For Mike’s last episode of the academic year, he speaks to the remarkable Clare Erasmus who shares her insights around wellbeing – what a great end to a great year!
Clare is Head of Faculty for Mental Health and Wellbeing at Brighton Hill Community School and describes herself as very fortunate to have experienced unconditional love in her upbringing in South Africa. When she arrived in the UK, she didn’t have the urge or the desire to teach until she had her own children and she realised that it was such a privilege to teacher other people’s children.
Having seen discrimination in South Africa, Clare became a champion for equality and leading anti-bullying, anti-racism, anti-xenophobia and aniti-homophobia campaigns. Her passion was for finding ways in which young people could speak about and lead work in these areas. This lead her to the world of mental health.
She found a lack of resources in the UK for mental health in the 1990s and 2000s and she found herself championing mental health and wellbeing in schools.
When you are teaching do you adopt different personas?
“When I first started teaching I was trying too hard to be someone else.”
Quite quickly, Clare realised the only way which would work was for her to be herself and the students be themselves. The only differences between her and the learners were:
- she had experience
- she had insights into the institution they were in
- she had good communication skills
Authenticity is vital, for Clare and since she realised this people have gravitated towards her. She also thinks it’s important to share a little bit of vulnerability with students – for example she let them know how nervous she was about doing a recent TED talk.
Why is wellbeing so important to you?
Despite having a wonderful childhood, Clare realised that wasn’t a ticket to having a wonderful life. Everyone has challenges and sometimes everyone can be hit quite hard – which can be a huge shock and you can find yourself crumbling. She discovered resilience which for her means the ability to recognise when things aren’t working and you aren’t feeling great. Even if you look like you should be able to cope, you can’t but you can – and do – ask for help.