Route N165: the Road to Teacher Well-being


“I often wonder if the job of leadership is to look after the staff.”

Well that’s not something you hear every day. I can sense some of my past leaders snorting at the very idea. That’s the joy of Twitter, I suppose, the beauty of Blogs. Every now and then you read something that stops you in your tracks, turns you back into a reflective practitioner.

I am from a people who like to celebrate anniversaries. It’s a habit that in general I have tried my best to get out of, but sometimes I just can’t help myself. Today is the first anniversary of that blog by Martyn Reah, the one that gave wider attention to the thinking that he and others had been doing around teacher well-being. I thought we should celebrate it.

If you read no further than this, then please proclaim with me now: “Happy Anniversary, Teacher Well-being!!”

If you were ranking the major impacts of social media on the teaching profession in the last 12 months, then I would suggest the following list:

  1. the demise of graded teaching observations
  2. the explosion of interest in teacher well-being

Though not necessarily in that order.

Whereas the nutrition-based 5-a-day can be constructed from any available fruit or vegetable, the teacher 5-a-day has a more defined structure. What Martyn presented was an evidenced-based model of well-being, hung upon the following framework:

  • Connect… with the people around you
  • Be active… (exercise makes you feel good)
  • Take notice of things… (be curious, be aware, reflect)
  • Keep learning… (it makes you more confident)
  • Give… (Thank someone. Smile. Volunteer)

This will not be new to you, unless you lost your WiFi connection 12 months ago and have not since had the pleasure of meeting a teacher with a curious smile on their face. If you want to catch up, just search  on Twitter for #teacher5aday with or without any or all of the following hashtags: #connect, #exercise, #notice, #learn and #volunteer.

You may also like to take a look some of the 5-a-day spin-offs such as #teacher5adayPE, #teacher5adaysketch or #teacher5adaycalendar

My only problem with this valuable initiative was that I kept forgetting which the 5 things were that comprise the teacher’s 5-a-day.

I am from a people who liked to take their small children to church every Sunday. It’s strange the things that make an impression on a small child. I may have just imagined this, but I’m convinced that the hymns in church were announced on a board by their number and that the psalms to be sung were denoted by Roman numerals. The Romans may have built wonderfully straight roads but even the youngest version of me could tell that their number system had no practical logic to it at all.

The older me, however, noticed how many strands of #teacher5aday  start with a Roman numeral: Connect, Learn, eXercise, Volunteer. Noticed that too? I also noticed that CLXV is 165 in real numbers. So N165 became my own personal mnemonic for teacher well-being (until I shared it with you just now).

And that is how in turn the Route Nationale 165 from Brest to Nantes has become for me the symbolic road to teacher well-being.

Coincidentally, the N165 is also the road we took from Quimper to Carnac on our last mega-family holiday. Carnac was the place my mother-in-law (whose advanced age I am forbidden to disclose) was seen swimming far out to sea, followed by her duckling daughter and grandchildren, holding out in front of her an old ice cream carton containing a soon-to-be-liberated crab, bought for that very purpose that morning in the hypermarche.

All five strands of teacher well-being were there, present in that one episode. If I had been a teacher at the time, and not a disquieted father on the shore, I would have considered myself as being very well indeed.

May your next twelve months be replete with innovative and adventurous well-being too. 


About dp40days

A senior leader in Further and Higher Education, now based in Moray (pronounced "Murray") on the coast of the Scottish Highlands. (I know, I love paradox). We have more sunshine and less rain each year than my previous home in Manchester, and about fifty more distilleries too! You can find me on Twitter as @DP40days. Blogs so far have been mainly about work and travel but frankly, I've been a bit quiet recently. Maybe that's about to change...
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