Wellbeing has never been more of a focus in schools than during the last twelve months. With budgets being stretched in every direction though, does introducing wellbeing have to be a budget busting expense?
Anyone who has spent time in schools during the last year will have seen how exhausted and overwhelmed everyone is. From headteachers and governors to the smallest children everyone has been impacted by the changes to routine and all the additional worries caused by the pandemic.
Of course there have also been many additional resources to buy, hand sanitiser to name just one. Now that we have hopefully passed through the eye of the storm and are coming out the other side though our attention has turned more than ever to wellbeing. Not just of our children but also of school staff.
Many of us have been functioning on adrenaline and it is only now we are truly realising the impact on our health, mental and physical.
With budgets tight and wellbeing needing addressing what is the solution?
There are many companies offering training for teachers in mindfulness and wellbeing, and they are all wonderful, but with many of them requiring hours of study and for staff to attend many days of training during school hours, it makes them out of reach for many schools, particularly smaller ones. While what and how we teach shouldn’t be about budget unfortunately in most schools it has to at least be taken into account.
When you introduce mindfulness in school in a very short time you will see a change in your students. Mindfulness is proven to improve concentration and memory, it helps children to understand and regulate their emotions. In studies students did better in tests and behavioural problems were dramatically reduced when mindfulness was introduced. (Read the research).
Introducing wellbeing can be as simple as doing some breathing exercises with your class every morning, or having a story time every afternoon. Most mindfulness and wellbeing can be introduced with few or no resources and in as little as 5 minutes a day. Of course introducing a structured programme is incredibly beneficial to everyone but it is by no means essential. Neither is elaborate and expensive training. One thing I discovered very early in my teacher career was that we were expected to teach all manner of things without any formal training; gymnastics, ICT, swimming, french… the list goes on. All of these things were either not taught as part of my training and later introduced or were taught but then had to be dramatically updated regularly. I did it. We all do. Teachers can teach. That’s our superpower. We don’t need fancy qualifications, just some basic information and perhaps some instructions and teachers can teach almost anything.
If you are reading this you have undoubtedly had to teach something in addition to the curriculum you were trained to teach.
I remember vividly the first time I realised that I was going to be in charge of taking my very first class swimming. I had to walk them to the local swimming pool then lead the swimming lessons and walk them back. As I was teaching in Bradford and all the children in my class were muslim I had to take the boys in the morning and the girls in the afternoon. The whole of my Tuesday was spent on swimming lessons. It was overwhelming. Not to give too much about my age away but there was no YouTube and although I had the internet at home, it had limited resources in comparison with the wealth of resources and tutorials now.
You can learn almost anything by reading…
So, I went to the library and got all the books I could find on teaching children to swim and then I got on with it. By the end of the year my class could swim. It was one of the most rewarding moments of my career. They achieved everything with a little effort and my library books.
If we can learn to teach swimming with a few words on a page then we can certainly learn mindfulness and wellbeing. In reality mindfulness was not something that needed to be taught until our lives got too busy for our brains to cope. When our grandparents and great grandparents were growing up they didn’t need to concern themselves with mindfulness because so much of their lives was mindful. When they were cooking, or gardening or washing clothes or dishes they weren’t thinking about anything else. Now we spend less time doing these jobs and while we are doing them we have music or television or notifications pinging on our phone, our thoughts are scattered and our attention divided almost all the time. Mindfulness is as simple as doing things with intention and focusing on what we are doing fully. Once upon a time it was not something that needed to be taught, it was our default setting. Now though as attention spans get shorter and lives get busier we need to be reminded how to be mindful.
When I created Calmer Classrooms it was to allow schools to introduce mindfulness and wellbeing in a budget friendly way.
aI knew that if I could create resources that had simple and concise instructions teachers would be able to teach wellbeing without any training at all. Whether it is a breathing technique, yoga pose or lesson plan based around a popular story, with a few simple instructions any teacher can pass on these techniques and strategies and calm their class in minutes.
By ensuring that the activities are explained in short, simple terms it is possible to grab an activity and introduce it with little, to no, preparation. There is enough paperwork and preparation in education, if wellbeing is going to be introduced it ought to add little to no extra work, be a pleasure to teach and not blow the budget.
There is no point in calming the children and stressing out the staff!
Whatever your school budget, there is always something else that money can be spent on, so keeping the cost of my resources down is important to me. Everything is in downloadable format which means you get instant access and it keeps costs down. I also offer INSET sessions if you feel that your staff would appreciate additional support or an introduction to teaching wellbeing and mindfulness.
Whether you choose to use my resources or find wellbeing material elsewhere, I hope that you will enjoy teaching this life skill to your children and that you all soon see the benefit of introducing this to your day.