Wellbeing in International Schools

We were delighted to host Dr Sadie Hollins, co-founder of Wellbeing in International Schools Magazine, for our latest ‘fireside chat’ webinar.

Wellbeing is something we’re aiming to make part of every school’s thinking by including PASS Diagnostic Assessment data within our Data Dashboard to give a whole picture of the child (for more on using data for wellbeing watch our webinar with Matthew Savage here).

For this session we explored why Sadie set up the magazine, her hopes for the future, and explored some of the challenges associated with improving wellbeing in international schools, indeed in any school.

I’m delighted to say it was such a successful session that Sadie is going to write a blog for us, AND we’ll be doing a follow-up chat shortly.  Please add your email in the screen below and we’ll keep you posted on both of these.

I hope you enjoy the session and find it informative. It’s about an hour long, so grab a drink and pair of headphones and dive in!


Further information and references:

You can contact Dr Sadie Hollins via her website here and she’s also on Twitter here.

You can contact Matt via LinkedIn or Twitter.

To see how you can incorporate student wellbeing data into your practice using PASS diagnostic assessments on the Data Dashboard, set up a call with Stella here.

The latest edition of Wellbeing in International Schools Magazine is online here.


A computed-generated transcription of the webinar is below, for those who may find this useful. Please note these are automated and not checked, so we take no responsibility of errors, inaccuracies or oddities!


Wellbeing in International Schools, with Dr Sadie Hollins and Matthew Koster-Marcon

