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Wellbeing Takes Effort

By Gavin Kinch
Wellbeing Takes Effort

Senior members of the Shanghai community being active and socializing in the city’s parks. (Photo source: Gavin Kinch)

Recently, I was in Shanghai and was struck by the number of senior members of the community being active and socializing in the city’s parks. As I strolled from park to park, I found people dancing, singing, playing instruments, flying kites, performing circus skills, and generally having a wonderful time with friends. As I sat and observed their interactions and activities, it dawned on me that these seniors were providing a great example of what it means to proactively look after your wellbeing. It got me thinking about how this might serve as an example to us in education. Teaching is often considered one of the most rewarding professions, with educators shaping the future of our society. However, the demands of the job can be overwhelming, leading to teacher burnout and compromised wellbeing. 

The wellbeing of teachers is a cornerstone of effective education. A teacher's physical, emotional, and mental health directly impacts their students' learning experiences and outcomes. When teachers are physically and mentally well, they are better equipped to provide high-quality education. Teachers who feel supported and find balance in their roles are more likely to create engaging lessons, foster positive classroom environments, and effectively manage their students. In the long term, wellbeing for teachers means that they are more likely to stay in the profession and contribute positively to their school communities, which is a win for all.

I was challenged by the seniors in the park to prioritize my personal wellbeing. Each one had made a choice that day to arrange to meet up with friends, to go outside the house, to engage with their hobbies, and to invest in their wellbeing and that of others. They reminded me that my personal wellbeing is my responsibility and that to meet that responsibility I have to be prepared to put the effort in. As I contemplated what I could learn from what I had witnessed in Shanghai’s parks, I asked myself the following questions:

Work-Life Balance

  • Am I finding time to complete activities I enjoy that are unrelated to my work?
  • Am I investing in my personal life and relationships outside of work?
  • Do I have a clear boundary between my professional and personal life? 

Physical Health

  • Do I engage in regular physical activity to maintain my health?
  • Am I getting enough restorative sleep each night?
  • Am I eating a balanced diet and staying hydrated?

Mental and Emotional Health

  • Am I making time to spend with others?
  • Am I dealing with stress in healthy ways?
  • Do I have trusted friends to talk to and do I make time for this?


  • Am I taking time to honestly self-assess my wellbeing?
  • Am I prepared to proactively invest in my own wellbeing?
  • How can I keep myself accountable for looking after my wellbeing?

I can’t say that I can answer all these questions with positive answers, but for some, I can. For those that I don’t have a very good answer for, it is a good time for me to reflect.

I have been a teacher for over 20 years and have worked at most levels of leadership within schools. As I reflect on these years, I can easily identify times when I have not looked after my wellbeing and how that has impacted me and those around me. I can also identify times when I have authentically reflected on my wellbeing and have chosen to take deliberate actions to address it. The latter takes time and effort but has been worth the investment and made a difference to me and others while I have maintained it. The maintenance of it is often the issue for me and is an area that needs my constant attention. 

I have a responsibility to look after my own wellbeing, and this requires self-assessment, effort, action, and maintenance, which is not always easy. However, when I am struggling to find the motivation, I will think back to the seniors in the park on that sunny Shanghai morning. I will remind myself of the smiles on their faces, the joy in their movements, and the laughter they shared with each other. Their investment in wellbeing was worth it and mine will be too.


Gavin Kinch is the Principal of ACS (International) in Singapore and is a member of the International Baccalaureate Heads Council.

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