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Wellness is a global concept with no borders or boundaries and is culturally expressed and experienced. Wellness pioneer and 2017 NWI Halbert L. Dunn Wellness Award recipient, Jack Travis, states that “My summation of 40 yrs work in 6 words is: "The currency of wellness is connection." We have much to learn from one another no matter where we call home. Please join us to share your wellness stories here so expanding your connection with all wellness seekers across the world.

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Medical practice and Wellness Ideals: Some Transformative concepts

Posted By NWI, Monday, May 21, 2018
Originally Posted By NWI, Monday, May 8, 2017
To access the current and 60 plus members only archived International Wellness Connection articles, become a member
 HERE >>


Dr. Halima Goss, PhD 
Doctor and wellness advocate

As a small town medical doctor (with a Wellness framework in mind), I am challenged daily to balance treatment models and wellness goals.  In the crafting of patient care, my intention is to patiently combine modern medicine and Wellness based ideals with compassion and kindness.  I work with nurses, physiotherapists, podiatrists, optometrists and a host of other allied health professionals.  It is unfortunate in Australia that our public medical funds purse has yet to embrace Wellness coaches as allied health professionals.  The upshot is that we are unable to include Wellness coaches as part of “team care plans” for eligible patients.  If a person wishes to use a Wellness coach, they must fund 100% of the fees.  This is in contrast to other professional groups like for example psychologists, exercise physiologists, and dietitians whose fees are recoverable through our Medicare system.  With time, and greater attention to refining effective paradigms and practices in both medicine and other professions, Wellness constructs as guiding principles may flow more freely.  For now, those who adopt and practice Wellness in treating and helping patients with Illness are those individuals who strive to empathize and educate in transformative ways.

In authoring this article, I hope to share some ideas that are inspiring and helping me develop in my role.  Whilst these ideas may not come from the Wellness literature, I am convinced that they should be essential reading for those wanting to pursue Wellness based practice.

Recently, I learned about a concept called “presence” from the field of existential analysis in psychiatry.  Author, Kirk Schneider (2015) offers this definition:  “a complex mix of appreciative openness, concerted engagement, support, and expressiveness, and it both holds and illuminates that which is palpably significant within the client and between client and therapist.”

Schneider (2015) further notes that presence “ embraces a much fuller and richer range of elements that may include a degree of discord and discomfort with another person.”

In contrast to mindfulness, presence is a mutual currency which we spend freely to grow honest and respectful  curiosity within relationships. Schneider (2015) states that “unlike conventional mindfulness, presence does not concertedly aim to dissolve the identity of self (if that is even achievable), but to expand, deepen, and redefine the identity of self. Finally, unlike conventional conceptions of mindfulness, presence aims to coexist with and integrate not necessarily detach from suffering”.

I began to reflect on how this idea fitted with those from Wellness coaching paradigms.   Wolever et al (2013) defined Health and Wellness coaching as:

A patient-centered approach wherein patients at least partially determine their goals, use self-discovery or active learning processes together with content education to work toward their goals, and self-monitor behaviors to increase accountability, all within the context of an interpersonal relationship with a coach. The coach is a health care professional trained in behavior change theory, motivational strategies, and communication techniques, which are used to assist patients to develop intrinsic motivation and obtain skills to create sustainable change for improved health and well-being.

This definition is heavily technocentric and is perhaps more closely aligned to traditional medical approaches than humanistic approaches.   Transformative learning is the hoped for outcome, but without a shared journey of transformation, is the process likely to be effective?

Schneider strongly encourages that psychotherapy training must incorporate humanistic and relational qualities to help trainees become well-rounded (engaging-empathic) people, not just competent technicians. He (2015) concludes:

 ” the optimization of presence is neither “performed” nor “enacted.” It is lived.

