Repta reminds teachers establishing wellness culture is important

Sask Bulletin
November 13, 2019

Wade Repta’s presentation on wellness drew a full house and reminded teachers of the importance of asking for help if necessary, while adding that there is no shame in doing so.

During his presentation at the Councillor Conference regarding wellness for teachers, Wade Repta offered plenty of options for those in attendance to contemplate, but at the same time he also shared some hard truths.

“On a day-to-day basis it’s not necessarily realistic to have balance between work and life. Reducing the workload for teachers is not always realistic,” he offered.

“That’s why it’s important to be realistic when you are looking to improve your physical well-being in particular. You need to set goals that are attainable. If you think in terms of black and white, that can be hard. It’s more about looking at the bigger picture. It might look different in how to create a culture of wellness and remember, we don’t have all the answers.”

Repta, an occupational therapist and vice-president of the Vancouver-based humanworks consulting group inc., has been working with teachers for the past two decades and so he is able to offer an extensive, valuable outside voice. Much of what he has experienced can be found in The Well Teacher, which he wrote with the help of his wife Andrée.

Although low-key in his style, he frequently referenced the findings in the publication, including the reality that is all too familiar to teachers–that they are being asked to do more with less.

Repta reckons there is pretty much an even split between physical health and mental health issues that are pervasive within the profession. He agreed in an interview afterwards that it all too often refers back to the notion of “sucking it up” because teachers, by their very nature, are so focused on the needs of their students.

He alluded to the fact that in today’s social media world there are a multitude of ways in which educators can share, talk or listen to colleagues and their respective concerns when it comes to creating a person’s “wellness culture.”

Too often though, teachers find it difficult to start those aforementioned conversations.

“The teaching part; that’s the easy part,” he said in the interview, while referencing that “it’s all the other stuff–a diverse student population, meeting parents’ expectations and those of management. The teaching part is often where folks find refuge,” he added.

During his presentation, Repta asked the rhetorical, poignant question of whether it is OK for teachers to be unwell. Answering his own question, he emphasized that “yes, it’s OK to say you’re not sure if you’re OK. That has to be the starting point in a lot of cases. Remember, you are not the wellness police. You just might be the person who needs the support the most and for someone to listen.”

According to Repta, one of the key stepping stones is to forego the feeling of shame some teachers might experience if they feel like they are unable to cope to the extent which they expect of themselves.

“It’s ironic how there is this thinking that your colleagues might not want to listen. So there is a sense of reluctance, but in fact you might find they do understand. We don’t know what the other person is thinking and that they might be crying on their way to work in the morning. It’s part of the autonomy that teachers have. It’s important to understand that it’s OK to be unwell and sometimes you have to do things for yourself first.”

Repta noted that he has witnessed a shift in this behaviour in recent years. “I think there is a collective understanding that teachers must change in terms of the recognition that it’s all right to ask for help. It’s part of establishing trust and that people are on your side.”

His message clearly resonated with many in the room since the rather modest pile of his books were quickly spoken for following the session. To learn more about The Well Teacher, visit www.humanworkspress.com.