As the Head of an Early Learning Centre and Junior School, it is of utmost importance to me that my students feel motivated, positive and supported at school. For this is the setting that they encounter the majority of their interactions, pose most of their questions and above all, form beliefs about who they are as a person, friend and citizen of the community. If your child is not satisfied in their educational environment, it can have detrimental effects on their wellbeing as they continue into adolescence and beyond.
Interestingly, in the last five years, there has been a dramatic shift in the questions that families are asking of prospective schools. It seems the questioning around elite academic programs and the desire to achieve exceptional results have been superseded by an increased emphasis on how teachers deal with social issues, convey digital footprints and understand the strategies embedded in teaching resilience to ensure that our children leave as capable young people. It is evident that parents are more aware of choosing a school setting where teaching and learning programs are underpinned by overall contentment. The confidence children can derive from experiences in an array of activities both inside and outside of the classroom has been the catalyst for many conversations between prospective families and myself. We must undoubtedly acknowledge that the very nature of educational settings are to deliver exceptional teaching and learning programs, however, there should be an equal emphasis on delivering a wellbeing curriculum that supports the holistic development of a child.
Wellbeing is the quality of a person’s life; having a strong sense of wellbeing is fundamental to the mental, emotional, physical and spiritual health of an individual. Peer interactions have the ability to change our perspective and mindset, therefore, our reliance on resilience, empathy and adaptability to flip our mindset becomes crucial in how we cope and respond to situations. Research shows that positive mental health increases learning, creativity and productivity, pro-social behaviour as well as improving physical health and life expectancy.
What are some mindful activities that we can implement in school and at home?
10 minutes of mindfulness
As part of our school curriculum, we begin each day with 10 minutes of mindfulness to ensure our positive wellbeing is being honed, strengthened and supported. Mindfulness can take many forms that allows the mind to relax, be in the present moment and restore equilibrium. Many students identify turning the lights off and lying on the floor while doing a morning meditation or box breathing, a strategy that works best for them. Others enjoy yoga or find laying on a beanbag whilst listening to their teacher read a story aloud the most effective way to clear and reset their mind. In essence, 10 minutes may seem like a short period of time, however, when utilised effectively, is ample in beginning the school day in the right way. I love visiting our classrooms after the daily wellbeing session, as you can certainly feel the positive vibe which complements our climate for learning.
Physical activity and creative stimulation
How students feel about themselves changes over time, in varying situations and circumstances, and in response to community and environmental factors. Wellbeing, or the lack of it, can affect a student’s engagement and success in learning. It is important that at school and home, children feel comfortable to attempt new experiences and feel nurtured to grow and learn from failures and mistakes.
Recently, our students celebrated Sharing Day where we participated in rotations which were led by parents and members of our school community. These ranged from cooking, sewing, drawing, playing sports and even Zumba. By allowing students to venture out of their comfort zones, dabble in new experiences and practise interpersonal relationships with less familiar adults, students can feel more confident, free to take risks and explore and identify feelings of success, frustration and achievement. It is activities such as this, that we as adults should do more often, in order to improve our own vitality and wellbeing.
Factors that influence wellbeing
Whether we recognise it or not, every aspect of our life influences the state of our wellbeing. It is vital to note and to discuss with our children that the state of our wellbeing is fluid. Our students need to appreciate that all emotions are valuable. They can be labelled, can be fleeting and the best news is, can be overcome when action is taken to seek support and talk to others.
Researchers investigating happiness have found the following factors enhance a person's wellbeing:
Fulfilling relationships with family, friends and a partner
Identifying a network of trusted friends
Satisfaction at work or in your career, which supersedes the need for the highest salary
Adequate money to cover household bills, mortgage, groceries, etc.
Regular exercise to release endorphins
Spiritual connection, values or religious beliefs
Outlets, interests and hobbies
Realistic and achievable goals
A sense of belonging
The ability to adapt to change
Living in a fair and democratic society
Understanding that a student’s wellbeing is paramount to overall success at school should be a consideration when selecting a school for your child. Without doubt, academic success and an innate sense of motivation and drive will develop once a child has a strong sense of belonging and connection to their school community.
Miss Melissa Schoorman is the Head of Wardle House, Deputy Principal at Toorak College.
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