'How are you today?' - the vital importance of caring for others

By Mary Howell posted 21-02-2024 13:09

In January, STEM Learning's professional development leader Mary Howell  based around the importance of asking a colleague 'how are you?' along with tips to safeguard your own wellbeing, which became one of the most popular ever posted on .
Now, as we launch our 'STEM Community - your SOS helpline' campaign to promote the benefits of being involved in a supportive Community, Mary returns with part 2 of the blog...
Caring for others
list the benefits of helping others as including changes in the brain that increase feeling of happiness, improved self-esteem, more sense of purpose and helping to get your own thoughts and feelings into perspective. Thinking about those Teacher Tapp survey results I mention in Part 1, that really stuck with me.
Here are some suggested starting points:
The ‘how are you today?’ question - and listening to the answer. This doesn’t mean that you have to try to solve the other person’s problem – in fact attempting to do that may make them feel worse or inadequate. It’s about a sympathetic nod, possibly a supplementary question, giving someone the sense of feeling listened to. If you find this kind of social interaction difficult, it’s worth knowing that talking side by side rather than face to face is often easier. You could also change the question to something like ‘what have you got on today?’ if you think someone won’t want to tell you how they are feeling – opening up the communication and listening is the important thing. 
Inviting someone – this could be including someone in a conversation, by asking them what they think or their experience, or it could be offering to make someone a hot drink or organising a social event where all are welcome.
Organisational changes and responsibilities - creating a culture
Don’t skip this bit, even if you don’t currently have leadership and management responsibilities – all these elements of wellbeing are inextricably intertwined.
of Leeds Beckett University found evidence that primary school children not only learn more ‘when their teacher is happy and performing well’, but are also that they are tuned in to how teachers are feeling. They will try to help if teachers are stressed by doing things like trying to work hard, behave well and ‘doing something nice for the teacher to cheer them up.’ I am confident that secondary school age pupils are equally well attuned and affected by teacher mood.
Space does not permit a full list of suggestions here, but some key points to address include:
- Awareness of the data and feedback about what matters to teachers -  call for staff wellbeing to be part of the school improvement plan and a standing item on school governor agendas
- Knowing staff and awareness of the pressures they are feeling; both at work and in their personal life – we are back to the ‘How are you today?’ question and listening to the answers
- Actively discussing and reducing workload
- Promoting a culture that supports wellbeing and where people feel supported to be honest about their health and can model positive well-being behaviours to students
A key idea here is what has been termed ‘team psychological safety.’ The Harvard Business Review defines this as ‘a shared belief held by members of a team that it’s OK to take risks, to express their ideas and concerns, to speak up with questions, and to admit mistakes — all without fear of negative consequences. As Edmondson puts it, “it’s felt permission for candour.”’
Let’s hear it for candour – the chance to answer ‘How are you today?’ with honesty, because it matters how education staff feel and it makes a difference to our pupils.
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1 comment



22-02-2024 10:09

As a Mental Health First Aider I am happy to see this post and agree it is so important to look after yourself and take time for you- even if 2 minutes to look out of the window during a busy day.