Wellness based practice must also consider these urging.  Perhaps a good starting point may be found in the work of Geller and Green berg (2012) who describe four dimensions that are key to therapeutic presence

-the sense of being grounded, which includes feeling centered, steady, and integrated inside one’s own body and self;”

-the sense of being immersed “in the moment with the client;”

-the sense of “spaciousness or an expansion of awareness and sensation while being tuned into the many nuances that exist at any given moment with the client;” and

-the sense of “intention for presence to be with and for the client’s healing process” (p.109).

Knowing oneself first would seem to be the aim.  Could the spiritual dimension hold a key to unlocking personal qualities that blend to help one practice presence? Unfortunately, the spiritual dimension of wellness whilst recognized by many pioneers of wellness and certainly celebrated as integral by ancient scholars of wellness seems too often to be confused with orthodox belief systems, rituals  and structures.  It behooves us to consider re- elevating this dimension in the ranks of our training, work, research and promotion efforts.  Within it, alongside “encouragement” and “imagination”  sit so many values which hold the essence of human endeavour in the quest for optimum social, environmental and physical harmony.  Perhaps it holds a key to humanistic, relational transformative education for Wellness coaching training.  Could it be a pivot point as Eberst (1984) suggested many decades ago?

In my doctoral thesis, I had a unique opportunity to offer a synthesized description of the Wellness paradigm.  In writing this article, I decided to revisit that description (copied below for your reference)

The Wellness paradigm is concerned with the optimum functioning of individuals in society. A Well person’s awareness, understanding and active decision-making capacity align with their values and aspirations. A Wellness lifestyle is the commitment and approach adopted by an individual aiming to reach their highest potential for purposes greater than themselves. The outcome of a Wellness lifestyle is a capacity to contribute in positive and meaningful ways to one’s community, society and the welfare of the earth. An individual who adopts a Wellness lifestyle aims to seek and use knowledge to live with balance across the multiple dimensions of their health and wellbeing in concert with others and their environment. On a continuum between low-level Wellness and high-level Wellness, individuals continually move between various states of physical, psychological and spiritual harmony and vary in their capacity to reach aspirations and goals. Appropriate learning strategies, tools and techniques are necessary for one to achieve higher levels of Wellness. (Goss, 2015)

On reflection, I would probably add one more sentence which I recently heard uttered by a respected Australian (our former Governor General  Ms Quentin Bryce): The greatest journey we must make is the journey to the center of our self.

I have realized that often times the seemingly simple act of being present with my patients is the key to open the door to the healing process for them.   Whilst many of my colleagues in medicine may feel a little uncomfortable with quotations from complementary and alternative medicine or therapy,  I believe the collective wisdom is far too valuable to ignore.  I share the following quote as an acknowledgment and a reminder to those who wish to be transformed by their practice and to support others in their journeys to Wellness and Health.

Samuel Hahnemann, the founder of homeopathy, gave a magnificent description of health, when he wrote, ‘In the healthy condition of man, the spiritual vital force, the dynamics that animates the material body, rules with unbounded sway, and retains all the parts of the organism in admirable, harmonious, vital operation … so that our indwelling, reason-gifted mind can freely employ this living, healthy instrument for the higher purpose of our existence.’ [Aphorism 9, The Organon].

As an international wellness community, we have a unique opportunity to encourage the scholars of the future from all over the world to continue to seek integrative paradigms, methods and practices that serve to unlock the secrets to curing every disease that exists.  May your journeys be fruitful.


References

Eberst, R. (1984).  Defining Health: A Multidimensional Model.  Journal of School Health,54. 99-104.

Geller, S.M. & Greenberg, L.S. (2012). Therapeutic presence: A mindful approach to effective psychotherapy. Washington, DC: APA Press.

Goss, H.B. (2011).  Wellness education: An integrated theoretical framework for fostering Transformative Learning.  PhD Dissertation, School of Human Movement Studies, Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation, Queensland University of Technology.

Schneider, K. (2015). Presence: the core contextual factor of effective psychotherapy. Existential Analysis, 26(2), 304-313.

