Through the creation of a Staff Wellness Committee, a focus was placed on staff mental health and wellness. Staff were actively encouraged to participate in monthly activities focusing on self-care in an effort to reduce staff stress which can lead to burnout and compassion fatigue in educators if left unchecked. These positive mental wellness activities focused on the Four Domains of Well-Being – Physical, Cognitive, Social and Emotional, and included a fall nature walk, cooking classes and tips from a professional chef, mindfulness and four weeks of yoga instruction, an afternoon tea, and a paint night. Staff were encouraged to participate in these voluntary activities to help develop positive wellness practices and become more aware of their own mental wellness needs. The committee met monthly and not only focused on planning these staff events, but also on education around burnout and compassion fatigue, and how teacher mental wellness can affect student well-being and success.
The committee was allocated time at a May PD Day to focus on staff well-being with the whole staff. A keynote speaker, who specializes in compassion fatigue, addressed the staff and then staff could select two of six 20-minute workshops to attend. The workshops focused on Goal-Setting, Bullet Journaling, Mindfulness, Ergonomics, Nutrition and its impact on mental wellness, and Building Self-Care into a Busy Life.
Ottawa Catholic School Board
Ottawa Catholic School Board
Professional Learning Goals
- Collaborated with other teachers and colleagues to create and sustain a professional learning community. We hope the creation of the Staff Mental Wellness Committee will promote mental wellness among staff, provide tools and resources to support staff mental wellness, and that it will become a sustained professional learning community within the school.
- Engaged in ongoing professional development and apply it. The Teacher Learning Co–op was a way for us to engage in deep-learning as educators and work to improve mental wellness among staff in a comprehensive, well-planned inquiry framework.
- Demonstrated commitment to the well-being and development of all pupils. Promoting mental wellness and educating staff will benefit all students in the school. Educators who practise good mental wellness will share this with their students and encourage students to do the same. Our goal was to promote positive mental wellness practices to the whole school community beginning with staff.
Activities and Resources
- Created a Staff Wellness Committee and met monthly for group meetings
- Provided staff with Wellness Committee updates at staff meetings
- Planned a fall nature walk
- Planned an afternoon tea
- Planned and arranged cooking lessons with a professional chef
- Offered four weeks of after-school yoga classes with a certified yoga instructor
- Planned a paint night/reflection activity
- Planned and organized a PD Day session for the entire staff around wellness including a keynote speaker and workshop presenters
- Attended the OTF Conference “Making the Links: Promoting Well-Being in our Schools”
- Prepared and delivered a survey to staff about wellness activities, plans for next year, and overall stress and wellness practices
An unexpected challenge was finding the time to take the release days to work on the project. With all of the other responsibilities we have, it was difficult to schedule in release time. We also found that we had brainstormed too many activities to offer to staff and realized that asking them to participate too frequently would not help their well-being, but add more stress to their day. As a result, we reduced the number of wellness activities we organized and focused on trying to offer one event/activity per month.
Enhancing Student Learning and Development
Promoting mental health and wellness for students and staff is part of the vision of the Ministry of Education and Ontario’s Well-Being Strategy for Education. It encourages the promotion of wellness in our schools and recent studies have indicated that teachers are experiencing a high amount of job-related stress, similar to other caring professions like nursing and social work. Anxiety, depression and general stress levels among adolescents is also on the rise and teachers are witnessing and dealing with these issues in the classroom on a daily basis. The Ontario Ministry of Education’s Supporting Minds Document states, “Educators play an important role in the lives of most children and youth, they need to be aware of mental health issues that may affect students and understand how to contribute to a multifaceted response.” We believe that student wellness and students’ success is affected by staff wellness and that if staff practise positive self-care, they will promote and model this to their students. Helping students to find their sources of strength and learn to be resilient will have a positive impact on their learning.
Throughout the project, we kept detailed agendas and minutes from our monthly meetings. These minutes were made available to the whole Wellness Committee and administration. The committee has been in regular contact with administration regarding the staff wellness activity planning and the Wellness Professional Development planning. Administration has supported our project and our activities, and the project has also been shared with our school superintendent.
Staff were kept up to date on the Wellness Committee initiatives, ideas and plans through staff meeting updates and e-mails.
Connections were also made with teachers from other schools in our board at the OTF Conference “Making the Links: Promoting Well-Being in our Schools” and we will be sharing ideas with those teachers, as well as any others in the board who are interested in learning about our project.
We were able to create a Professional Learning Community of 14 staff members to focus on staff wellness. We shared resources we collected such as articles and videos with staff to promote the importance of well-being. This committee will continue next year with the focus of continuing to support staff education and wellness. We will also continue to make the link between staff wellness and student success. We will look at ways to measure this aside from anecdotal evidence.
Two of the members of the committee attended the OTF Conference “Making the Links: Promoting Well-Being in our Schools” and were able to share some of the learning with the rest of the Wellness PLC at school. At the core of our mission to promote staff wellness is our commitment to the well-being and development of our students. We have raised awareness among the staff about their own mental wellness which has in turn made them more aware of the stresses and struggles of the students we see each day. Staff are able to share some sources of strength with their students and approach mental and emotional wellness from a preventative point of view rather than a reactionary one. We believe that with the sustained focus on staff wellness, a culture of well-being will continue to develop in our school.
To promote staff wellness, we held a variety of activities throughout the year culminating in a Professional Development Day keynote speaker and workshop offerings for staff.
Supporting Minds: An Educator’s Guide to Promoting Students’ Mental Health and Well-Being. Toronto: The Ontario Ministry of Education, 2013. Print.
Ontario’s Well-Being Strategy for Education – Discussion Document. Toronto: The Ontario Ministry of Education, 2017
Seeking Wellness: Healthy Working and Learning Environments. OSSTF presentation at OTF Making the Links Conference, Toronto, 2018
OTF Conference: “Making the Links: Promoting Well-Being in our Schools,” Toronto, 2018
Lewington, Jennifer. Toward Wellness Professionally Speaking. June 2016. pp. 35-38
“Personal Resiliency: The Basics of Self-Care.” School Mental Health Assist.
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Paint Night Reflection
As part of the Paint Night, our chaplain led a short reflection. This is a copy of the card that was given to staff.
PD Day Folder
We planned a 90-minute PD session for staff on our May PD Day focused on staff wellness. We created resource folders for the staff which included a variety of handouts and information.
Contents of Folder
This is a photo of the contents of the folder we created for staff for the Wellness PD Day.
PD Day Plan
This is photo of the PD Day plan we put together, including the keynote speaker, and the workshop topics and presenters.
We held a cooking class with a professional chef for staff. He gave tips and techniques to help busy people with healthy meal prep and ideas.
One of the most popular wellness events we held was Afternoon Tea. 35 staff members, gathered in the staff room aftr school for fellowship. It was a great way to decompress after a busy school day.