Inside PPTA's regional wellbeing workshops
Getting teachers home safe and healthy is the overarching theme of PPTA's Creating Positive Workplaces regional wellbeing workshops.
Held in conjunction with Worksafe Reps, which is owned and operated by the union-established Kaimahi Mātauranga Workers Education Trust, the courses have been held both regionally in person and digitally via Zoom.
Information and registration details for the remaining courses for 2020 can be found here on the PPTA website.
An opportunity to learn more
Morrinsville College teacher Fiona Wolff took part in the course digitally and found it a "really relevant and valuable" use of her time.
Fiona's undergraduate degree was in chemical and materials engineering and she worked for around eight years in New Zealand and Australia in production engineering. During that time she did a post graduate diploma in occupational health and safety and then worked in specialist safety roles in Australia. She retrained as a teacher in 2008 and currently lives with her family in the Waikato. This year she received a PPTA study award and is doing an educational research thesis with AUT.
Fiona has always enjoyed PPTA workshops. "I found all three of the Mahi Tika courses brilliant for considering industrial relations in an education workspace," she said. "Because I am on study leave I have been involved in LOTS of training and lectures this year, and when the wellbeing workshops went online I saw this as another opportunity to learn more."
Practical risk-reduction tools
According to Fiona the course was well run, with just the right number of participants. "The resources were supplied well in advance and were useful after the fact as well," she said.
"Because I've worked in Health and Safety areas in the past, it was really good to go over all of the legislation involved in schools, and when each one is used or not used. It seems that sometimes 'wellbeing' is considered a touchy-feely thing, but the course breaks down where it sits in a legal space in schools, and how important it is to ensure productivity and happiness in staff. In addition, there was a massive amount of practical risk-reduction tools which could make a difference to schools right now."
Case studies a standout
The workshops are based on case studies that are relevant to teachers, senior staff, principals and boards of trustees and Fiona found these particularly useful.
"The case studies were posed just the way a situation would happen at school – so the initial problem, then an escalated problem, and the end situation. It was really good for me to see how problems arise with wellbeing in a workplace, and the helpful (and not so helpful) steps which cause things to get worse – or hopefully better."
I have recommended this course so much
Fiona has recommended the course to many people but realises that it may be an issue for those who struggle to get relief cover. Registration is free but schools need to cover relief and travel.
"I have recommended this course so much, it was so useful. But I was able to do it without worrying about my relief. While we are worrying about wellbeing and workload, it would be awesome if the course could be offered in a different format – as in weekends, evenings etc."
She had no issues with taking part in the course over Zoom. "The technology worked great. The slides were spot on and the breakout rooms gave you a chance to talk to other people. It all just went so well."
Supporting colleagues at work
Because Fiona is on study leave she hasn't had the chance to enact what she has learned from the course yet, but she is looking forward to thinking more about how she can better support her colleagues.
"As a middle leader, it has certainly made me more reflective on my role in terms of our department's wellbeing. It was astoundingly obvious from the case studies that many wellbeing issues in school stem from either lack of processes or issues with middle/senior managers and staff. Being aware of how common this is challenges me to do better," she said.
An important course for school leaders
Fiona believes all school leaders should attend courses like this one "so they can lead and manage staff from a legislative and proactive space – rather than past experience and gut instinct. If more senior leaders/managers better understood their role in improving wellbeing, schools could be a happier place. I've said it before and I'll say it again, PPTA courses are one of the only ways to receive training on industrial management in an education setting."