Wednesday 5 February 2020

Fostering well-being and community at our school by starting with the adults in the building

What does it look like when we focus on creating and building healthy and positive relationships between staff members? Why is this important?

Community. This is a word that I value above all else in my practice. As an educator we take the time and we value building community in our classroom, with our students, but do we take the time to do the same with our colleagues?  
“Having a sense of belonging and community in a workplace can significantly change the atmosphere. It is vital to the success and well-being of our staff and students.” -Siobhan Magness

At the start of the year, some teachers were curious about The RULER Approach and wanted to know more about how they could bring SEL into their classroom. Knowing what the research supports, we dove into the building of a staff charter and chose to focus on the well-being of the adults first. We know that when our well-being is taken care of, then we will be able to be more present to take care of the well-being of our students. We took the time during staff meetings to ask ourselves two questions: 
• How do we want to feel in our day to day interactions with each other? 
• How will we make this happen? 

Conversations were rich and productive as we got to hear what was important to our colleagues. We discovered that as a staff we wanted to feel appreciated, supported, valued, balanced, included and inspired. 

We have been working on our staff charter since October and just finished it this week. There is still lots of work to be done as we put our SMART goals into practice. Here is KVR’s 2019/20 Charter:
·       Supported – Check in on a learning partner (teachers, EA’s, secretaries, custodians, admin, counsellors) 1x per week that you don’t normally check in on (at the end of this month we will do an anonymous survey to see if this is being met for everyone, if not we will make intentional pairings for the next month)
·       Respected – When an adult or any other learning partner is in your classroom, teachers will introduce them 100 percent of the time as learning partners. Ex. Have the names of learning partners that will be in your room for that day on the board
·       Connected – There are multiple opportunities to connect with staff in the building, I will participate in one of these opportunities a minimum one time per month Ex. Birthday celebrations, soup club, Friday volleyball, Cannery, staff socials etc. 
·        Inspired – Share a success/celebration/ idea/ something you are trying at a team meeting one time per month. Team leaders will carve out time for this.
·       Valued – We will pick a name one time per month, and we will notice, value and appreciate that person in writing via the compliment box.

“When our staff comes together to connect professionally and/or personally, you can FEEL it in the building: there is a climate of enthusiasm and warmth. We see the smiles, and hear the laughter and banter, and, of course, so do the students, parents and visitors.” – Michelle Glibbery 
By being intentional, and explicit with those intentions, we are building a staff team that is connected and grounded in creating positive relationships with each other. By co-creating these norms, we are laying the groundwork for a staff community that is conscious and aware of our own and each other’s emotions. We are placing value on emotions and are going deeper into how those emotions might affect our day to day interactions with each other. As teachers, we know how important emotions are and how they drive our students behaviour but how often do we get to reflect on how they drive ours?
“By modelling healthy relationships with our colleagues, then students also see what positive, supportive relationships look like.” - Julia Jashke
Community. It is so important that we ALL feel a sense of community in our schools. I’m thankful that I get to work at a Middle School where we are purposeful about building that sense of community not only between our students but with each other as well. 
“Increasing our social-emotional well-being through our connections with each other is an opportunity to build resilience to stressful situations to be able to support each other in both difficult situations and times of celebration. When the adults feel supported and honoured in their practice, they are more likely to be available and sensitive to the unique needs of their learners.” -Nick Korvin

Submitted by Melissa Burdock, KVR Middle School

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