SCHOOL – Workplace & Relationship

Developing and collaborating to create a safe and caring school culture for children, youth, and the adults who work with them is a key preventative step in HEARTcare planning.

“They were attracted to the education field because of their positive world view and their sense that the work they provided was important either to students’ successful completion of their education requirements or, on a wider scale, to the functioning of a civil and ordered society. This deep passion for the job can be described as heartwork.”

Phase Two Report, pg. 14

Positive and supportive workplaces are characterized by professional and authentic relationships, opportunities for formal and informal leadership, and open and constructive conversations, even on difficult topics.

Gross motor activity in hallway

can be fun!

Toxic workplace cultures are characterized by superficial relationships, dysfunctional or unresponsive leadership, unwillingness to have honest conversations, and strained relationships between educators and children and youth.

Read more about creating a compassionate work culture at

Check out the US Surgeon General’s Framework for Workplace Mental Health and Well-being for how to create a healthy work culture.

Check out this podcast series to learn more about opportunities, issues, and opportunities related to acting as a mentor for new professionals. Developed in partnership between the ten education degree granting institutions in Alberta.

Wellness in the Teacher Practicum

Artwork created by Kristy Ball

Check out the Alberta Health Services Building Healthy Workplaces Together and School wellness support websites for more information.

One way to assess your school culture is through the Joint Consortium for School Health planner. Comprehensive School Health is an internationally recognized framework to assess and promote wellness in educational settings.

Take a trauma-informed approach to develop safe and caring schools for both students and staff.

Ready to do more? Try out this comprehensive school health online course or find more information on the comprehensive school health hub. Both were developed in partnership between the Werklund School of Education and EverActive Schools under the leadership of Dr. Shelly Russell-Mayhew.

There’s been so many difficult decisions to make with staff over the last year, and I am the face of the conversations because I am the person from Central Office to meet with everyone of them during any difficult conversation.  I have staff who say “Oh geez, why are you here?” when I enter a room now.  I am a very caring person and have a hard time trying to separate myself from a lot of the difficult decisions that I have to make. (Survey open-ended response)

“Systematic failures are preventing some of my students from reaching the finish line. Easy problems to solve if the system was funded properly, it doesn’t have to be this way.” (Survey open-ended response)

Ways to promote a healthy leadership culture include:

  • Taking a course from the Leading With Heart graduate degree
  • Check out the Compassion Leadership courses and resources offered at the Centre for Compassionate Leadership.
  • Supporting positive, non-formal leadership actions from staff members
  • Encouraging socializing between staff members with different job roles and responsibilities.
  • Welcoming new staff and visitors by providing opportunities to network and learn about the school culture.
  • Modelling healthy behaviors such as taking breaks, setting boundaries, and caring for others.
  • Training in effective mentorship for people in formal and informal leadership roles
  • Learn about Hargreaves and O’Connor’s leadership framework: collaborative professionalism
  • Providing helpful feedback to colleagues and staff
  • Different leadership theories exist, and two that you can explore are teacher leadership or systems leadership.

Positive school cultures embrace thoughtful and meaningful innovation to decrease workload and that benefits the daily life of students, staff, and leaders.

Innovative pedagogy can inspire passion in educational workers.

“Even before April 2020, the demand on teachers to be everything to families is exhausting. We are not trained for that. As humans are not capable, and yet the burden seems bigger every year to be educators, caregivers, therapists, counselors, speech and occupational experts, behaviour experts, computer experts,  family experts, medical experts, paperwork experts, all this and expected to be model parents and never take a break…no lunch, no bathroom break…bullied for taking sick days, medical days, criticized for putting my own family or health first… all that takes away from the joy of teaching and watching children grow.”(Survey open-ended response).

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