Speaker 2 (Matt): Fantastic, so obvious, obvious first question, then is why set up a wellbeing in international schools magazine in the first place?
Speaker 1 (Sadie) : It is a good question, and it originally started as it’s a bit of a pandemic, baby. To be honest, how it originally started as a newsletter that I set up at my school, which was a wellbeing newsletter when we first went online and at the time, I kind of wanted to find a way to provide support to students and parents in a really accessible way that would allow them to engage in their own terms. So I thought news that it would be cool. We could have articles from students, from teachers. And then we also had, like all people present, offered some advice. School counsellors. And it felt at the time something that people did engage with. They did find helpful. It was really nice to get students that wanted to share the sorts of things that they were doing to help manage that transition to being online and kind of been isolated really from their friends and being at home while they were learning. So that kind of started it. I just really, really enjoyed doing it. And then I guess the other piece is I kind of worked in a support role, an international school, and I found like, like interesting how complex it is to provide support in some way. Like, I felt like international school was a kind of their own island. So sometimes there isn’t loads of external services and sometimes there is no counselling, referral system or whatever it is. And I felt like quite alone in the kind of support that I was trying to give students. And also, I was just trying to understand, you know, the well-being within the context of the different students and nationalities, the cultures, the families that we had, our particular school. And I always found the counselling meetings that we had here in Chiang Mai, where I was learning from other counsellors really, really helpful. And I guess I thought, wouldn’t it be nice to kind of bring that together and to have people share things that they found useful in their settings so people didn’t feel so isolated and alone when your staff, particularly in these support roles? So that’s kind of how it started. I just kind of had a curiosity to learn really and then to bring things together from different perspectives. So that’s kind of how it kicked off.
Speaker 2: And then in terms of putting together the Wellbeing in International Schools magazine, obviously, and will we’ll add a link to the magazine at the end of the session, so everybody who’s on the webinar now will send you a link to the magazine and we’ll send you the recording of this afterwards. And I should say, by the way, if you have questions, do tie them in the Q&A and we’ll cover those as well. But presumably is setting up a new magazine is exciting. It’s daunting. How on earth do you decide what goes in your first issue?
Speaker 1: So if I went back to the first one, it’s thought the reason is why is education in it? And I thought it made sense. It was a good name at the time. I thought it had a role personally on a dog walk that stood for like well-being and international school education. So it initially started as that. And I guess when it came to the first issue, I just begged my friends to write for me. So I had friends that were teachers in different settings and counsellors in different settings that I asked them really to write about things that they were interested in and they thought that they could offer. So I dragged and my wife dragged in by my boss and then other friends, and we’ve been really fortunate as the magazine has gone on. So that had four issues, as well as education, which is available the School Management Plus website with the the new Wellbeing and International School magazine. And then I guess I really tried to hit social media hard and share in lots of different places and actually reach out to a lot of people that I’d seen on Twitter or linked in that I thought were doing some interesting work. Initially, I was asking a lot of people, Will you write to me? Will you write for me some success? No, no, not hundred percent success. And yes, people were really generous and did offer up their time to write, and that was really, really cool. And then I guess as things about I’ve grown a bit more, we’ve been getting more submissions, which is fantastic. It’s a really, really great submissions and I feel fortunate that it kind of it. It naturally comes together. So like lots of people offered lots of different perspectives. We try and put cool articles out in lots of different places. So whether it’s internet history, school educator groups, whether we’re talking it in peer groups, whether it’s council groups to make sure that we’re getting lots of different perspectives. So I guess we’re kind of seeing what comes in to make sure that appeals to a wide range of people in a wide range of roles. I always really thought, I guess, the the complexity of the issue sometimes of wellbeing, as people might assume, it’s one particular thing like, you know, it’s mindfulness or it’s at the other, and it just engages other people that are not into that. And I felt like if you get lots of different angles, there should be something for everyone. And, you know, maybe you’ve gone and you’ve got particular interest in mindfulness, but then you come out and actually outdoor play is something that you haven’t thought about before, but you maybe this is an not that you become interested in. So I guess we try and have no particular themes for that reason to make sure that there is something for everyone in each.
Speaker 2: This is going to try a bit of an experiment, we’ve never done this before, so it may fall flat on its face, but you mentioned about getting the message out there through social media and stuff, and I’m wondering for the people on the on the webinar stuff, if you have any really good social media handles or hashtags or groups that you want to share and and give some visibility to to people on the call and put them in the in the chat will collate them afterwards and share them as part of the sharing. Because sometimes I think that’s also half the battle it’s finding everybody else is kind of interesting. One of the things I wanted to pick up on from your intro was this sense of being alone in an international school and not maybe having the support network, possibly where you’ve trained in the stuff. How how do you how do you see the magazine helping get over that? And how did you want this to go beyond the magazine? Is this sort of, you know, a more collegiate approach, sort of, you know, a community of building up in this kind of area because that, to me, sounds like something that we hear reflected a lot. It’s quite difficult when you’re in international school sometimes to do these kind of things in isolation.
