Along a similar line to ‘What Went Well’ is working out which things that happened in your day that you want to focus on. I term these things that go well ‘Wins!’ because when things go well it’s like ‘High-5 to me’ and a definite boost to my mood and wellbeing.

Despite there being some low points to my week (aren’t there always low points?) these are the wins I’ve had and are where I am choosing to invest my energy and attention:

– Sunday the election results were called. Needless to say I was happy with the outcome of that WIN!

– Monday I was approached by a principal during a chance encounter to do some work relating to Staff Wellbeing and Student Behaviour in Term 3 -> WIN!

Then I hung out with a friend who’s had a rough time recently and who sent me a lovely text thanking me for spending time with her and for my ‘kindness and counsel’ (insert warm fuzzies) -> WIN!

– Tuesday I was home recovering from a particularly violent but thankfully short lived stomach upset but got to catch up on a stack of iView and YouTube clips I’ve been meaning to watch forever -> WIN!

– Wednesday I confirmed a meeting with some people about some work which I am totally excited and interested in being involved in -> WIN!

– Thursday a parent of a child I am working with brought me a slice of homemade chocolate cake and relayed how happy she and her husband were with the improvement in their child’s anxiety since I had been working with him -> WIN!

I also finished of a 1000 word article due Friday before I went to bed -> WIN!

– Today because I finished the aforementioned article last night I’ve had much more time to spend catching up on blog writing (and I’ve written 3 new posts) -> WIN!

And whilst I was having a quick break and getting my toenails painted (a task I’ve only been trying to co-ordinate for the last 7 weeks) -> WIN! I got a phone call from yet another school inviting me to go and present for them at the beginning of Term 2 -> WIN!

And to top all that I was notified by organizers today that a session I am running next Saturday has sold out -> WIN!

Despite how it might sound (and I have to say when you read through it it sounds pretty amazing) there’s been quite a few ordinary things and even one or two very unpleasant and negative things that have happened this week too. However, because I am aware that what you put your focus on grows I’m not spending any more time acknowledging those events or incidents and am finding that the effect of focussing on my WINS! has been quite amazing. I’m sure it’s no coincidence that the more I emotionally invest in this work, the better I feel!

What were your wins this week? I’d love to hear. Please feel free to post your response below or alternatively on Twitter using the #win and/or #whatwentwell hashtags.




PERMA Series – Part 4: ‘M for Meaning’



Hopelessness and helplessness are two key characteristics of people who are deeply depressed or suicidal and it’s this lack of meaning in life leaves people struggling emotionally. To have no answer to the question ‘What’s the point of living?’ is certainly indicative of an unhappy, at risk existence.

Alternatively, associating meaning to your life is a well recognised predictor of wellbeing. Knowing why do we do the things we do gives meaning to our existence and our work which in turn affects our behaviour and consequently outcomes for students.

The belief in something bigger, more powerful, even more important than you is the starting point behind this concept of meaning. It might be your meaning in life is to serve and benefit all humanity; it may be faith in religion or some higher power or in humankind. For others, unity towards a common cause such as democracy, environmentalism, feminism, animal rights or even something as simple as supporting your local football team meets this criteria.

What gives meaning to your work as an educator? What is your professional mission? Is it the belief that you can make a difference in the lives of the students with whom you work? Is it a sense of social justice that gives you meaning? Is it the belief that young people have the right to receive quality education for free? 

Creating a Mental and Emotional Separation from Your Work

the third spaceTHREE people spoke to me at different times yesterday about how they were really finding it difficult to separate themselves mentally and emotionally from their work. One said he found it impossible to not think about work when he was at home (work ‘stuff’ was always in his head), another was waking at 3am and not being able to get back to sleep (don’t  worry, I referred her to the Sleep vlog series) and the last simply commented about how hard it was for her to ‘switch off.’

I understand where these people are coming from. As teachers we spend so much time planning and preparing lessons, then reviewing, marking, assessing, thinking about how we can do things better. Then of course there’s the emotional aspect of working in schools – and I for one know how difficult it can be to be consumed by thoughts relating to our student’s social and emotional needs, particularly when we hear of them experiencing distress, abuse or family dysfunction.

The reality of this though is that if our sleep is being disturbed (including not being able to get to sleep even though we’re shattered) or if we can’t stop thinking about work then the time that we have away from school to rest, recover and recuperate will be compromised which will leave us performing less than our best when we are next on deck.