Wolever RQ, Simmons LA, Sforzo GA, Dill D, Kaye M, Bechard EM, Southard ME, Kennedy M, Vosloo J, Yang N. A systematic review of the literature on health and wellness coaching: Defining a key behavioral intervention in healthcare. Global Adv Health Med. 2013;2(4):34–53.


Dr Halima Goss (PhD, MBBS, B App Sci, Grad Cert Mgt, Dip Teach) is a medical doctor and wellness advocate in Far North Queensland, Australia.  Her career has spanned a number of fields including science, education, technology, health and wellness, psychiatry and family medicine. 

 A founding member of the National Wellness Institute of Australia (NWIA) she has presented Wellness topics to wide and varied professional groups from the corporate, government, industrial, medical and education sectors.  She retains a heartfelt hope and enthusiasm for the coalescence of ideas and ideals born of cultural values which seek a kinder, more caring world with love as the most valued commodity.  She can be contacted via email at halbbgoss@gmail.com.

Tags:  Australia  International Wellness 

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A Wellness Workshop in Paris

Posted By Ferroudja Meghenem, Sunday, May 13, 2018
Facilitated by Ferroudja Meghenem (CEO Wellness Values)

This workshop had two main objectives: learn some keys to enable participants to better know themselves through the wellness path and be able to identify their individual areas of improvement in order to increase personal well-being.

At the beginning, I shared wisdom from the famous Chinese philosopher Confucius, which resonates with me and was I felt a good way to introduce the topic of Wellness: “The plant which grows very easily will never flourish when exposed one day to sun and ten days to cold. To be able to grow, the plant needs to be exposed regularly to sun.”  

Before presenting the wellness concept, I first asked each participant their own definition of Wellness in one word spontaneously. I was not really surprised about the answers. The main words that emerged are the following: “balance”;  “harmony”; “well-being”.

In France, the term ‘Wellness’ is applied in many ways. In particular, it has long been used by the SPA and thalassotherapy industry. If we search for a brief definition on the internet, it is usually translated by “well-being”/“bien-être”.

This workshop was a great opportunity for me to share, with people in France, another definition of Wellness. That used by the National Wellness Institute in the United States. This is the definition that I personally use and that I support as part of my professional activity: “Wellness is, above all, an active process through which people become aware of, and make choices toward, a more successful existence”.

The word ‘active’ is important since it suggests the responsibility of each of us for our individual growth.

I presented to the group the six dimensions of Wellness developed in 1976 by Dr. Bill Hettler, co-founder of the National Wellness Institute (NWI):

  • Occupational: Our personal satisfaction through work and the ability to establish balance between work and leisure time. 
  • Intellectual: Our desire to open ourselves to new experiences in order to continue growing.
  • Emotional: Our capacity to understand our feelings and manage behaviours related to our emotional states.
  • Social: Our behaviour towards each other, our contribution in our environment. 
  • Spiritual: Our capacity to discover meaning and purpose in life.
  • Physical: Our capacity to take charge of our health by making conscious decisions to be healthy. 

Based on this interpretation, we can state that our flourishing on earth or our sense of well-being is a combination of each of these dimensions with our own ratios of each. Even if we all have common needs, everyone is unique, so ratios may not be the same from one human to another. It depends on multiple things, such as our identity, our personal interests, our culture etc. Nobody on earth can achieve 100% on each dimension. The most important thing is be aware that we can improve some things in our life in order to better appreciate it. 

Once the six dimensions of wellness had been presented and explained at the level of the individual, it was interesting to show how they also can be applied in the corporate environment. Indeed, as individuals should be aware of their own areas of improvement, so to companies should make the move to incorporate wellness as a core company value in the interest of both their employees and their bottom line. 

The second part of the workshop consisted of presenting successful corporate case studies of organisations which have integrated wellness as part of their being - such as SAS Institute (US) or Brocade (US).