Speaker 1: Yeah, absolutely. I think I guess my grand vision is to create a community of some sense. I think what I would love is people to read the magazine and maybe become interested in someone else’s work. Follow them on their social media handles, which are which are in the magazine. And I guess from there, like what’s been really nice to see is I see something posted on own from a country to that we’ve had, and then I see contributors from other issues that commented and because they’ve kind of seen each other’s work through the magazine. And then it starts to be like a really nice support system that goes on organically outside of the magazine. So that I think that is kind of what I’ve really, really appreciated seeing. I just feel like the magazine to me. I’m not a wellbeing expert. I partly selfishly use it to really learn and write. And I think what’s really interesting and I hope it does, is allow people to kind of champion each other’s work and engage in each other’s work. And you know, I’ve I’ve had articles where I’ve gone in and talked about it with my colleagues, and that’s the sort of thing where I think, Yeah, I’m taking someone’s stuff and really passing that on because I think that’s that’s really good. And that’s that’s what I hope the magazine will be and what it will do. And and by actually doing that and and sharing people’s work that it will build a sense of kind of community, I guess.
Speaker 2: And that makes sense. All right, well, again, like I said, if you if anybody was to share anything and put it in the chat world will amplify that and share our stories and we’re starting to get some questions come in around Wellbeing in International Schools. So let me let me sort of address them as they come in because I suspect once we get going, the questions will fly. So one from Debbie does. One is how do you feel about strategy for well-being? Did you sense at some point one was needed?
Speaker 1: Oh, good question, Debbie. I I guess my personal perspective is I don’t know if this reflects my personality a little bit like it. I have lots of different diverse range of interests, so I guess I maybe don’t feel like there is a particular programme or strategy for me that might solve the issue or the problem or not, even the problem that the subject of well-being. But I think it’s there lots of lots of little things that make a difference, right? And I think it’s great when schools have a comprehensive and consistent programme. But I think there’s often lots of different elements that make a difference. So you could have a great school programme. But really, it’s your student teacher relationships that are particularly memorable. Or that might be the things that help the school work really resonate with students. Or perhaps the fun runs that you do every year and the kind of community events that you have building up to that are what helps create an environment where people feel a part of the school, which also impacts on the well-being, or whether it’s the sports programmes for the students that really love that sort of thing where they get a real sense of not achievement, but then where they really grow their confidence and make friends and stuff like that. So I think there’s so many different layers and elements to it. I don’t think, is it necessary for me strategy, but I think it can be part of a bigger picture for sure and add a lot of value.
Speaker 2: It’s something probably in the Wellbeing in International Schools magazine, maybe somewhere else that the recommendation is that a school should have a counsellor or an expert for every 250 students. Is that something that you see starting to happen or are we a long way away from that?
Speaker 1: Yeah, great question. I think it’s starting to happen in the international schools, I think people were really seeing the the need for it. I guess partly the pressure will come from accrediting agencies and really pushing that requirement about stronger support provision within schools and that including school counsellors. I’m seeing a lot of wellbeing or mental health and wellbeing leads in schools. I know that’s kind of I think that’s picking up in the UK, but I’m also seeing it in schools within Asia. So I definitely think that schools are recognising that that that that provision needs to to be in place more more now than ever, I think, because of the pandemic. I think there might be schools that were doing it well before that are doing really well now and the schools that didn’t have it before. I think now more than ever that as we real need for it.
Speaker 2: I mean, I think that it’s interesting, it’s it’s very similar observation to a previous speaker we’ve had on who he talked about very much the schools that had this kind of ethos embedded in the way that they run as a school were able to adapt to the challenge of pandemic much, much better. So other schools are sort of playing catch up, but it’s never too late. So what’s what’s the what’s the the quote? The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is today or something. So it’s probably there. I’m OK. That’s good. Thank you. There’s another question that’s coming in. How do you encode? This is really interesting because this this touches on what Matthew says in his article as well about well-being. He’s sort of arguing needs to be, rather than an intervention, woven woven into everything in the fabric of it. So the question coming in, I don’t have a name of right. How do you incorporate wellbeing within the curriculum for international schools?
Speaker 1: Oh, it’s such a good question, I guess I don’t know the answer. If I if I’m honest, I think there are curriculums are already out there. I know Oxford University Press already got a wellbeing curriculum and Adrian Pune’s is is a big part of that work and he does a lot great work within the area of wellbeing and it was actually a discussion I was having with someone the other day about how do you make it not like, I guess, what you can feel like. It sometimes doesn’t add on less than like, how do we begin to, you know, curriculum lessons? How do you wade into how your physics teacher and your touched on something that might be related to wellbeing? And I guess I’m I’m not sure of the answer, exactly. I think it’s worth looking at the different curriculums out there. But I guess even within that, it’s thinking, would that work for the context? I mean, you know, you can have the best programme in the world, the best resources in the world. But if it doesn’t gel and you don’t get buy in, it’s kind of like it’s a non-starter. And I think maybe it’s to see actually where where are your issues like what are the things that are impacting on wellbeing to start with? And what does a school culture feel like? What are the social norms that are at the school? How does that impact on how students feel staff? So that’s kind of important. First, to get that right and then to also look at how wellbeing as a curriculum, because I think within that there’s there’s a bus to be had about wellbeing being skills, because when that happens, sometimes you’re putting the emphasis on that’s something that the individual has to develop. When is it about a social system and an environment? And I think it has to be both right. So that’s a really poor answer. But I think you have to look at the other things that are in place first. But I would definitely look at some of the questions that are already out there.
Speaker 2: So in terms of then embedding it in a school would would you if you’re sort of, you know, if you’re offering someone some advice about trying to embed it in a school and where they would start, would you be starting to think about the curriculum? Would you be thinking about the ethos of the school? Where would you suggest people direct their efforts, I guess, to start with?
