2020/21 has been a real rollercoaster of emotions. Whether you have been working in education for years or are new to the profession, no one could have predicted just how challenging teaching could be in a global pandemic. Therefore, it is vital to ensure the mental and physical health of the people at the coal face – teachers. Good teacher wellbeing is essential for cultivating a mentally healthy school, retaining and motivating staff, and promoting student wellbeing and attainment.
We spoke to Jessica Werner, founder of Northshore Coaching and Consulting and one of the speakers at the recent Outstanding Schools Middle East conference. We asked her how best to combat stress and provide teachers with the tools to progress in their careers and, in doing so, ensure that students receive the finest educational opportunities available.
EDUAE: As a former teacher, you must be able to relate to the pressure teachers are currently under and how this affects the performance of students?
Jessica: Yes, there is a massive link between teacher wellbeing and the performance of students. Up until 15 months ago, people weren’t taking too much notice. Some schools were kind of interested back then, but when Covid hit, it moved to the front of the agenda.
EDUAE: A lot of teachers are exhausted, and some are even leaving the profession?
Jessica: The current situation is pushing everyone to their limits, but it’s good that so many schools in the Middle East are interested in teachers’ wellness and want to support it. Teaching is getting more and more demanding every year. The needs of the students keep evolving, and then there are all of the things that come from ‘above’, such as policy changes and dealing with parents. It’s not getting any easier. That’s why I started Northshore Coaching and Consulting – I wanted to provide something for teachers that I never had, and that might have kept me in the profession longer.
EDUAE: So, what do you offer to support teachers?
Jessica: We have several courses and approaches, many of them online at present. ‘Thriving Teachers’, for instance, revolves around coping with challenges, uncertainty, and trauma – helping teachers to thrive in a stressful profession. For example, all of the courses we provide utilise research-based, results-driven data that gives education professionals the techniques to meet students where they are and lead them to where they need to be. It gives them the tools to capture students’ attention, promote deeper learning, and engage their emotions.
EDUAE: How do the schools and teachers measure the results of your work?
Jessica: The school will experience three principal outcomes: (1) increased confidence and effectiveness in teachers, (2) up to 70% fewer behavioural issues in and out of the classroom, and (3) increased student engagement and achievement.
EDUAE: And individual teachers really value your work?
Jessica: Definitely. There is a school I work with where, when Covid hit last year, the budget dried up overnight, and the Principal said, “Sorry, we can’t continue with coaching for the rest of the year.” Then, a month later, he called back to say that his teachers were furious and asking when Jessica and her team were returning! So, yes, it makes a difference.
EDUAE: Northshore Coaching and Consulting adds considerable value to any relationship, too?
Jessica: It’s all about helping the teacher. All of my team, for instance, are fully qualified and experienced life coaches. This is something that the corporate model has already adopted, with executive coaching now taking place in many of the world’s major corporations. So, this is really progressive for schools to be doing this, and we have all of the skills to ensure it is done to the very highest levels.
Also, I have an extensive background in intercultural training, which serves me well in this role. I’ve worked in different countries and cultures. Still, even on a micro-level, in the United States, there is a vast difference from region to region: for instance, between Minnesota and New York. But one thing remains the same whatever the location: teacher wellbeing has a significant impact on schools, teachers and students.