Well, its that time of year again. Exams are right around the corner and it’s an excellent time for me to take a step back and really reflect on student wellness. It’s the perfect time to see where we are at and what support that we need to provide for our students.
Why during exams you may ask? Well it is one of the few times where students have a lot of freedom to implement choices on their own terms without a teacher providing a structured environment. After all, isn’t true learning evident when someone performs the desired skill or behaviour on their own?
One question I ask students is “what do you do to cover your wellness needs?”, and the responses I get concerns me. Most of the time it is “my parents do this…” and “my parents do that…” or “my nanny does this…” (it’s a Dubai thing. We even have a nanny and she’s awesome!!) and very rarely it’s a response when they actually tell me how they take responsibility for their wellbeing and understand its importance. Personally, I feel that we, as a society, do not spend enough time, effort and resources on the proper development and wellness education that our students should have. Many academics focus on getting exemplary marks in the sciences or math because that is what students believe post secondary schools only look at when they are choosing the students to come to their school. Sure, being able to solve a quadratic equation is pretty impressive, but will it help you maintain a long and healthy life?
When reflecting on the effectiveness of a wellness, I am always brought back to a pre-conference I was a part of with pre-service teachers who were bright and eager to jump into the education profession. The conversation focused on how to create a culture of wellness in your school community and the soon-to-be teachers had a lot of great questions, but the number one question is what foundations do you need to make sure that its successful. Through our discussions we came to the conclusion that a successful program needs a solid foundation of understanding what is wellness from all staff (not just the PE department) , resources to help develop an in-depth understanding, wellness champions to communicate the message and importance of wellness, students who are able to share their voice and be part of the change, support from administration and finally a method to evaluate the effectiveness of the program.
I know what you are thinking, I’m going to go through each of these qualities of a wellness program and provide advice on how to develop them, but I can’t. Each school community will be at different places and there are way too many elements and moving parts that are specific to a school. These are more concepts to develop and guide your thinking and reflection. What I can provide is some questions to help guide you in evaluating your schools quality of wellness:
How happy are your students? How do they handle stress levels? Is there an understanding of what makes a healthy lifestyle? Are our students making opportunities to be physically active?
Do you/staff know what wellness is? Where can you see elements of this understanding in your school community at this time?
How do our current school practices and policies support the development of wellness within our school community?
Who is communicating the importance of wellness to our school community? Who can we get to encourage/guide us along our wellness journey?
For me, the question of how happy are your students should always be the starting point. Get information directly from the source. Once you know where your students are at, its easy to take the first steps to developing student wellness within your school community.
Until next time, happy reflecting everyone!