Rick Hansen Street Data: Supporting Staff Mental Health and Wellness Through Inquiry

November 24, 2022

The teaching and support staff at Rick Hansen are actively pursuing their commitment to student achievement and understand that getting a pulse on the mindset of the current teaching climate is an essential factor in this pursuit. As every teacher in our school community is trained in Inquiry-Based Learning, they know that IBL is the best vehicle to not only hear from as many of their colleagues as possible but also to create in-house ideas, strategies, and solutions for everyone can buy into. When we own our learning journey, we know that it is far more relevant and meaningful, creating a greater dedication to those ideas, strategies, and solutions.

Beginning with an initial brainstorming session led by our Focus Team Leaders, the staff in its entirety emphasized concerns and shared ideas. Utilizing stacks of Post-It Notes and chart paper, staff successfully narrowed their focus. Accordingly, it highlighted that in our post-pandemic world, amid a staffing shortage and in a changing technological landscape, that exhaustion, frustration, and burnout is looming for many.

The overwhelming concern surfaced that the stress of the job needs addressing. As such, the inquiry questions emerged: (1) what can we do to promote mental wellness and prevent staff burnout and (2) how do we build relationships among staff?

The work of unpacking these two essential questions began in the second meeting: the driving questions were broken down, and focus subcommittees were formed. Teachers and support staff began to assign themselves to roles according to their passions, interests, or burning questions. Among these groups are staff actively exploring topics such as wellness, mental health skills and personal strategies, staff initiatives, and support staff and teacher working relationships. Another group is focused entirely on the data collection, or the "how will we" avenue of this inquiry.

Engaging in a gallery walk in the third session allowed staff to provide meaningful feedback for these sub-groups: what are they trying to address; is the plan actionable; what are the next steps? This has resulted in an even narrower focus and improved plans. In the fourth session, staff identified the next actionable steps, which focus on wellness and community.

Our RHSS staff, who are deeply committed to our ongoing inquiry, are eager to find strategies for growth and are excited about what the next stages will uncover. We know that a healthy and supported staff indisputably positively impacts student learning. The desire for many staff is to take care of ourselves and our colleagues so that we have the capacity, energy, and passion for caring for and instructing our students; it's time to embrace the adage and put on our oxygen mask first.


Rick Hansen Secondary