Speaker 1: I think for me, it would be. The ethos of the school, I think that has to be the starting place, and we’re really lucky Sean may write a really good article and the last issue of the Wellbeing in International Schools magazine, which which talks about this, as she was saying, you can have the best programme in the world, but if you’re not getting by in and if if the mission and vision and the understanding what well-being is and what you’re trying to improve or what you’re trying to create or what you’re trying to offer isn’t agreed upon by all stakeholders, then it’s really hard to get any further. So it’s great having, you know, resources lesson information, better information perhaps isn’t compounded by what’s going on at home. Or if you’re not sharing with that with families and parents, then it can only go so far. So I think for me, it would definitely be the ethos within the school first.
Speaker 2: And I’m again, for what it’s worth, the schools that we work with, I think that’s echoed in some of the stuff that we see. The thing that you touched on there is interesting. I want to explore that as well. How important is it that this this this effort that you put around well-being doesn’t finish at the school gates, that that involves the whole community at home, the families, you know, the wider community. How how do you sort of address and look at that as well?
Speaker 1: Yeah, I mean, it’s so, so important. I think I think also, I guess taking another slightly different look at it is also looking at the challenges that the parents and families are facing. It is hard for them to be supportive. You know, if they they will visit their families, but you know, if they’ve got their own stuff going on and then understanding, you know, if they’ve got the support systems in place or whatever it is, if they don’t have that, it’s very hard for them to then help the students. I think that’s the same staff wellbeing. If they don’t feel CAT4, they don’t feel they have that support in place. It’s really hard for that to to model and to provide that support to others without burning out. So I know a lot of counsellors offer some great kind of sessions to two families. And I guess it’s it’s just finding a way to get parents to come in and start discussing some of these issues and finding that hook. So whatever it is, it’s going on. That time might be particularly topical for that sort of school community, and I’m taking it from there and exploring other things that might also be helpful. So I think, yeah, for sure. Finding ways to get common ground, find a way to understand parents. And I guess not assuming that we think. I don’t I think it’s very easy to to make assumptions about what’s going on with parents, particularly in international schools, where there is a lot of money, people can be quite well off. I think the shame, you know, they’ve got everything, can we make all these assumptions? I don’t think they’re necessarily true. So I think it’s really building that understanding first and doing that by finding ways to bring them into school, to have those discussions, to actually to build the trust between the schools and families because it’s quite vulnerable to also kind of share that you’re struggling or even wanting to have a topic to discuss, you kind of implying that you might be struggling with it. So I think it’s really important to build that trust as well.
Speaker 2: I mean, that’s that makes complete sense. That’s exactly the reason why I set up Learning Ladders in the first place, it was not an international context. It was in Camden, which is slightly less glamorous than where most of the people on this call are. But it was the whole point of setting it out. Was that home school collaboration this idea that, you know, we’re in it together, and if we can understand each other a bit better and collaborate, and if parents can understand what, as the teacher, I’m trying to achieve from a teaching and learning perspective. But if I can support you at home from a teaching learning perspective and understand some of your challenges in doing that, then we have a stronger bond and then we can tackle the wider issues. And then interestingly, all schools, because we spend so much time doing this homeschool interaction, the thing that crops up time and time again, the thing they love about that system is it then frees up the parents evenings to be the higher value conversation about well-being. It’s kind of gone full circle. It’s interesting because all the academic stuff is done through art through a platform. It’s digitised, it’s ongoing. It’s there. When you have that big parent meeting the opportunity there, you’re not wasting it by saying, Oh, I’ve noticed that they don’t understand this particular part of the curriculum or they’re behind here or they’re behind that because you’ve done that already. That can be done already. You’re actually having the much higher value. Let’s understand the personalities involved, the context, what’s going on with you. So 100 percent agreement with that sort of things and it fits with what we’ve experienced. Collaborating as a community, as I’ve said, is I’m very glad that you said that that would have been awkward otherwise. All right. Another question has come in. So let’s let’s go to that one. I keep on with the questions. I don’t have a name for this one either, I’m afraid. What methods would you suggest to monitor wellbeing across the school? Please give suggestions for staff and students, and this probably touches on what you were talking about before. As soon as you add it into a curriculum or add it into anything formal, then there comes the the sometimes the the slight danger of of monitoring, measuring, reporting. How would you handle that?
Speaker 1: Yeah, I think it is a really good question. I I guess the first discussion needs to be like, what? What is your initially? What is your definition of wellbeing? What are you trying to say because there’s so many interpretations or understandings? So really nailing down what that is first. I think there are lots of different GL assessment. Do a great tool to help monitor and track wellbeing. There are lots and lots of different tools that help you do that. Matthew Savage that you mentioned earlier, he’s done. I mean, just fantastic work, but he’s done a really great article in the last issue of the magazine where he breaks down, I think maybe five or six different types of data and how they help you gain a real insight into tracking and monitoring that well-being. So like observational data check and data stored data and counselling data, so many different data points that help you gain that bigger picture. And I guess it’s also like, what are you? What are you trying to assess, right? Is it a particular programme that you’re assessing or is it just generally where students are at? I think GL assessment is a great tool because it helps you kind of maybe identify some issues. Generally, it’s not specific to a particular programme. And so I think that that’s I think Matthew Savage to me is the absolute person to go to. He really does some great, great work on that. I guess for me, I’m not very good with numbers and I understand the the need in schools to make sure what you’re investing is is worthwhile. So I understand that and particularly when you have to make decisions across school. And I think the challenge sometimes if you’ve got programmes, is when you get a lot of the programmes that have been created and some are fantastic, but they kind of have principals behind them that maybe went to work initially on an individual basis. So Helen Street talks about wellbeing programmes being the principles underpinning it, being borrowed from clinical settings. And they were really good when you work one one, but they don’t necessarily translate to a school environment. So there might be lots of different information, but it’s maybe hard to get the impact across when you’re translating one from an individual