelming and unhelpful, then we regain the level of control we need to feel, in even the most helpless of situations.
Wellbeing is not fixing or finding answers. It is not taking jobs from those that will feel powerless, or ensuring you keep busy when you are exhausted. It is not fuelling anxiety with an overload of knowledge, or ignoring the boundaries you set to protect yourself or others. More than ever, it is listening and talking, and not underestimating just how powerful those two things are in creating the collection of moments that enables us to move through time.