The education community needs to put their collective strength together for everyone’s wellbeing; and ​Edruptor, Al Kingsley, is here to advise on how to create this strong community.

Here we are in September, at the beginning of another new academic year!

Whatever our role in education, I think most of us approach this time of year with excitement and enthusiasm. There are new cohorts of students to meet, new staff to welcome on board, new friendships to be cultivated and much to learn. If previous school years are anything to go by however, in reality, at some point, a heap of different challenges will present themselves, some of which can be managed and overcome and some that will prove much trickier to navigate. That’s when we really need our support networks.

Collective strength

With wellbeing now a recognised issue for students and staff, many schools are working to alleviate the relentless pressures and provide some relief. It’s not easy but every initiative, no matter how small, is one small step of progress.

More than ever, when we think about mental health and wellbeing, the challenges for the workforce and in the sector, the common denominator is the support that we get from our peers – both practical and emotional. There is strength in numbers and, as I reflect on my learning network, there is a real perception that one of the easiest ways to save time is to work together, learn from each other, seek and give advice, and share our resources. And talking about what hasn’t worked for us is as important as what has, so colleagues can save time learning what we have just learned ourselves.

Whether we choose to do it through the written word, the spoken word, social media channels, or the staff room, the sense of community is something we must do our utmost to foster.

Keeping it human

With so much emphasis on digital, we must not forget that humans are social beings and, therefore, making time for each other in person is vital. Your social media contacts won’t notice a change in your demeanour if you’re struggling. No matter how well-intentioned they are, it’s simply not possible because they are not physically there with you. But watchful colleagues can simply ask, ‘How are you doing? How are you getting on?’. That opens the door for someone to say, ‘Actually, I’m struggling with this. Do you have any advice?’.

We all need help at different times. The workplace has never been that comfortable a space to share when we have difficulties, but education in many ways leads the field. It’s still far more accepting than the corporate landscape, where admitting to wellbeing struggles is still often stigmatised, despite what we all went through during the pandemic. The education sector should embrace this and lead by example so that other industries recognise they can learn from us.

A two-way street

Feeling alone does not help us to do our best work in school, nor does it help students to engage and progress. It’s in every school’s interest to dedicate time and effort to creating staff and student communities that are welcoming and supportive spaces for everyone. Having access to a network where you can find understanding, help and empathy is so important. It makes us feel that we belong, are valued and accepted, and can connect with others to achieve our common goals. Plus, over time, being part of a community can boost everyone’s personal progress, resilience and wellbeing. It’s ‘your team’ against the world and it makes an enormous difference to feel part of something that gives you these superpowers.

So, this academic year, let’s really concentrate on harnessing the benefits our school communities can deliver and give as much as we receive. That way, we can all ‘R.I.S.E.’ together!

Author

  • Al Kingsley

    Al is CEO of NetSupport, chair of a multiacademy trust, chair of his local governors’ leadership group, Regional SEND Board chair and member of the Regional Schools Director's Board. Well-known in EdTech, Al speaks regularly at international education events and has authored three books.
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