setting to a group setting. I’m like a just a really big fan of just having conversations with students, having focus groups of students, really trying to understand what’s going on, and I understand that that’s how to make strategic decisions on. But I think it really does give you an insight into what’s going on. And before that, this webinar today, I was like, OK, OK, what’s my definition of wellbeing, and Wellbeing in International Schools? So I never really have one. It depends what day you ask me, and I was asking a couple of students, like, what is it? What does it mean? I’m trying to do some research, and they were just like, Oh, it just means like for me that I’m not stressed. And so I thought, Oh, that’s interesting. If we’re measuring it, are we measuring it based on what they think we’re looking for when it comes to wellbeing? And so I was trying to dig a bit more and and they’re like, yep, it’s not stress and it’s not worrying about the future. So well-being that MIS thinking about something that it’s not, it’s not a negative rather than what we’re looking for in well-being maybe is like we’re looking for these like positive things with positive emotions, this whatever it is. So I guess this, there’s multiple pieces to it, and I think there is an absolute value in in both in doing it on a regular basis because I think wellbeing cohorts change year on year. You can’t have something when you say the same, you really kind of have to adapt even within that. So we need to make sure that it’s also collated on a regular basis.
Speaker 2: That I’m going to be and we’ve mentioned him a couple of times, feels like it’s a plug for Matthew. So Matthew Savage, we’d mentioned a couple of times, we’ve done a webinar with him very, very recently. The dashboards, the GL dashboard that you mentioned GL assessments, Matthew uses primarily GL assessments and stuff, and that’s why we’ve built the dashboards that you have in Learning Ladders to actually visualise that data. So again, if you’re not a data expert and you want to easily get the insights from those diagnostic tests and assessments, then you can do that very easily. So we’ll share the links for those as well. We have a big webinar. Matthew and I spend an hour with them, with Jenny from the British school mascot talking about data and wellbeing and stuff, so we’ll share that link. And we have another follow up with Matthew in four or six weeks. So there’s there’s plenty there. I think again, I would Covid for my experience, Echo is useful. Just remember more general point of view, but some observations that I’ve seen simple things like some schools I’ve noticed now, I’ve started having almost within the Reception area, just the simple sort of electronic stand with buttons. How are you feeling today, you know, rag rated or something just to get a very simple overall perception? And I know there are surveys and stuff and there are sort of apps and stuff that you can get which seek to provide insights in this area. So I’ll I’ll give it a desk research and back into the into the blurb that we’ll send out to everybody later. And it’s not an endorsement because I haven’t used it or checked it, but I’ve come across it. I’ve seen it all, and I’ll let you know if that’s that’s interesting or another questions come in. How can I improve students and teachers wellbeing from a governor’s point of view? This is a really interesting one. Somebody who’s recently been appointed as a governor, I can tell you a little bit about this, actually, Busani, because I am a governor, myself and I am in charge of wellbeing in the school at which I governor for. And it’s a relatively new post. It’s a primary school in England, so a very different context. But the thinking behind it was precisely initially to focus on staff wellbeing. And it’s the way we’ve done it that seems to work quite well is super simple. It’s a check in with staff. It’s making sure they know that someone’s available who isn’t a line manager, who doesn’t sit in the staff room, who isn’t physically in the school every once in a while, but has an understanding of the school. So you’re hopefully a good balance of knowing what they’re talking about, but completely removed so you’re not going to bump into this person the next day. And then from a from a child point of view, we’re looking at a lot of this kind of stuff as well. Interestingly enough, in terms of how we can try and see beneath the mask, if you like of children and understand what’s going on with them. So interesting variants of the question I did from that one, I promised CPD, but very fascinated to know what your answer to that one is.
Speaker 1: I guess I feel like I always get really terrible answers. I think it just like it’s like that classic like it depends, right? I think it depends. What are the issues that affect the wellbeing of staff in your schools? You know, we’ve all got individual stuff going on, but I really think it’s it’s showing a genuine willing on behalf of the school to to show that this is a real commitment for us. It’s, you know, I think people say all the time, you know, it’s not a tick box, but when people really feel like you’re really committed to their well-being, I think that’s the first step really, really kind of sharing that across. And I think it’s an opening to the forums in whichever way might be manageable. You know, I understand if you get all teachers in the room and things are tense, that might not be the best way to get the responses to start with, you know, because it kind of, you know, if things are challenging and people kind of jump on each other and maybe not really get into what the problems are, but I think just offering platforms to share that what some of the stresses so having you know, is it as simple as reducing the number of meetings? Is it about actually investing in opportunities for the PD? If that’s something where people feel that they’re growing in a position to bring a sense of competency, that all these sorts of things are going to impact on their wellbeing? So sometimes I think it’s a I commend the book, but it’s like this idea of subtracts. I think sometimes you think wellbeing is adding stuff like, we’re offering what we’re offering more and sometimes actually wellbeing is taken a step back and taking things away. Like what things don’t need to be done. You know, whether it’s a report finding ways that making sure that they feel purposeful so teachers, not just going for the grind of it? You know, I think there’s all these sorts of things just just listening to what staff find stressful. Maybe it’s like everything is crammed into one part of the year. And actually, if we thought was that back with teachers, a little bit better, if you could spread things out a bit more. So sometimes I uh, yeah, I just think it’s just kind of listening to those things. And the more that you listen and show that you’re listening, the more people are going to trust and. So you like that just creates a really positive environment around, so yeah, I guess that would be the main thing for me is to really show that you’re willing to listen and make changes where you can.