The last part of the workshop was intended to engage participants in an enjoyable experience. Participants were first asked to complete a questionnaire in order to assess their whole-person wellness. A discussion of their results in small groups followed. A spokes person from each group then presented a brief summary of their deliberations to the entire group.

The exchange was very rich in each group. I really appreciated the whole hearted participation and enthusiasm of each participant. Everyone was able to identify their areas of improvement. Some participants were positively surprised by their results and this has encouraged them to pursue their wellness journey.

Wellness is a delightful engaging topic and in the future we will have a lot more to say about it, at both the individual and corporate level in France!


Ferroudja MeghenemFerroudja Meghenem (Committee Member NWI International Standing Committee) is the CEO of WELLNESS VALUES, a strategic consulting firm specialized in Wellness. Ferroudja started her career in audit and strategy & organizational consulting. For several years, she advised important and medium size groups. Ferroudja Meghenem is also a passionate Woman who actively supports the values related to health and beauty of body and mind. As part of WELLNESS VALUES mission statement, Ferroudja helps companies and brands integrate a Wellness strategy within their organization and rethink their customers and employee experience.

Tags:  ferroudja meghenem  france  International Wellness  wellness values  workshop 

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International Connections – More Important Than Ever

Posted By NWI, Tuesday, March 13, 2018
Originally Posted By NWI, Tuesday, February 7, 2017
To access the current and 60 plus members only archived International Wellness Connection articles, become a member
 HERE >>


Dr. John Munson
Past President, NWI Board of Directors, United States

In my avocation as an international group trip leader for the past 35 years, I have had the opportunity to visit over 30 countries around the world. This role has given me the opportunity to observe the different ways wellness has been introduced and implemented across the globe. It confirms my belief that wellness is an international language understood by all. Yet, it promotes personal lifestyle improvement activities in many forms.

NWI Six Dimensions of WellnessMore than 42 years have passed since the concept of a six-dimensional model of wellness was created by Dr. Bill Hettler. During that time, my personal journeys have allowed me to view the growth of the wellness concept in many cultures and countries. It has been an interesting and exciting journey. Wellness continues to unfold and morph in diverse formats and processes. In thinking about wellness connections to people around the world it occurs to me that now is a time where sharing our thoughts and expertise is positioned to bring great rewards. We must continue to learn from each other.

Wellness language in different cultures provides a good insight into how common themes are viewed. In the United States of America “stress management” is an accepted term while in the United Kingdom the term “resiliency training” is seen as a positive term and stress management as having a negative connotation. The terms, wellness, well-being, and health promotion may be terms more acceptable in one culture than in another. Professionals need to be aware of accepted terms in their local culture. The question becomes, should one term be replaced with another based upon shared understandings?

Climate change, natural disasters, political upheaval, and economic challenges are driving millions of people from different ethnic backgrounds and cultures to move. Finding safe havens and a place to lead productive lives and raise healthy families bring new challenges to wellness professionals who encounter these people. Wellness professionals must understand cultural norms and taboos to begin to work with people who appear at their doorsteps. Even within individual countries, people escaping natural disasters that force them to move bring with them the belief structures common in their local communities. When people move from one compass point to another, especially over long distances and perhaps across many borders, they find themselves in a community with quite different understanding about food, family planning, religious belief, and basic relationship standards, etc. This challenges wellness professionals to understand a client’s cultural differences. Engaging with people from other countries and backgrounds requires broader and in-depth knowledge and understanding. Wellness professionals gain this by experiencing face-to-face dealings with people from other countries. Building international friendships provides great rewards both on a personal and professional level.  

flags of the worldThe advent of Multi-National Corporations that have dealings in countries around the world also requires wellness professionals to carefully analyze their wellness outreach programs. It is not unusual for a wellness professional to be located in one country and be responsible for corporate wellness programs in another country where the workforce consists of both out-of-country and in-country workers. Failure to understand in-country workforce perceptions of wellness often leads to ineffective wellness programs. The challenge is being able to deliver effective programs to all workers no matter where they “grew up.”

