Drawing from the well – taking care of the care taker

As the end of the term draws to a close, you probably have one eye glued to the calendar as you will yourself into the holidays. Often at this stage of the year, fatigue is battling with the seemingly never ending lists of tasks to be completed – you’ve been working hard on reports, registers, meetings, professional development, planning, assessment setting and / or marking … need we go on?

It’s at this point that we tend to cross the finish line, not so much in the winning style that we’d prefer, but sometimes with a stagger, weighed down by the crazy busyness of life as a modern teacher. We dream of improving our wellbeing by sitting on a beach or taking to the golf course and leaving the school bell far behind, but the reality is that most teachers will undertake some kind of work during the break.

Rather than approaching teacher wellbeing in deficit terms however, if we take a leaf out of the soon to be implemented Australian Curriculum and take a strengths-based approach instead, what could that look like? What would it take for you to be able to thrive and flourish more regularly in your particular environment, in your school?

Research shows that being attentive to personal and positive aspects of work is more effective with respect to performance than focusing on the prevention of negative aspects such as stress and burnout. But before you choke on your toast thinking that you’d need to wave a magic wand to solve all the issues that are beyond our reach to improve wellbeing outcomes for teachers, what if we were more able to control the controllable – that is, us? Ourselves?

In developing their ‘Quality from Within’ (QfW) approach, Korthagen and Vasalos (2008) focus on growth, starting from and building on the inner potential of teachers. Using the onion model developed by Korthagen (2004) (see Figure 1), they advocate that professional behaviour becomes more effective and fulfilling when it connects to the qualities and deeper values within a person, particularly if they are in harmony with other aspects such as knowledge and beliefs.


Take a moment to look at the onion model and ask yourself the questions that you see – how does this make you reflect on your professional context and how can you be kinder to yourself when linking the layers?



Figure 1. The onion model (Korthagen 2004).

It also stands to reason then that if these fabulous core qualities that so many teachers possess are part of a bigger network that supports the individual, then teacher wellbeing surely improves.
Among other things, your membership with ACHPER NSW provides you with direct access to ongoing support and professional development activities for teachers, students and academics in PDHPE and CAFS throughout NSW.

The social capital that being a part of an organisation such as ours enables, is one which supports you to achieve your goals, is open in exchanging information and one which helps to build resources and opportunities – because let’s face it, we are all on the same team.  So together, let’s take that strengths based approach and improve teacher wellbeing in partnership. We look forward to seeing you soon at one of our fabulous professional learning courses and continuing the conversation. Until then, find that beach, hit that golf ball and enjoy a well-earned break for the holidays!


Korthagen, F.A.J., 2004. In search of the essence of a good teacher: towards a more holistic approach in teacher education. Teaching and teacher education, 20 (1), 77–97.

Korthagen, F. and Vasalos, A., 2008. Quality from within as the key to professional development. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association, New York, March.

Roffey, S. (2012). Pupil wellbeing – Teacher wellbeing: Two sides of the same coin? Educational & Child Psychology, 29(4), 8 – 17.

Zwart, R.C., Korthagen, F.A.J. & Attema-Noordewier, S. (2015) A strength-based approach to teacher professional development, Professional Development in Education, 41(3), 579-596, DOI: 10.1080/19415257.2014.919341

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