Speaker 2: I guess from a governor’s point of view, it demonstrated that specifically and again, just from from my own personal, it’s been something that we did as a as a governing board was say thank you to staff specifically for specific things they’ve done. So they knew that we would thought about it. We looked at it couldn’t be a literal thank you email a handshake when you bump into them. I think we sent out some, you know, chocolates or biscuits or something very, very small, very easy, very low cost. But it had to amend the world because then they know that, you know, people are actually grateful for what they do and recognise it. And it is done so simple things like that and to be complicated again. And from your experience in schools we worked with around the world, the culture from the top right, from the very from the leadership team at the school. A culture of listening and being approachable is super important. So anything the governors can do to make the school leadership team feel like they can be that personality because sometimes the pressure from governors can be overwhelming and that gets passed down, I guess. So those kind of things would be mine. Okay, we got a few questions. So forgive me sort of looking about one of the press range got a question when talking about staff wellbeing. What areas would you suggest we focus on to see a significant impact on her aims, a school counsellor herself or?
Speaker 1: That’s a great question. I think it’s the stuff that we’ve we’ve talked about is one part and something. What we had in the last magazine, which I thought was really interesting, was this idea of like reflective supervision of staff. So I guess staff that are in casseroles that are hearing some heavy stuff like sometimes I feel like they are like, I guess the part, the reason why the magazines they they all run supported and they don’t have a chance to process some of the stuff that’s going on. So I guess that would be one part. I think again, I think it’s that systemic thing, right? Like what is what is what is really going on in the school because I think teachers are not in teaching for the money. They they they’re for the right reasons. They want to be there. And they’re also the type of people that I think are very prone to burnout because they want to take the best job they can. They want to really go above and beyond to help students. So they’ve got all the perfect ingredients to do great work. But they also have the ingredients for burnout, right? Like when is enough enough? And are you in a culture that kind of celebrates you just taking on too much? You know, even even that is that conversation that we have to have like, you know, is great. Your coach went to the school community, but actually, we want you to be OK longer term, right? So we want to make sure that you’re you’re managing that. And so again, I think it’s it’s really assessing what’s going on in the school, what some of the concerns are and working with them. And because I guess, counselling. I know there’s discussion about whether schools should offer counselling to teachers, and I understand that. But I also some counselling isn’t for everyone. Everyone wants to discuss their problems. So does that help some teachers and other teachers feel that they have been left out and it becomes very, very complicated. So I think almost the simpler, the better, I think. And for me, I know that there are sort of discussions that I find out who is like, how can I make it like, but I want to come to work every day? Right. And and I think that feeds off and helps everything else.
Speaker 2: Have you seen success with schemes like mentoring for staff and that sort of stuff? Is that?
Speaker 1: Yeah, I think, yeah, absolutely. I think having mentoring is important. And I think having the time as well, I think having the time that is useful. But yeah, absolutely. I think having those lines of support even within the school, outside of school, I know. I mean, for me, I’ve been involved a little bit in women it and I found actually that as a community outside of school was super, super helpful because sometimes you know, everyone’s tired of what stress you kind of in an echo chamber. But when you go outside, you even reflect actually that things aren’t that bad. And also, you, you kind of get a chance to kind of get things off your chest, Q&A things like some of schools and have that kind of way to let off steam. So I know women, I do a lot of great mentoring work. So those kind of programmes, I think, are really good.
Speaker 2: Okay. But again, if anyone was to share any of those or will collate those and share them with afterwards. It’s interesting what I was going to pick up on something. Forgive my ignorance here. So as a school, as a school counsellor in this area? Do you get provided with sort of peer reviews or reflection opportunity? So I ask this purely because my wife’s a campus therapists and part of what they have to do because of the burden of what they take on is obviously how peer supervision and the chance to talk about their cases and a chance to offload the stress of the job itself, if you like. Does that does that exist in the structure of schools?
Speaker 1: Yeah, I think I think it to. I think depending on the staffing of the school, you know, sometimes you are the only counsellor in the school, but there is the International School Counsellor Association and they offer kind of these kind of groups that you can kind of be involved in and receive that supervision. So that, I mean, you have to seek that out that isn’t always there within the school environment just because there is staffing available. But there are organisations that offer it. And I know and a lot of places, there are groups that our school counsellor groups. So we have a Chiang Mai school counsellor group and there’s a tight International Council group. So even with that in that you can kind of formulate and have these meet people that would allow you to kind of go through that process as well.
Speaker 2: But a big scene from this seems to be reach out, everyone’s in the same boat, doesn’t it? That’s kind of where it started from. OK, another another question is coming in. This is a good one. I think a struggle for me is between. This is for the question of a struggle, for the question is between well-being and what’s needed to be done as part of the job. How do you make sure the collective understanding is not to blur the boundaries and people to be professional?
Speaker 1: Oh, it’s a good question, I guess I’m kind of thinking in different ways. I can tell you I’m I don’t know if I’m misinterpreting that particular question, but I can see when sometimes it may feel like well being can be used as a kind of excuse. Sounds hard, but when people are like, No, I need to discuss my well-being and I think sometimes people like, but we still have stuff to be done that just needs to be in place in this. That the other it’s it’s tough, I think know teachers going to school do know kind of what to expect of what they have to do. I guess it’s the it’s whether there’s additional things on top of that that are causing particular stress at that time. Could they be spread out? So I think sometimes it’s when it all comes together, not all too much. And I guess also it’s. When there’s changes in the school environment as well, right? So I guess when there’s you going from one expectation and things have grown and grown and grown and then it feels like I actually like, I kind of haven’t been able to build up to that or that that doesn’t quite suit me. I’m not sure what the right answer is without that knowing that particular context. And I think it’s sometimes just being honest about, like, yes, I do appreciate that this is a lot at the minute. And even just offering that, like just saying that, I think sometimes is enough. And I guess there can be this thing where I would feel a bit embarrassed to acknowledge, you know what? I am asking you a lot of the minute because it’s like, you know, we need to get stuff done. But even just acknowledging that sometimes just takes the sting out of some that some of the things that you have to do.
