Jo tells us of her work in promoting wellbeing in her school.
I wanted to share some work I have done regarding wellbeing for Students with other librarians as I am aware this is a growing area of concern for schools, which may fall within our gifts to support.
I’ve been in my role as Library Assistant at a large Hampshire secondary school since the end of September, when I changed careers having spent a few years at home with my young daughter. I’ve learnt so much about working with teenagers and in a school but have so much more to learn!
I was originally asked to host an assembly for every year group at our large secondary school , providing an outline of how the library can support them. Feeling fairly confident of what I would say to the lower years who are much more engaged with reading than the older GCSE years, I wondered what was the best angle to approach it from that felt interesting and relevant to the students. So I created a very short anonymous survey and asked the following questions:
– what is important to their friends right right now?
-what is exciting their friends?
-what are the challenges facing their friends?
I pitched it from the ‘friends’ angle to enable students to be more likely to open up about others than themselves. Distributing the survey to all in Year 10 and 11, I received many results within 24 hours that highlighted some very interesting themes, so I decided to roll the survey out to all year groups. About 80% of tutor groups completed these surveys, the results of which were very enlightening.
The main theme that ran across the year groups was the importance of ‘gaming’ – I’d never heard of Fortnite, the X-box game, before reading the survey responses but I made sure I read about it afterwards as about 60% of all surveys across the year groups mentioned this as important and exciting! Anxiety was a common thread, the ’causes’ of which differed between the year groups. Years 7-9 suggested anxiety was mainly due to navigating difficult friendships, starting to think about choosing options, and completing a lot of homework. Years 10 and 11 suggested anxiety stemmed from a pressure to achieve in their exams (self imposed or from family), coping with the amount of revision, balancing revision with hobbies, not having enough time to do everything, eating poorly, worry about starting college, and concern over what they are going to do after college. Interestingly spending too much time on phones/gaming was also cited as a cause of stress!
I took the survey results and looked at how well the library supporting the emerging themes of Wellbeing and Gaming and worked with Peters to identify a bespoke book list relevant for these themes. I also looked at the Literacy Trust’s article on GameLit which proposes a new genre, of fiction set in the same alternative realities to what users of video games experience. https://www.booktrust.org.uk/whats-happening/blogs/2018/january/5-virtual-reality-books-for-your-gaming-mad-tweens-and-teens/
I captured images of the new books that were coming in and included these in my assembly presentation, as well as creating a ‘New in the Library” display in the corridor outside the library
For Years 10 and 11 I drew upon the wisdom of Danielle Marchant, founder of the Pause retreats who had previously acted as my business coach when I was working in a senior HR role in Asia. Danielle, who had experienced burnout and set about to design the retreats that she needed but weren’t available, is the author of “Pause@ by Octopus books https://www.amazon.co.uk/Pause-press-pause-before-life/dp/1912023091 and we came up with 5 tips to Pause that were relevant for Years 10 and 11.
1) Breathe – I demonstrated the different between belly breathing which we do when relaxed and fast upper body breathing that we do under stress
2)Worry Jar – the act of writing down your worries and putting them in a jar, taking the worrying thought out of your brain and onto paper helps you to question if it really is something worth worrying about, stopping your mind worrying over and over about the issue causing it to be bigger than it really is, freeing up space to concentrate on other things!
3) Importance of Blank space – allocated unstructured time to help deal with the constant busyness of their life. This also included tips on using their phones less – e.g. not charging overnight in their bedrooms, switching off devices two hours before bed and picking up a book instead, ‘see the Sky before a screen’.
4) the importance of getting outside to re-energise – whether its walking the dog, playing football with friends, going for a run or eating your lunch outside
5) Readaxation – I referred to Nicola Morgan’s work on Readaxation and positioned this as the link between the library and wellbeing. That by finding a great book they can lose themselves in will help them reach ‘flow’ and take their mind off their anxieties or exams, as well as helping them sleep if reading before bed!
I signposted the following categories of books to them:
Since the assemblies, the books have flown out with reservations constantly being made. The GameLit has certainly been popular with the boys, they have been shocked to find something that taps into their game playing passions!
I am also hoping to set up a ‘Thrive’ lunchtime club to support wellbeing, and am in discussions about inviting Nicola Morgan in to the school to speak to Year 10 and 11 students, as well as parents, in October as they enter the crucial GCSE years.