The rapid advance of technology and its implementation into different cultures from music to video games to teaching strategies are reflective of the cultural norms within the countries in which they abide. Failure to understand the impact of this immense new way of delivering information can lead to disastrous results. It is easy to fall into our own views and bubbles of reality. Learning about other cultures by traveling globally, or mixing locally with people from other countries will enable us as wellness professionals to be able to take advantage of the vast potential of rapidly expanding technology delivery systems. We need to be able to see, feel and understand as they see, feel and understand.

Polarization of views and beliefs provides new challenges for wellness professionals. Media often drives messages that are adopted by large segments of any given society. When these messages become main-stream and when wrong information goes unchallenged, societies harden to outside systems and beliefs. Through travel, friendship and relationship building, mutual appreciation and understandings are built. It behooves all wellness professionals to get out of their own silos, put on the shoes of other cultures and grow in their understandings.

Perhaps, on a personal level, maintaining one's international wellness connections pays back with friendships that last a lifetime. Getting to know people from other cultures broadens and deepens one's understandings of the world and enriches personal life. As such, actively expanding and growing international wellness connections have never been more important than now. One way to do this is by engaging yearly with the international speakers and attendees at the National Wellness Conference who are facilitated through the NWI International Wellness Group. NWI members are also able to access the 56 (including this one) archived International Wellness Connections articles which have appeared in the NWI monthly newsletter since January 2012, as authored by 46 wellness professionals from 17 different countries.


Dr. John W. MunsonDr. John W. Munson, Professor Emeritus of Health Promotion/Wellness – University of Wisconsin – Stevens Point currently serves as the Past President of the Board of Directors of the National Wellness Institute. John has over 40 years of active involvement in the wellness field. He and his colleague Anne Abbott created the nation’s first academic program to educate wellness specialists. Additionally, he helped NWI create the first process to accredit undergraduate academic health promotion and wellness programs. In addition to his roles in NWI he was recognized as a Fellow in the former Association for Fitness and Business and is currently a Distinguished Ambassador for the Medical Wellness Association. His love for travel continues to drive his knowledge about international wellness. John is also a founding member and strong supporter of the NWI International Wellness Group.

Tags:  International Wellness  United States 

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Workplace Stress: A Real Organizational Risk

Posted By NWI, Wednesday, February 7, 2018
Updated: Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Dr Dicky Els and Terrance M. Booysen  (Johannesburg 2017) 

 It is imperative that the impact of work-related stress and the negative impact of distress be incorporated into the organization’s enterprise-wide risk management framework. A Bloomberg study conducted in 2013 revealed that South Africa is the second-most “stressed‟ country out of a study of 74 countries.  This is hardly surprising given the high prevalence of political instability, economic uncertainty, high unemployment and growing crime rates in South Africa.  A 2017 cabinet reshuffle and the decision of Standard & Poor’s (S&P), including Fitch rating agencies to downgrade the country’s credit rating below investment grade to BB+ further exacerbates the political and economic uncertainty in South Africa.   

In the longer term, South Africa’s downgrade to “junk status” will have a number of dire consequences that directly affect the country’s future investment, interest rates, business growth, debt repayment and employment. When considering the volatility of corporations, globalization, political activism, greater BBBEE compliance, corporate restructuring and retrenchments; all these factors add to the stress among workers, be it directly or indirectly.  Notwithstanding the fact that there are mounting socio-economic pressures being placed upon employers and employees alike, employees are still expected to produce optimal results. These expectations contribute to workplace stress. 

 

Growing employer demands 

High-pressure work environments increasingly demand employees to be more innovative, creative, effective and productive.  With the fast pace and competitive environment in which we live today, employees are scrutinized to ensure they provide maximum productivity and their „survival‟ in the workplace depends upon whether they have exceeded the expectations of their employer.  Most organizations -- if not all -- are built on the premise that all employees are capable of handling the stresses associated with the workplace and economy, and that employees are all natural problem solvers.  But in reality, this is not the case.  Such expectation only adds to the employee‟s stress levels as they try to appease their employers.   