Speaker 2: Yeah, I mean, again, from a maybe from a slightly more commercial perspective, I mean, I completely agree with you about teachers being prone to burnout. That’s sad. A kind of an unfortunate reality, isn’t it? I mean, from a commercial point of view, I guess implicit in a question like that of this, this conflict between well-being and getting the job done or results is a is a perception that the two are conflicting somehow and that you you use if you sacrifice performance for well-being. And actually, there’s a ton of evidence out there, which is completely the opposite. You know, people like Google switching to four and a half day weeks or whatever and seeing rises in productivity and stuff like that. So I guess maybe if part of the pressure of not focussing on well-being is a perception that it will impact performance and that you just need to get your head down and get on with it because performance is the most the biggest priority. There’s actually quite a lot of evidence that suggests that that’s not actually the case, that actually people will perform better when their well-being is higher. So that would be the first thing. And I suppose just from a purely practical thing, something that we’ve always found really useful is we talk a lot about internally here at Learning Ladders in a managing down is super easy. Anyone can manage down. Managing up is hard. That’s what’s really tough and a really simple technique that we try and do here is if you’re feeling under stress and people are asking you to do more and more, simply reply and say, Yeah, absolutely, what do you want me to not do in order to make time for this? So push it back to whoever’s giving you. That is a really simple conversation. It’s perfectly professional, perfectly respectful, but I’m working at full capacity plus at the moment and you’re asking me to do something else. I totally get it. I buy into it. I want to support you. What do you want me to drop in order to do this new thing that you’ve asked me to do, whether that’s always possible in your environment or not. But I mean, it may be worth maybe worth a try.
Speaker 1: Yeah. So I just maybe think, you know, I feel like we’re students. So if we look at the students saying when they’re struggling or not engaging in work or not keeping up. You know, sometimes the idea of like behaviour is communication. And sometimes I feel like even that happens as an adult, right? And if if if staff are struggling things, it’s just kind of getting curious and understanding, why is there a lot of invisible labour that they’re doing that we’re not quite knowing about, which is maybe taking up a lot of the time, you know, helping students pastorally. That takes up a huge amount of time and you don’t necessarily see it. So understanding what they’re doing, what’s taking up a lot of time being curious about why they’re struggling or if it’s a particular task that they’re putting off and putting on the students? Why is that? Well, maybe they’re just misunderstanding or need a bit more support or are unsure under confident. I think sometimes just getting curious as well about why there are struggles and also help a lot.
Speaker 2: Yeah, I’m again, a really good point. And exactly, funnily enough, I think one of my colleagues is on the call, so we’ll be giggling at that because we had exactly that conversation a couple of days ago. Colin, feeling overwhelmed, got a lot on at the moment and going through, Well, what are you actually working on at the moment? OK, this is probably actually not a priority anymore, but you know, my bad, I haven’t communicated that properly or whatever. So a simple conversation being open and you know, you can resolve that problem. So yeah, I think conversations are all. Another question coming in. We’ve noticed that, folks, we’ve got about sort of ten minutes left. If anybody has any other questions, then do lots of really positive feedback in the chat as well. So thank you for that. Mainly for U.S. senator. Why? I’m saying thank you, but I’ll pass that on. So another question coming in, we’ve noticed is that focussing on well-being, especially for staff, became more about having a positive attitude no matter what, no matter what, which actually negatively impacted on the well-being of staff. How do we stop this from happening in a school?
Speaker 1: It is so, such a good question, because the I don’t mean to keep saying this and I plug in the magazine, it’s just makes me think of some stuff that we’ve had in the magazine that kind of reflects some of these points. And just in the last issue. She did a school spotlight on college, and she was saying actually that they’re not allowed to use the B-word and at school, like because that evokes like bad feelings, right? So they’ve had to find a way to. It’s still the same thing. It’s just called something else because in that particular by it’s come to have even negative connotations are not not useful connotations. And I completely understand it because it’s the same. You know, I’ve experienced the same thing. Like, some people are like, Yes, well, being great and other people like, can you stop talking? So I think, you know, it’s understanding or having discussions about what it is absolutely like. You know, being positive all the time is isn’t helpful whatsoever, and it’s not what it is. And it’s just kind of maybe having a chance to redefine that or to think about what would be a useful phrase to encapsulate or word to encapsulate what you’re trying to do, right? So it doesn’t have to be wellbeing, it could be something else. And I think it’s just making sure you’re finding ways to have a discussion that it’s not synonymous with being positive. It’s absolutely not. It’s about I think it’s it’s also about being able to get through the hard times, right? It’s being bounced back from from those kind of experiences. And I think it is just some. I think at the moment it is an overload of discussions around real big and I think it’s super, super important. But at the same time, that’s always going to have the benefit of turning people off as well, which is really hard to overcome. So I guess I’d think about whether there is a different word. If it’s really, really not working in your environment, that would encapsulate the same sort of things that you’re trying to do or just make it less obvious, and they’re much more subtle in kind of some things that you’re trying to do.
