At the College of Alberta School Superintendents (CASS), we recently completed a pretty big undertaking: interviewing almost all of the school authorities in Alberta to better understand their wellness activities and approaches.
Fresh off the press, we just released a full report based on these interviews, most of which were conducted by our Directors of Leadership Learning – Wellness (a pair that consists of my colleague, Jim McLellan, and myself). The interviews brought together superintendents, their executive teams and—in some cases—wellness leads for some healthy discussion.
How did the process work, you might be wondering? And what did we learn? Well, now that the word is in, we’re eager to share.
Ready to Report
The interviews consisted of 11 broad, open-ended questions around the wellness activities of each school authority. Based on what we heard, we then arranged the report itself according to broad categories, summarizing emerging themes, quotes, counts and percentages throughout for leaders, teachers, staff and students. Using these overarching categories, we broke everything out according to:
- the many features of school authorities’ approaches to wellness and mental well-being;
- challenges; and
- other ways to support school authorities in building capacity for the implementation of organizational, leader and staff wellness, including mental well-being.
We gathered a lot of valuable information from this process, and below are just a few of the key highlights from our research:
- Varying definitions of wellness exist around the province.
- The use of data to drive decisions is both a current practice and a challenge.
- There are a variety of proposed roles and supports that we can offer through CASS.
- Planning and implementation of student-focused wellness activities and efforts are at a more mature stage than staff wellness.
Supporting School System Wellness Needs
One thing was clear from this research: Alberta school authorities recognize the benefits and value of wellness for leaders, teachers and students. These interviews have helped illustrate the many diverse strategies that systems leaders—and those they work with—have used to address wellness and mental well-being. It’s also clear that this work doesn’t come without its challenges, and that system leaders do see a role for us in supporting their efforts. We plan to use the findings, alongside input from key stakeholders and within CASS’s overarching mandate, to inform where we go next.
Beyond some of the actions described in this report, we also noticed trends suggesting specific items for consideration, including:
- Creating a workplace wellness framework and planning tool that considers the unique and complex context of school authorities.
- Creating a resource library and professional learning module that aligns with the information found in this report and that aligns with the workplace wellness framework and implementation plan template.
- Creating an implementation and planning guide that supports school authorities’ awareness and understanding as they develop their workplace wellness plans.
Starting with the End in Mind
This report, Supporting a Focus on Wellness Across Alberta School Authorities—along with the many conversations we’ve had across the country—has helped inform many of our next steps for CASS members. Some of these include:
- A recently completed Workplace Wellness Planning and Implementation Guide that’s now ready to use.
- A learning module to support the guide, now in its planning stages.
- A succinct and time-specific resource library, now in the early stages of development.
And while providing support to school authority leadership was the immediate focus of our work on this, we also hope that this support cascades into our school communities. Healthy staff make for healthy students—and we know that healthy staff are more likely to thrive when their leaders are well.
Ultimately, our vision of workplace wellness includes staff and students who learn and play in environments that support a healthy life!