In the case of workplace stress, the primary duty of employers is to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that the health of employees is not put at risk.  This duty extends to protect employees particularly from the risk of harm from stressors that negatively impact or erode their physical and psychological health.  This means that if the nature and judgment of an organization’s human capital management are tested, the Labour Court will consider the conduct of the organization in deciding whether it is are liable to employees for any harm or loss. 

In addition to workplace stress, work-life balance has become quite blurred, to the point where it is becoming more difficult to clearly delineate when work actually starts and when it ends.  As most employees tend to perform work-related duties after “normal work hours‟, both the organization and their employees are negatively affected with the stress of work-life conflict.  Incompatible demands between the work and family roles of employees make participation in both roles difficult and sometimes this may lead to substance abuse, relationship problems, divorce, single parenting and/or financial difficulty. 

“Unfortunately, many people are only conscious that a harmful stress level has been reached once its negative effects have affected their work, health and wellness.  Making employers and workers aware, informed and competent to address these new risks creates a safe and healthy working environment, builds a positive and constructive preventive culture in the organization, boosts engagement and effectiveness, protects the health and wellness of workers, and increases productivity.” (Report - Workplace Stress: A Collective Challenge (ILO) (April 2016)) 

Workplace wellness is further taxed when employees fall victim to violent crimes.  Sexual harassment, car hijackings, house break-ins and kidnappings compound the physical and psychological ill health of employees.   

Whether workplace stress transpires from work or home-life experiences, it always has some effect on the work performance of employees.  This means that the human (psychological) capital of an organization can depreciate overnight, if stress and post-traumatic stress is mistreated, leading to more managerial problems, labour disputes and downstream costs.  The financial costs associated with workplace stress can be extremely high, especially when one considers matters such as absenteeism, presenteeism, medical aid expenses, death and disability claims, including management intervention costs.  Indeed, the costs are not complete without considering the fees associated with labour-related legal and court proceedings which are typically the end result of most distressed employment relationships


Dr. Dicky ElsDr Dicky Els is a Lead Independent Consultant in CGF.  He specializes in Workplace Wellness and focuses predominantly on strategy development, program design and evaluation of outcome-based health promotion programs.  For more information on our Employee Wellness program Evaluation or Wellness and Disease Management Audits, contact Dr Els directly on 082 4967960 or email dicky@bewell.org.za or go to www.wellnessprogramevaluation.com

Terrance M. BooysenTerrance M. Booysen, the CEO of CGF has presented numerous interventions to public and private audiences in and out of South Africa and has received many accolades directly linked with corporate governance.  He is a regular podium presenter and is considered knowledgeable in the practice, having produced many governance, risk and compliance reports and articles over the years.  More information regarding CGF can be found at www.cgf.co.za

Tags:  International Wellness  Stress  workplace wellness 

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NWC First-Timer Reports On Post-Conference Progress in Teacher Wellness Influenced by Her Conference Experience

Posted By NWI, Monday, January 29, 2018

Originally Posted By NWI, Tuesday, January 10, 2017
To access the current and 60 plus members only archived International Wellness Connection articles, become a member
HERE >>


Tabatha Kellett, Australia
Master of Teaching, BEd, IT Grad Cert, Reg Fitness Leader

My husband Gavin attended his first National Wellness Conference in 2014. For two years I listened to stories about the people he met, the presentations he engaged with, and places he visited. When he talked about going back in 2016 I was disappointed to realize the conference was during term time and I would once again need to stay behind; teachers don’t take time off to travel during term time! Then my husband suggested that I apply to present on teacher wellness at the conference; I did and my proposal was accepted to present as one of the six international invited speakers during the three international breakout sessions. My school principal granted me paid professional learning leave to attend as well as some financial assistance towards the cost of travel. Before I left I was pleasantly surprised to be invited to speak with the senior executive in the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) Education Directorate about teacher wellness on my return. This affirmed my research and experience that teacher wellness needs to be high on the list of priorities to ensure quality teachers are attracted to and remain in the profession.

