Climate Change in the Workplace
The school environment moves and changes, just like the progress of its inhabitants. When we consider climate change, NASA has been conducting much research into this debatable concept. Such studies into temperature found that ‘individual and systematic changes in measuring temperature over time were the most significant source of uncertainty’ (NASA, 2019). This uncertainty is showing in the unstable and stressful environments that are being affected. These stressful environments include freshwater changes, forests, ice, monsoon and drought changes. Many of these stresses contribute to our well-being and can be managed. It is analogies like this that describe the metaphors of our own environments.
In the Norwegian context, Norwegian Law paragraph 9a describes that ‘all pupils in primary, lower secondary and upper secondary schools are entitled to a good physical and psycho-social environment that will promote health, well-being and learning’ (The Directorate for Primary and Secondary Education, no date, p. 3). This is replicated within the Personal, Social and Physical Education scope and sequence of the International Baccalaureate (IB) Primary Years Programme (PYP), ‘The development of a student’s well-being can be implicitly and explicitly addressed through all areas of the PYP curriculum. Therefore, every teacher has a responsibility to support each student’s personal, social and physical development through all learning engagements both within and outside the programme of inquiry’ (International Baccalaureate Organisation, 2018, p.1). This filters into the same emphasis in the Middle Years Programme (MYP) by helping students develop their ATL skills that ‘embody and promote the holistic nature of well-being’ (International Baccalaureate Organisation, 2018a, p. 4)
In the MYP, IB research concluded that, ‘IB students self-reported higher levels of stress than their peers in general education, the emotional well-being of IB students was statistically similar to, and in some cases better than, the psychological functioning of their non-IB counterparts’ (International Baccalaureate Organisation, 2014, p. 2). So there is plenty of stress to go around!
There are many elements that contribute to the negative effects of stress and poor mental health on students. One protective factor that can be magnified relates to when a student has at least one adult in their life who makes them feel supported, valued, and cared for. There is a lot of research supporting this. In 2015, a Harvard study concluded that every child who ends up doing well has had at least one stable and committed relationship with a supportive adult (The IB Community Blog, 2019).
However, this is all about the students, what about others? Where can students’ find that one stable, committed and supportive adult relationship if it is outside of the home?
In the U.K., the well-established Education Support Partnership reported from their 2018 Teacher Well-being Index that, in the U.K. alone ‘67% of education professionals describe themselves as stressed’ (Education Support Partnership, 2019). There has been a 35% increase in teachers requesting for emotional support, and 72% of education professionals cite workload as the main reason when considering leaving the profession. Other staggering facts from their research is that 56% of senior leaders (and 49% of teachers) believe that as a result of psychological, physical and behavioural problems at work that their personal relationships have suffered. And finally, an astounding 74% of education professionals consider they do not have enough guidance about mental health and wellbeing at work (Education Support Partnership, 2018).
It is hard to understand why school leaders and teachers find it difficult to address issues relating to their own wellbeing. As seen just from the research mentioned above, supporting the staff is so important. Strong, stable school leadership is closely associated with improved student outcomes, the goal of every school. School leadership performance is likely to be more effective when teachers are flourishing. In general, healthy employees have been shown to be more committed to their job, harder working, more resilient and better able to cope with change, uncertainty and ambiguity when their well-being is considered. It is in everyone’s interests that our school leaders and teachers are well and able to operate at an optimum level.
So what about these poor professionals well-being then? Do we care enough?
What can we do about it?
What this requires is a whole school approach to well-being.
An example of well-being in action in the IB can be seen in an example from a school in New York, USA. They held a ‘Stress Fair’ event at the school to provide an outlet and help peers cope with stress in a positive and uplifting environment (The IB Community Blog, 2018). They identified that ‘Therapy Dogs’ had been used in IB elementary schools to help reluctant students start the day in a positive way and alleviate stress. Therapy dogs have been trained to provide affection, comfort and love to people in need. It is proven to lower blood pressure, lessen depression, decrease feelings of isolation and anxiety, and increase focus and literacy skills.
