My fellow health advisor, Janelle, and I recently had the pleasure of facilitating a half-day workshop with the wellness leaders of Wetaskiwin Regional Public Schools on strategies to get their school wellness ideas off the ground using the Idea Readiness Tool. This group has graciously agreed to provide The Sandbox readers a sneak-peek into their experiences as wellness leaders within their school jurisdiction.
Wellness leaders, wellness champions, site wellness coordinators…whatever you name them, these are superhero staff who have volunteered—or sometimes asked—to be the wellness champions for their school. The role of a wellness champion looks different within each school jurisdiction and roles may vary by site. Responsibilities may include: being the leaders of staff and/or student wellness, the initiator of ideas, the listener of others’ ideas, organizer or coordinator of activities and they may even be there to cheer on those participating in activities. No matter the details, they are an important player in supporting the well-being of a school community.
Step into the Wellness Champ Circle
You may be reading this and saying to yourself, the last thing I need is another extracurricular responsibility. Or if you're a member of leadership you may be thinking to yourself, "How will I convince someone to take on this role for our school?" Find some inspiration from a few wellness leaders who accepted their role:
- “I was inspired by the previous wellness leader. I enjoy doing different activities and planning activities with staff and students. I like to challenge myself and bring novelty to the day and school.” – Anne, Grade 2 Teacher & Wellness Leader
- “…I want to help others find balance and also find the team spirit we need.” – Brenda, Learning Support Teacher & Wellness Leader
Icing on the Cake
It’s fun to mine for the positives in the work we do. These wellness leaders didn’t hesitate to answer when I asked them to describe their favourite part about their role as a wellness leader:
- “Working with like-minded people. Being able to lead others on a journey of wellness, even if it is just a small change that makes their life more well-rounded. It’s a reminder for me to take time and be well.” – Celia, Early Ed Teacher & Wellness Leader
- “I feel like I am kind of an ambassador for wellness more than anything. People on staff feel comfortable coming and talking to me about the importance of physical and mental wellness.” – Megan, Teacher & Wellness Leader
Hurdles of Being a Champ
We know that not everything is easy and sometimes we are confronted by barriers and challenges. This is what they said was the greatest challenge they encounter in their role as wellness leaders:
- “Not everyone is ready for wellness yet but I’m learning to meet people where they are at.” – Stacey, Grade 3/4 Teacher & Wellness Leader
- “Staff buy-in.” – Megan, Teacher & Wellness Leader
Can you relate? It is challenging to initiate a new activity when everybody has different opinions and levels of readiness. Two tools that I have found helpful are the employee engagement and willingness survey, which asks staff what areas of health and wellness they are interested in, and the Idea Readiness Tool, a resource that provides strategies to work with different groups.
Help your Colleagues
School staff do the amazing work they do for their students. Let’s read what the wellness leaders said when it comes to why it’s equally important to promote the health and wellness of staff in schools:
- “Too many of us put ourselves on the back burner, not realizing how our personal well-being affects our environment both personally and professionally.” – Stacey, Grade 3/4 Teacher & Wellness Leader
- “To reduce stress, find balance and promote team spirit. Staff learn to work together and support each other in a positive way.” – Brenda, Learning Support Teacher & Wellness Leader
Advice for Other Champs
Finally, I asked these wellness superheroes if they had any advice for wellness leaders at other schools:
- “When you have a new idea, get one other person to work on it with you. I believe in doing things as a group. Try not to conquer the world by yourself.” – Anne, Grade 2 Teacher & Wellness Leader
- “Don’t take anything personally. If your idea doesn’t go over or move forward, it isn’t you.” – Celia, Early Ed Teacher & Wellness Leader
- “You don’t need to add a lot to your job to champion a positive wellness program. You just need to emulate wellness within yourself and be a good role model to get the ball rolling.” – Megan, Teacher & Wellness Leader
- “Work together as a district and share ideas.” – Brenda, Learning Support Teacher & Wellness Leader
Keep up the Good Work
Consider wellness champions an important puzzle piece to promote the culture of wellness in your school community. What do leaders of the school jurisdictions think when it comes to the role of wellness leaders? Wetaskiwin Regional Public Schools’ very own leader of the wellness leaders, Jodie, District Principal, says that, “the wellness leaders are advocates on the school team. They support ideas and initiatives at the school that focus on student and staff wellness. They are energetic and health aware.”
So there you have it folks—an insider’s look at being a wellness champion! What does your school jurisdiction value about the role of school wellness champions? For the wellness champions reading, what's the most rewarding part of your role?