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Fostering Positive Relationships in Educational Environments: The Power of Wellbeing Wednesdays

Mark Nichols - English Subject Lead @ The Avanti Grange Secondary School | Inspiring Student Success

A unique and interesting approach to continued professional development.

In a recent reflection on my professional practice, I delved into the paramount importance of cultivating positive relationships within the school setting. My focus primarily gravitated towards nurturing these essential connections with students, alongside a brief acknowledgment of the significance of sustaining amicable relations amongst colleagues. This article aims to underscore the imperative of fortifying the bonds within our educational staff, whether within a singular school or across a Trust.

Numerous strategies exist to achieve this, ranging from the simple act of sharing a smile, thereby radiating warmth and positivity, to organising staff social events or maintaining a welcoming staff room. A particularly innovative approach is embodied by Avanti Grange's "Wellbeing Wednesdays". Previously discussed in yet another one of my articles, these CPD sessions are meticulously integrated into our professional development calendar. Rather than dedicating this time to conventional meetings or training, we unite as a staff body to partake in activities designed to momentarily divert our attention from screens and desks. The activities take place during contracted hours, meaning staff should come along to attend, if not to take part, then at least to be present so to enrich the bonds we have worked hard to create.

Our experiences have been diverse, including a yoga session that engaged both body and mind, an art workshop that unleashed our inner Picassos, and a leisurely afternoon of tea and cake. Our most recent session, however, was themed around sports, culminating in a collective badminton match. For those who might balk at the notion of physical activity as a form of wellbeing, consider the inclusive nature of this event. It welcomed all, from those who hadn't wielded a racket since their school days to the more competitively inclined who made bold claims of being the under 14 West Wales champion in some bygone era... Some, (I’ll mention no names, Genevieve Millard and Madeleine Roy) cleverly masked their prowess so to achieve a friendly victory – not that I am at all bothered about this!  Beyond physical exercise, this activity fostered a sense of camaraderie, laughter, and sheer enjoyment among us—teachers and leaders alike—reminding us of the joy found in human connection.

Bear with me for just one moment as I'd like to delve deeper into the essence of what we mean by 'human connection.' 

Often, there's a hesitance among us as educators to invest our personal time in social gatherings or school-related events. This reluctance can stem from the pressures of our roles or a preference for safeguarding our personal time. However, when we, as educational leaders, create opportunities for interaction that are convenient and inclusive for all staff members, we achieve something profound. We foster a sense of unity and shared humanity within our school community. By willingly sharing authentic moments of ourselves, regardless of our roles—whether we are school leaders, teaching assistants, teachers, or administrative staff—we underscore the principle that we are all interconnected. This isn't just about building a positive work culture; it's about nurturing a shared sense of purpose and belonging that resonates through our collective actions. In doing so, we lay the foundation for a community that not only educates but also evolves and flourishes together.

Such initiatives extend their benefits beyond the immediate staff community though. By embodying a culture of professional respect, personal vision, and shared values—elements often reinforced through these light-hearted moments—we set a powerful example for our students. Demonstrating collaboration and interpersonal skills in action, we indirectly contribute to their development in these crucial areas.

Moreover, as our team is poised to expand, it becomes increasingly important for new members to witness and immerse themselves in the vibrancy of Avanti Grange's community spirit. Leadership, particularly within the educational sector, can easily become ensnared by the day-to-day demands, inadvertently side-lining the nurturing of a cohesive teaching community. Yet, the sustenance and growth of this community demand our attention and effort—without which, we risk perpetuating the cycle of undervaluation that has plagued the teaching profession for decades.

Reflecting on our most recent Wellbeing Wednesday, I found myself pausing to appreciate the atmosphere within the hall—the laughter, the shared determination, and the joy of the game. Despite a poignant reminder of my physical limits following a minor injury of the knee, the experience underscored the immeasurable value of these moments. They are, indeed, the cherries atop the cake of our collective professional journey, vital for the sustenance and enrichment of our educational community

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