 

Teacher Wellness has been identified as an important focus in recent times as research links Teacher Wellness to Student Wellness that leads to improved student outcomes. This link has influenced change in Initial Teacher Education Programs, as well as Induction and ongoing Mentoring and Coaching of teachers at all stages of their career.

 

One of the advantages of presenting at the National Wellness Institute Conference in 2016 was that I needed to organize my research and practice in teacher wellness into presentation structure. I focused on education in the Western world with a particular spotlight on practice in my home city of Canberra, Australia.

 

 

This report includes some of the current issues around Teacher Wellness and changes I have observed since attending the 2016 National Wellness Conference:

 

Teachers usually enter Initial Teacher Education Programs with a strong commitment to, ”make a difference.”  Teachers stay in the profession of teaching because they can see the value of what they do; students grow physically, socially/emotionally, and academically and teachers do make a difference which makes teaching a rewarding and meaningful career. However, in Australia many teachers are leaving the profession. The issue of teacher retention is a concern throughout the Western world with the rates of teacher burnout being similar in the US, the UK and Australia. Between 25% and 50% of teachers leave the profession during their first 3-5 years. The reasons teachers give are that although their motives for entering the teaching profession remain, they feel undervalued, overwhelmed, unsupported and unheard. Somewhere the teacher’s self-efficacy is lost.

 

As well as the financial costs (i.e. in educating and recruiting teachers to replace those exiting the profession) this attrition has personal costs for the teacher as well as for the students who have developed a learning relationship with their teacher(s). In addition, the student’s family, staff members and the wider community are affected whenever a teacher leaves a school due to workplace stress.

 

Experienced teachers who stay in the profession struggle with low perceived autonomy. They may feel that they are “mice in a wheel,” with directives being imposed by policy makers rather than feeling supported and valued in their teaching practice. 

 

So, why are some teachers experiencing such poor self-efficacy? Teaching is a job with high ‘emotional labor’ and very high levels of occupational stress which often leads to job dissatisfaction and mental health related problems. The prevalence of stress in teaching is recognized with reports of high levels of occupational stress in Australia, similar to that in the UK and the US.

 

In the Australian context the Australian Council of Educational Research claim that one of the causes of teacher stress is the new Australian Curriculum which has too much content to cover in the time available. The same research also claims that overall there is more administration for teachers to complete and access to email at home means teachers now more than ever continue to work outside the physical school building. The “Report of the Expert Panel on students with complex needs and challenging behaviours” identifies the complexity of the classrooms in Australia. Teachers need to individualize the curriculum to meet a wide range of student needs.

 

In Australia, local and federal governments measure student outcomes, and their Return on Investment, using high stakes testing such as the Australian National Assessment Program – Literacy and Numeracy, the Programme for International Student Assessment and Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study. There is inequity around funding students with the highest needs with some state governments reluctance to adjusting funding to the requirements outlined in the Gonski report.

 

A meme on Facebook recently stated “If you ever want to know what a teacher’s mind is like, imagine a browser with 1,324 tabs open. All. The. Time.” A teacher has multiple interactions with staff, students and members of the wider community each day. Many of these interactions require real time decision making that have an impact on student achievement and social/emotional development. Unfortunately, more often than not, the teacher will leave the physical school building and keep all 1,324 browser tabs open to mull over while engaging in the numerous other activities in their personal life. These tabs are still open well into the night causing disrupted sleep patterns leading to the physical and mental health issues caused by lack of sleep.

 

One of the game changers in Teacher Wellness came through the need to understand how to improve student outcomes. Researchers examined the relationship between the teacher and student and the impact this relationship has on student outcomes. Not surprisingly the research shows that this relationship is important. In 2009, educational researcher John Hattie found that beyond the student themselves, teachers have the greatest impact on student outcomes.