Speaker 2: And I mean, it has to be authentic as well, doesn’t it? I mean, if if the interpretation of well-being is thou shalt be positive all the time, then that’s fundamentally misunderstanding what you’re trying to achieve, I guess, isn’t it? So if you’re going around the school putting posters of keep calm and carry on and have a smile and all this kind of stuff, that’s something you’ve cracked well-being. And then possibly, you know, you need a he’s got a course or read a magazine. So yeah, I guess that’s a challenge. All right. Time for a couple more. Another question is, come in Matt’s comment about managing up. What would you suggest to promote staff wellbeing if it’s not a priority for management? I mean, I suppose from my perspective, as somebody who runs a company, I guess again, there’s an assumption that management’s priorities are not aligned. So trying to have an understanding of what you perceive management’s priorities to be would be a starting point and then attack that. So if you take the example from before the management’s priorities are, you know, independent international independent schools is a tough, tough market at the moment. There’s a lot of competition. Parents have choice and they’ll they’ll move. So senior leaders are under a lot of pressure to demonstrate that schools perform and a lot of the time that performance is viewed as academic attainment results, entry into better schools, universities and that kind of stuff. So the whole attainment paces is an important one, and performance is an important one. Like I said, there’s a lot of evidence to suggest that both staff and children who have a greater sense of well-being or higher well-being, or however you want to define it, perform better. And again, I’ll send some links to the stuff that we do. So that would be the first thing. Have a conversation with them on their terms. This is not something that you want to do that’s going to have a distraction from the core purpose of the school, if you like, this is actually going to enhance it, as I suspect most of us on the call would probably argue that what’s the point of being in education if you’re not looking after the well-being of the children and the teachers, you have a duty of care to your community. But if you’ve got a really hard nosed CEO or principal who’s under a lot of pressure and feels like they really just have to see some results and this isn’t a priority, personally, that would be my suggestion. Stay down and if you’ve got better ideas or other ideas.
Speaker 1: It’s a tough one, because I think sometimes, you know, in an ideal world, maybe that’s not the right environment. Would you look to move somewhere else and that just sometimes isn’t always feasible. And also, you know, to some people, if they are hard on that not being a priority, that it’s very difficult to change, right? So I guess it’s that question of is that the right school for you? Is there a possibility to change? And if there is not, then I think it’s about you. It’s I guess it’s finding your ways to manage that. So I think that’s where colleagues support is so important. I think that’s where it’s really important to have boundaries around work to have stuff outside. If if it’s a hard environment and that work bleeds into your home life, that that’s like doubly bad, right? So I think it’s trying to find outlets when you can’t change that one, you can’t change the system. It’s finding your own safe spaces in your own spaces for support to help you deal with that. Not that you shouldn’t have to, but I understand like and in some environments is super challenging as well.
Speaker 2: Right answers. I’m going to take one more that’s already in the chat if anybody wants to pay any more for, we’ve got time for one more after that. This next one is is a great question. I think next MIS how do we improve the well-being of special needs children who we’re not able to cater for during the blended learning or remote learning and shift from face to face and hybrid mode of learning during the pandemic? That is one for you.
Speaker 1: I mean, that is a that’s a really great discussion, and if I’m honest, I don’t think I feel qualified to answer that. But I do feel that that is that’s actually something that’s played on my mind quite a bit and something that I really would like to include in the magazine because I think that’s often missed out of discussions with students who have special educational needs, like talking about well-being and support for those students with those additional needs. So I think I guess it’s hard because you can’t do everything right. You are restricted. We’re in a restricted time. You can only do what you can. And I guess the most the time where you have most impact is when you are able to be in person. So I think is there is consistency and whatever support systems, whatever things you do when you’re in school, is what matters. And I think that hasn’t changed from before. But I guess you have to focus on what you can do and not look, it’s just an imperfect world at the moment, but I think there’s a lot of learning to be had because this is even what’s been going on for a couple of years. We’re refining a ways of teaching, reframing how we deliver online education. So I think my feeling would be again to is to reach out to other staff that are also in that position that are to find out what, what kind of strategies they put in place, particularly in that blended learning environment and to see those sorts of things work for you, but also to focus on what you can do and focus on what you already have, particularly when you are able to be in-person.
Speaker 2: It’s right there that was very strange, we all seem to get kicked out, then at the same time, I’m not sure what happened. I Zoom seem to have a bit of a female mouse. Come on to rescue us. What happened to them? We all got kicked out of the webinar, but anyway, thanks rescued it now. So well, sorry about that bizarre and the on the website, I think we probably covered most of the questions. Let me just check if there was a last one coming in on the queue. No, I think we’ve answered all of those ones, but we’re going through here. Just check it was about the special needs children and how we do that, as well as one comment I was going to make as we Learning Ladders is is a mainstream product. It’s used by Pass scores for that. But we do actually have a lot of special schools, specialist special schools, special needs schools who use it because it’s very flexible and stuff. So I will reach out to a couple of them and maybe see they might like to write an article for the magazine or give them some insights into how they’ve managed this. This challenge in the pandemic. So there may be a maybe an opportunity there for us to help. So if the person who asked that question is still on the line and hasn’t been cut off, we’ll we’ll we’ll try and come full circle and get that in a future magazine edition for you from from one of the Learning Ladders members who might be able to answer that one. All right. And we are coming to the end of the session. So I just wanted to say a massive thank you. I think the volume of questions and the interaction is a sign that this is a hugely important area. So we should every success for the magazine, you’ll have to come back and we can have a follow up at some stage. Thank you to everybody who’s on the call. We will circulate the recording. We’ve promised a few links that will collate and stuff like that, so we will do all of that as well. Like I said, if you’re interested in having a look at more of these kind of areas, let me just Q&A this again for you. Then you can find all of the blogs and all of the ones that we’ve done in this series on the Learning Ladders sites, particularly Matthew Savage. We’ve we’ve mentioned a couple of times. If you are looking at visualising and using your data around wellbeing, particularly the GL Pass data, and you want some help with that. We have a dashboard which you can use and access to just get in touch and we can help you with that. But with three minutes to go before our allotted hour, I’m going to draw that one to a close side once again. Thank you so much for that. Everybody else. Thank you so much for joining us on this Wellbeing in International Schools webinar and hope to see you on a future one. Thank you, everybody.

Picture of Dr Sadie Hollins, editor of Wellbeing in International Schools Magazine

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