Dare to be a rockstar - Education Matters Magazine

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Dare to be a rockstar

When Peta Jeppesen became overwhelmed in her role as a school principal and needed support, she found the resources on offer were inadequate, or simply did not exist. Like any good entrepreneur, she set to work developing a better solution and started her own teacher wellbeing program, Beyond the Classroom.

If education is one of the cornerstones on which society is built on, then teachers are the founders of that cornerstone. Working as everyday heroes in the lives of children, families, and communities, the power of a good teacher to empower and change lives cannot be understated. Yet, the rate of teacher attrition in Australia has risen steeply over the last few decades and continues to skyrocket. Without a national database to garner an exact figure from, experts from the University of Melbourne estimate that anywhere from 8 percent up to 50 percent of teachers leave the profession within the first five years of employment.

Addressing teacher attrition

A high rate of teacher turnover comes at a significant cost to the Australian education system, both for the nation’s budget and the educational pathways of Australian citizens. That’s why, in recent years, a considerable amount of research has been done toward understanding the reasons why so many teachers leave the profession prematurely. Results of several studies have shown that the reasons for early departures vary but ranking high among them consistently were heavy workloads, insufficient recognition and reward, low wages, and poor work-life balance, according to the Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership (AITSL). All these factors combined can be detrimental to teacher well-being, leading to feelings of overwhelm, burnout and a general lack confidence in their everyday lives.

The Beyond the Classroom story

In 2018, Ms Peta Jeppesen needed somebody to talk to about the challenges she was facing in her role as a School Principal, but always found herself in the highest position of authority, faced with making difficult decisions on behalf of the students, staff, and parents depending on her.

“I was feeling burned out and finding it increasingly difficult to ground myself in my work, but I didn’t want my colleagues to see that I couldn’t manage all of these difficult situations and scenarios I was faced with in my role,” she says. “In particular, I didn’t want to offload my problems onto staff members who were dealing with their own stress in the job and saw me as their support. Instead, I allowed my frustrations to continue building and my self-care and wellbeing to go unchecked, which ultimately furthered the cycle of burnout for me.”

It was at this point that Ms Jeppesen recognised there was a gap in the education system when it comes to managing teacher wellbeing on the job. “I started doing a lot of research into self-care and wellness. I quickly realised how important it is for teachers and principals to be in a good state of mind and body wellness, keeping energy levels high to make critical decisions and make sense of things on the job every day.

“I began to study areas of interest to me that I could learn from and that would allow me to provide better support to my colleagues and contemporaries. I looked at how the mind works, non-violent communication, and how to honour and respect our feelings. I also did some study into women’s cycles and how that impacts the way we work,” she explains.

Ms Jeppesen began putting together a wellbeing program for teachers that would eventually become Beyond the Classroom. The program has been designed to provide coaching and support to teachers and can be integrated into a school wellbeing program or accessed for individual coaching. “I thought about what I needed when I was a teacher and tried to tailor my programs to the individual needs of my clients. I want my program to feel like an oasis for teachers; a place where they can go to re-energise, work through the challenges they are navigating in their roles and find a renewed sense of inspiration in their work,” she says.

Ms Peta Jeppesen works with teachers, principals and schools.

Helping educators prioritise self-care

The core philosophy of Beyond the Classroom, explains Ms Jeppesen, is to support teachers in being the best they can be in the classroom or in the principal’s office. Designed to provide support to teaching professionals by instilling confidence and help them adapt to the changing demands of the profession, Beyond the Classroom also works to support schools in developing a framework for prioritising teacher workflows, wellbeing, and self-care.

“As a former teacher and principal, with more than 20 years of experience, I understand the challenges that schools face. That is why I have used my experience to put together these transformative coaching programs,” says Ms Jeppesen.

The programs offered by Beyond the Classroom are Dare To Be A Rockstar Teacher, 1:1 Coaching for Teachers or Principals, and the School Coaching Program. Dare To Be A Rockstar focuses on helping teachers prioritise their authentic selves, health and wellbeing in the classroom and take emotional and intuitive needs into account in their roles while building confidence and finding a renewed sense of purpose in their role. Meanwhile, the 1:1 Coaching Program for teachers or principals focuses on supporting teachers and principals in improving work/life balance, communication, relationships with staff and fostering a positive community culture on campus, as well as managing operational and administrative tasks. The School Coaching Program supports various staff members alike to build a healthier school ecosystem through the 1:1 coaching program for both teachers and principals with a common goal.

“I really enjoying talking with teachers and giving them a voice. It’s about honouring and valuing the education profession, and not being complacent in it,” Ms Jeppesen says. “It’s not just about achieving basic wellbeing alone but taking them to the next level and allowing them the freedom to be creative and innovative in their area of specialisation. This, in turn, benefits the children that they teach.”

She explains that once teachers have got the time and space, and have received help with their self-care, it comes down to making themselves a priority. “I’ve seen teachers go on to publish a book and do their Master’s. I try to work with them to expand their career horizon by asking things like: If everything was possible, what would you do? What would it look like? What would it feel like?” she explains.

“The more we spend time in that space, especially the ones that have come back and done some more work, the more they can step outside themselves. Teachers that felt the need for change, have gained the confidence to have a voice and to build new relationships and get out into the community more.”

For her, seeing teachers that are about to leave the profession discover a renewed energy to continue is the most rewarding part of the job. “When I speak with teachers, I asked them questions about what their challenges are, what their career goals are, and a number of them spoke about wanting to retire. For some, they’re getting to an age where they want to change their career and that’s okay.

“But for others, it’s because of the circumstances, the rush and not being able to control their working environment,” she says.

“Often times after I work with someone and we have a conversation, I find ways to better support them and make some changes that will allow them to continue to work in the profession. A lot of these teachers have years of valuable experience. There are so many good teachers out there that with a bit of help and support, and a voice, they could be there for another three to five years for them. It starts with making yourself a priority.

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