Last year I heard Dr Adam Fraser speak at a conference about this very issue and I found what he said really useful. Fraser talks about using transition points in our days to very purposefully shift our focus and attention from one aspect of our day (like work) to another (home). It can also be used the other way around (so that remnants of the arguments you’ve had in the morning don’t affect the rest of your day)

I liked the idea of what Fraser what suggesting. My previous school was a short 5 minute drive away from home and I found I really struggled to switch from home to work in the mornings (especially as I had such young children a the time) and then work to home (from crisis management to tired and demanding children at the end of the day). It was simply too short a period of time to mentally transition from one demanding area of my life into another and would often find the emotional space I was in from one context remaining with me into the next. It was difficult to navigate and I found myself frequently exhausted.

Fraser’s concept involves using the concept of ‘The Third Space‘ to deliberately work through then end thoughts about what has happened in one space and prepare and be ready for the next. At my current job I have the luxury of a longer commute (which I most days I ride) and find the combination of the amount of time I am on my bike and the physical exercise being an excellent way for me to work through things and arrive at my required destination having processed events, mentally clear and ready to take on whatever is happening.

I appreciate that you might not have this luxury. However, there are a number of deliberate rituals you might engage in that can help with this process which include:

– taking off your name badge and leaving it at work

– changing clothes (or even showering) as soon as you get home

– going for a walk (or even better to walking to and from work if at all possible) or other exercise when you get home

– writing a list of things to attend to in the morning when you are about to leave work (writing things down helps to clear them from your head)

– disconnecting your phone/home computer from your work email

– leave as much work as possible at work

– schedule yourself a completely work free day at least once over the weekend and if you must take work home only do it between allocated times

What strategies do you use to create a mental and emotional separation from your work? Please share them here so that others can give them a shot if they’re stuck for ideas.

A Collaborative Approach to Staff Wellbeing – From ‘I’llness to ‘We’llness

illness - wellness

If schools and centres can have a collaborative approach and a shared responsibility for staff wellbeing, outcomes for students are going to be better. It’s the relationships we have with our colleagues that can help buffer us from the stresses we encounter in the course of our work as educators.

Ways you might want to consider shifting the focus from ‘I’ to ‘We’ include:

– supporting others to keep things in perspective

– listen to others, responding in an active constructive way

– be transparent and honest in your interactions with others

– share resources, time and responsibilities (which will reduce your load – “a problem shared is a problem halved”)

– be professional

– ask questions

– seek support when you need it (see number 2 in ’10 Habits of Remarkably Giving People’)

– show empathy and compassion

– be kind (to yourself and others)

– find out other people’s interests and passions – they might be the same as yours!

What Other People Think…

what 2

You can’t please everyone all the time. Trying to do so is time consuming, stressful and exhausting. If in your heart of hearts you know that what you are doing is the right thing to do, just do it. If other people don’t like that, that’s their problem not yours. 

Next time things get prickly or you have a difficult decision to make, try reframing the need to be a people pleaser and liked by everyone with the above. I think you’ll find it can be incredibly liberating.

PERMA Series – Part 3: ‘R for Relationships’


Perhaps the most important element to a relationship is the way we feel when we speak with people and the extent to which we feel the person we are with hears and cares about what we say. We all know how disheartening it feels to talk to a brick wall.

There are four different ways to respond to other people (see below). Which do you think is the most destructive? Which way of responding to the news of a promotion at work do you think is evident in strong relationships?

Name of Response Type Type of Response
Active Constructive Verbal: ‘That’s fantastic! How did you feel? What happened?’ etc

Non-verbal: Smiling, eye contact, touching, laughing

Passive Constructive Verbal: ‘That’s great!’

Non-verbal: Minimal emotional expression

Active Destructive Verbal: ‘How much is that going to cost? How are you going to manage all that?’

Non-verbal: Furrowed brow, scowl

Passive Destructive Verbal: ‘What’s on television?’ or if you’re really lucky a grunt

Non-verbal: Turning body, leaving conversation

(Adapted from ‘Flourish’ by Martin Seligman, 2011, pg 49)

Other ways to be an effective listener include open body language, not band-aiding (saying ‘Don’t worry, it’ll be ok’ etc), undermining or championing the other person (‘oh that’s nothing, you should hear what happened to me’), being empathetic and remaining focussed on the conversation (nothing like pulling a phone out mid-discussion to put a dampener on things!)