 

For example research into the link between Teacher and Student Wellness, found that when a teacher feels good about themselves and what they do “they have a high self-efficacy…[and] student cognitive outcomes are higher” (Scheerens 2010). In 2014 research conducted by Vesely, Saklofske and Nordstokke concluded that teacher wellbeing directly impacts the educational, personal, social, and emotional outcomes of their students.

 

In the past decade there has been a positive change in approach to Wellness in Australia and an increasing awareness of the need to promote wellness in the workplace. Most recently, at the National Workplace Wellness Symposium in Canberra, May 2016, Dr Kerryn Phelps called for businesses to ‘embrace a “wellness culture.”

 

In the ACT there are two positive, practical resources that schools can utilize to promote Teacher Wellness.

 

The ACT Department of Health has designed a proactive approach to wellness through its ‘HealthierWork’ program. This is available to organizations in the ACT that employ more than 50 staff. The service provides a free online survey to identify the unique needs of each workplace and support to design a 12 month plan.

 

Financial assistance to promote a Wellness Program is available through the MindMatters program.  MindMatters is a health initiative for secondary schools that aims to improve the mental health and wellbeing of young people and their community. As a framework MindMatters provides structure, guidance and support while enabling schools to build their own mental health strategy to suit their unique setting. Schools that complete the online course receive government funding to support their Wellness Program. The school I teach at provides a unique program for staff developed from data and feedback through HealthierWork and MindMatters. This includes free massages for staff, a student recognition program, community events, guest presenters and a healthy eating program. All of this is designed not only to help staff look after themselves, but to let them know that their dedication to meeting the needs of each individual student is recognized.

 

At the end of the 2016 National Wellness Conference I had a clear goal: to promote Teacher Wellness. I was inspired by the practitioners I spoke to and researchers I listened to and was optimistic that I could ‘make a difference’. I mentioned to one of my new conference friends that I would like to return to the US in 2018 to present on what I believe would happen in the next two years. I have optimistically called my 2018 presentation “Riding the Winds of Change”. Below is a summary of what has happened since the end of the NWC 2016 conference:

  • In July 2016 I met with senior managers within the ACT Education Directorate to talk about my presentation and what I learned while I was in the USA. This affirmed some of the information they had gathered and provided some context on a wider scale on how to promote Teacher Wellness.
  • In October 2016 I sat on an Occupational Violence (OV) reference group to analyze possible causes, impact and how to avoid OV (OV is student and/or parental violence towards teachers). This led to the design of a Risk Register to be implemented in 2017 on minimizing the risk of OV.
  • As part of that reference group I was paired with a non-teaching manager; the manager of Health, Safety and Wellbeing. We examined the Education Directorate’s current Wellbeing Framework, and noted that it was reactive, with a focus on supporting teachers who had been affected by workplace injury, stress or violence. The need for a proactive approach to Wellbeing was obvious and I was asked to participate in the design of the framework.

Our staff is currently writing the school’s 2017-2021 Strategic Plan and has placed Staff Wellbeing as one of the four priorities over the next four years.

 

What an amazing opportunity awaits me in 2017; to complete the ACT Education Directorate Wellbeing Framework and put it into practice! I look forward to measuring improvements in teacher wellness and retention rates, as well as improved student wellness and student outcomes, and presenting updates at NWC 2018.


Tabatha Kellett is an educator with over 20 years’ experience. She has taught ESL, mainstream and special needs students from pre-school to Year 12 as well as lecturing in teacher education at the University of Canberra (Australia). Tabatha has a passion for mentoring early career teachers, working with experienced teachers to develop a sustainable approach to teaching. Her experience in the fitness industry and work with social/emotional literacy provides a balanced approach to wellness. Tabatha led her workplace to becoming the first government school in Canberra recognized as a ‘Healthier Work’ environment. Tabatha is currently the Year 11 and 12 Executive Teacher at a special needs school in Canberra, Australia. 

Tags:  Australia  International Wellness 

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