Focus on inclusion and wellbeing

 

mette-game

A guest post by @Mfeildorf

Teaching can be one of the most rewarding careers!

Ask any teacher about the buzz they get in the classroom

when they have planned a lesson that gets everyone engaged and having fun learning. The penny drop “AHA!” moment that fires up a child and makes them a few inches taller instantly, because they are so proud of themselves. Maths makes them feel super intelligent in my experience, but then I am biased.

Teaching is also one of the most important careers. As one of my students once said: “Miss, when I am older I want to be Prime Minister, and when I am, I will increase teachers’ salaries; because teachers teach everyone don’t they? Even the Prime Minister and the Royal family has been taught by teachers.” I’d vote for him!

Teaching is a huge responsibility though, because one thoughtless throw-away comment, said in the middle of a busy lesson can make or break a young person, and open or close a door in their mind as to what they perceive their future to be. A positive comment like “You’re really good at this, you’d make a great engineer” might set a young person’s mind to becoming something they’d never considered before; or worse: You’ll never be good at maths!” (said to me by my maths teacher when I was an insecure 15-year-old) can undermine a student’s belief in themselves.

Two years later another maths teacher put his trust in me, told me that maths is easy, and that I had the ability to do it….. He was right, and I am so grateful that he believed in me.

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With teaching being such an awesome profession, why are so many teachers suffering from stress, and such a high number considering leaving the profession?

First, let me share my idea of the difference between being stressed and being busy:

Stressed people generally feel out of control, they feel they are drowning in work, and that they have no influence on the amount of work that is piled on them. Often they do not feel appreciated, and that they are not good enough at their job.

Busy people feel empowered and inspired by their work; they are driving what they do, taking on work because they want to, and driving the work forward themselves. They feel involved, trusted, appreciated and good at their job.

To me this highlights that when a school prioritises the wellbeing and inclusion of their teachers (as well as their students) making sure the teachers feel inspired about their involvement and empowered to affect change in their workplace, then they can not only greatly reduce stress but also improve staff retention. Happy teachers and teaching assistants who feel they are heard and included in the decisions of how to move their school forward, and who feel their wellbeing is a priority to the school leader, become more satisfied with their work life, less stressed and less likely to move schools or look for different careers.

It is the aim of my CPD game “The Community” to improve the inclusion and wellbeing of staff and students in school, by putting these topics firmly on the agenda. The Community was developed by Copenhagen Gamelab, my business partner, in cooperation with a Danish Education Authority and the Danish Teaching Unions; and has been based on the latest Danish PH.D. research into teaching, inclusion and wellbeing.

The game is a board game within which teams of 6 teachers/LSA’s play one of three fictional school scenarios. There are two parts to the game, one requires the teachers to choose which strategies to invest in to improve the school, and in the second part of the game they must discuss and decide on how to handle several different problems which arise in a fictional classroom, to help include their most vulnerable students.

The strengths of the game are numerous. Firstly, being a board game it gets your staff talking. Being set in a fictional school it is a risk-free game – it is ok to make the wrong decisions and learn from it, because you are doing it without risking your reputation and the fates of the young people in your care. Realistic classroom situations are discussed and analysed and experiences and strategies are shared in an open forum. Apart from that the game is fun to play – in stead of sitting in front of a consultant with a PowerPoint, your staff is engaging in discussion with each other, while being guided by the game which gives many suggestions for strategies that can be employed.

The game is a teambuilder – it encourages your staff to work together. It gives rich opportunity for discussion, but also allows for reflection when it comes to the issues in your own school and in their own classrooms.

As a school leader, the outcomes – other than improving team spirit and putting wellbeing and inclusion at the top of your agenda – is gaining an overview of which strategies your staff feel might help your school move forward, and crucially which strategies they’d be interested in getting involved with. Secondly it also gives you an overview of where the staff feel their strengths and weaknesses lie when it comes to inclusion in their classroom, which then in turn can be focussed on in their CPD for the coming year.

The game works brilliantly played by the whole staff in the hall as a massive event where all the teams compete to get the highest score of wellbeing and professionalism in the school, it works equally well in individual departments, and even as a leadership tool across Academy Chains. The game can also be used as part of SCITT and PGCE courses too, where student teachers get to reflect on their different school placements and their own practice in the classroom when it comes to inclusion and handling difficult situations.

Here’s what one of the teachers who tried the game said:

“One of the most fun and useful CPD sessions I’ve attended. It was very interesting to think about concrete strategies to tackle a variety of challenges, and especially prioritising said strategies in accordance with the school’s problems. The reflection part of the game then allowed us to think of what could be put in place in our lessons and our schools. Overall a very productive evening.”

Dr M Selig, PhD, MA, BSc. Teacher of Mathematics.

The Community is already a success in Denmark: Steen Suhr-Knudsen, Head of Projects for Children, Young People and Leisure at Gentofte Local Authority said:

“I don’t think I have ever experienced a training tool, which communicates so much good and relevant knowledge in such a short time and in such an engaging way”.

Moving back to our teacher being stressed and helping them becoming happily busy in stead:

As a school leader, The Community game gives you an opportunity to involve your teaching and support staff in improving wellbeing and inclusion in your school. Tap into the staff’s ideas of how to improve so they feel listened to, involved and therefore inspired and motivated to take ownership of their own school community.

I’d love to talk to you about how you can use The Community Game in your school or teacher training establishment.

 

Contact me at:mette

Mette Feildorf mette@cphgamelab.dk

www.cphgamelab.co.uk

Twitter: @Mfeildorf

LinkedIn: Mette Feildorf

 

 

 

 

Picture courtesy of Copenhagen Gamelab Aps.

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