GUEST POST BY CLARE ERASMUS @cerasmusteach
I have recently been writing about the alternative pop-up club pastoral interventions we have been delivering in our school to support young people facing challenges linked to mental health.
The activities were based on Heads Together advice: they suggested when talking to a young person, about something personal, try doing something creative or active whilst having the conversation.
As a result we launched 4 different time bonded interventions:
1. A weekend of bread making
2. A 6 week after school Chefs challenge where the students were given as a group, a 2-course meal to cook and then they would sit down and eat their evening meal together;
3. a 6-week bushcraft challenge where they were given a range of activities to encourage team bonding, grit, refelction drawing on the resources found in the woods;
4. the bicycle challenge where they were given an old bicycle and over 6 weeks taught how to repair and replace the old parts with new ones and then cycled away with their ‘new’ bike.
After a few years, the warning signs were there - I soon realised that if I did not take control of my work-life balance, use of digital media and the time I allowed my children to ‘disconnect’ from 'real time' with family and friends, then the mental health and wellbeing of our whole family unit would rapidly deteriorate.
It was from this very harsh realisation of a looming, ever encroaching toxic family lifestyle that #familyMH5aday was born. Having researched the Wheel of Wellbeing it shared how our health and happiness can be boosted by doing certain things on a day-to-day basis. Based on the Body, Mind, Spirit, People, Place principles the 'G.R.E.A.T' values were conceived.
#familyMH5aday was launched in my house to take back control over our family lifestyle and it somehow gave us a framework to work from. Now at dinner we often use the opening line to start a conversation - "What have you done that was G.R.E.A.T today?" It allows for some reasonable reflection on the key principles helping positively influence our general wellbeing. I immediately felt the benefits it had on me – reminding me, disciplining me to focus on these key principles with my own family BUT how was I going to launch it in a school with over a 1000 teenagers without it being preachy or patronising?!
The first step was to build up a support team. We already have quite a proactive wellbeing staff team who I knew I could rely on for support and a superb group of student wellbeing ambassadors, but what about the parents? I sent out a Twitter and parent mail calling for volunteers to come forward and be the school’s Parent Wellbeing Ambassadors. A very generous, enthusiastic group of parents volunteered and I was able to bounce ideas off them and to generate ideas for the concept of #familyMH5aday. It was then at Christmas we decided to launch our campaign:
The concept was simple. Each year group was given a list of G.R.E.A.T activities to do at home in the build up to Christmas with family and friends. In exchange for getting one activity signed off they were awarded house points (we run a very active Interhouse competition system in our school).
Thanks to the enormous help of the wellbeing student and parent ambassadors, the following activity sheets were created which we are happy to post here as free downloads if you wish to use them:
So what was the take up? The successful tutor groups were the ones where the tutors joined in. Where they embraced the values into their everyday tutor connection with each other. One tutor group was amazing as they launched breakfast and lunchtime clubs together and now have a very close bond with each other and their tutor. If the adults were leading by example the young people enthusiastically joined in. That is the key. That is why there was sheet for the parents too. An opportunity for them to sign off activities and embrace their ability to commit to the G.R.E.A.T values too.
The #familyMHaday campaign is more than just a challenge to make small life style changes to embrace a healthier mental health lifestyle: it is a plea for parents to check the level of ‘disconnection’ taking place under each family roof; to check the increasing loneliness many young people are facing and revive ‘Real time’ connections with each other.
In a few weeks’ time, I will be talking about the G.R.E.A.T principles at an induction evening to the new intake of year 7 parents and their children. I will be stressing that as a school we regard these values highly and that there is an expectation from them to try and join in the campaign; to come on board.
We will be running the campaign again this year and I hope to have many more students, teachers and parents across the country join us, leading by example and enjoying living the G.R.E.A.T values with their family and friends.
Clare Martin is a the founder of the Positive Teacher Network who specialises in helping teachers to find the ultimate Work Life Balance and supports them with many of the difficulties teachers face today.
The Positive Teacher Network provides practical tips and strategies to busy, tired teachers to help them improve their lives allowing them to focus on being great teachers.