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What Does a Culture of School Employee Wellness Look Like, Anyway?

by Matthew Mitschke Alberta Health Services | December 22 2016

I recently went on a road trip to the USA. From that experience, I can tell you that school employee wellness is a lot like going on a trip: you shouldn’t move forward if you can’t see where you are going. With school employee wellness, it may be harder to recognize whether there is a clear vision. You may notice that you just can’t get started, or are doing a lot of activities without having an impact, or perhaps members of your wellness team don’t seem to know what to do next. If you are noticing these things, then creating a shared vision—or updating your existing one—may be just what the mechanic recommends. No matter where you are on the journey to improving school employee wellness, it is essential that you keep your eye on the destination.

Determine Your Route

So what is a “shared vision” anyway? A ‘vision’ is an inspirational and motivating statement that sets the overall direction for the group’s work. It is an expectation of how things should be in the future. A shared vision is one that is agreed upon by all stakeholders (e.g. administrators, teachers, counselors, educational assistants, bus drivers, caretakers, etc.). In the case of school employee wellness, your vision might answer a question such as, “What does a culture of school employee wellness look like?”

Having a shared vision is important because it ensures that everyone helps define the school’s overall direction and agrees upon where they want to end up. If anyone on your team loses sight of what they should be doing, a shared vision might act like a road sign and get them back on track. Having a shared vision can help during those busy times of year when stress levels are high—did somebody say report cards? It can also help maintain a clear direction during the uncertain times of staff turnover.

Dig Out the Map

Creating a shared vision is one of the first fuel stops on the road to improving school employee wellness. It's an essential one that is often overlooked. Whether you use the Alberta School Employee Benefit Plan (ASEBP) SCHOOL model or the Comprehensive School Health approach as your roadmap, visioning ideally comes before designing or implementing any health initiatives. This will keep you from taking any costly detours further down the road.

Mark Your Route

You may be wondering at this point, “How do I create a shared vision?” Assuming you already have a team—or at least one other person to work with—creating a shared vision can be easy with the tools that are already available. Alberta Health Services outlines three easy steps to get started. Try these steps over the course of several meetings with your team or entire school staff:

  1. Initiate discussion with your school health team. Break the ice, do some team-building and discuss the importance of having a shared vision.
  2. Gather input from all stakeholders. Figure out who your stakeholders are and include them in the process. Then, try one of the many great visioning activities already created for you on the Alberta Health Services CSH Approach Website. Just click on “Steps for Building Healthy School Communities” and scroll down to step two!
  3. Create your vision. Make a statement from the input gathered from all stakeholders. Your vision statement should be written in present tense and oriented toward the future. Make sure it is descriptive, includes existing school values, is realistic and can be measured.

After these three steps, your vision should meet the needs of all stakeholders. Now is the time to fulfill that vision!

Time to Hit the Road

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to how to use your shared vision, but here are a few tips to help to get your newly formed shared vision off the ground:

  1. Share your vision broadly. Raise awareness, get more people on board and hold yourself accountable. As a team, brainstorm who needs to know about the vision and find ways to reach that audience. Try communicating it to everyone; on school websites, entrances and common areas, in printed materials or at school staff meetings.
  2. Reflect on the process. Ask what worked well and what was difficult in the process. What would you do to improve the process next time?
  3. Revisit. Revisiting your shared vision will allow you and other stakeholders to stay on track and moving forward with what is really important.
  4. Develop a mission statement. This will help you achieve your vision. If a vision is how you want things to be in the future, then a mission statement will outline what your team is doing now to achieve that vision. You might find that the ASEBP vision and mission template, found on The Sandbox, will help you write a mission statement.
  5. Revise. It may be necessary to slightly change the vision once you have more input from others or once a school health assessment is completed and more data is available.

Enjoy the Ride

Now that this blog post has come to an end, I hope you enjoy driving down the road of school employee wellness, knowing that your vision is intact and that you can see where you are going. I will leave you with a quote that applies to driving, school employee wellness and life in general: “I can't change the direction of the wind, but I can adjust my sails to always reach my destination” ~Jimmy Dean.

Matthew Mitschke

One of Alberta Health Services’ superstar health promotion coordinators, Matt works tirelessly with school jurisdictions in Edmonton to support them in their comprehensive school health journeys. A superhero with a fear of flying (what the?), Matt makes up for this in spades with his sense of adventure and the miracle that is his hair.