The Times Educational Supplement reported this week that primary school teachers are suffering significant levels of distress as a result of their jobs. This is at the same time that teachers are also viewed as one of the most trusted professions. There is a disjoint and it is something that is of concern to me, as a teacher, and also as a member of a primary school Academy Council near where I live. If young people are struggling with mental health, the people who support them every day need to be in a position themselves where they are well, supported and flourishing in their occupation. However, there just does not seem to be the space of capacity for this in so many spaces, schools and otherwise.
Time is unavailable, space is at a premium and relationships are suffering.
I have a connection with a school not too far from where I am based. The school is a Christian-based, mainstream school and they have just started a wonderful initiative. I am a Christian so this does align with my own personal beliefs. That aside, this initiative seems to be something that can form the basis of a meaningful, time of quiet reflection for young people and teachers at a time when there doesn’t seem to be time any more. Each day for 1 full minute, tutor groups are silent. At the start of the week, they are shown a verse or saying, and then spend time reflecting on it and contemplating its meaning in their own life. As the week progresses the tutor groups are presented with music and images alongside the verses. At present, the impact of this initiative is hard to quantify according to members of the school community. However they also feel that it is not something that can or necessarily should be quantified. The process of taking a saying or verse in, considering it and meditating on it is a process that may not be a life skill per say, but it provides space for the members of the group to just learn to ‘be’ and take time out from the business of their days. An initiative that promotes the taking of a brief period of time to reflect for me begins to lay foundations of good mental health practice for life.
I don’t know how the school’s vision for this daily 60 second ‘time out’ will progress; at present nor does the school leadership. But what I hope for is that is turns in to a steadying time, where all members of the school community can just exist in calm, communal contemplation which sets them up for a smooth, productive and healthy day.