For school leaders and teachers in education, there a few practical techniques that help to handle stress:
1. Work out your priorities
2. Identify your stress situations
3. Don’t react to imagined results
4. Think before you commit
5. Move on: don’t dwell on past mistakes
6. Don’t bottle up anger and frustrations
7. Set aside time each day for recreation and exercise
8. Take your time
9. Don’t be aggressive on the road
10. Help children and young people to cope with stress
11. Think positively
12. Cut down on drinking, smoking, sedatives and stimulants
(Education Support Partnership, 2019)
There are many possible ways that we can avoid the dangers of stress. More importantly, we need an environment that can recognise and support one another in our individual and collaborative well-being. We all do not want the clouds to run our lives or drought that soaks us emotionally dry. There are strong monsoons and snow storms to navigate through our lives, but there are some of these conditions that are not quite natural. Just like climate change, there is always a way we can contribute to a better world that includes everyone, not just some or none.
If you’re feeling really curious, take the stress test via this link!
Education Support Partnership (2018) ‘Teacher Well-being Index’ [online] Available at: https://www.educationsupportpartnership.org.uk/sites/default/files/resources/teacher_wellbeing_index_2018.pdf Accessed on: 12 June 2019.
Education Support Partnership (2019) ‘How to handle stress: teachers and education staff’, [online] Available at: https://www.educationsupportpartnership.org.uk/blogs/claire-renn/how-handle-stress-teachers Accessed on: 19 May 2019.
International Baccalaureate Organisation (2014) ‘Key findings from research on the impact of the IB Middle Years Programme’, [online] Available at: https://www.ibo.org/globalassets/publications/ib-research/mypkeyfindingssheetweb-3.pdf Accessed on 19 May 2019.
International Baccalaureate Organisation (2018) Personal, social and physical education scope and sequence, Petersen House, Cardiff, U.K.
International Baccalaureate Organisation (2018a) MYP: Physical and Health Education Guide, 5th ed, Petersen House, Cardiff, U.K.
NASA (2019) ‘Global Climate Change: Vital Signs of the Planet’, Earth Science Communications Team: NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory [online] Available at: https://climate.nasa.gov/news/2876/new-studies-increase-confidence-in-nasas-measure-of-earths-temperature/ Accessed on: 12 June 2019.
The IB Community Blog (2018) ‘Students take time out to focus on well-being’, [online] Available at: https://blogs.ibo.org/blog/2018/03/16/students-take-time-out-to-focus-on-wellbeing/ Accessed on: 19 May 2019.
The IB Community Blog (2019) ‘Why we need to make student mental well-being a priority’ [online] Available at: http://blogs.ibo.org/blog/2019/03/06/why-we-need-to-make-student-mental-wellbeing-a-priority/ Accessed on: 12 June 2019.
The Directorate for Primary and Secondary Education (no date) ‘Pupils’ School Environment Chapter 9a of the Education Act: act relating to primary, lower secondary and upper secondary education’, Lærings-og Oppvekstmiljøet, Available at: https://www.udir.no/globalassets/upload/brosjyrer/5/pupils_school_environment_9a.pdf Accessed on 12 June 2019.
Therapy Dogs of Vermont (2018) Therapy Dogs [image] Available at: https://therapydogs.org/ Accessed on: 13 June 2019.
NASA (2019a) Responding to climate change, [image] Available at: https://climate.nasa.gov/system/internal_resources/details/original/103_shutterstock_88550854-740px.jpg Accessed on 13 June 2019.
CEO Magazine (2016) ‘Boost Productivity through health and wellbeing education’, [image] Available at: https://www.theceomagazine.com/lifestyle/health-wellbeing/boost-productivity-through-health-wellbeing-education/Accessed on: 13 June 2019.
Michael Charles Fransen Cresswell B.Ed M.Ed PG ODE 13 June 2019