Why Being Well Leads To Doing Well
As I set out to compose this blog post I encountered a bump in the road. The subject of well-being is complex and it has generated literally millions of words across all types of media. So how was I, with about 600 words to post, going to effectively address the subject within the context of Walden International School?
It helps to start with a definition but even that creates some degree of confusion. For some, well-being is defined simply as being happy. Happiness may be an element in evaluating one’s well-being, but it is not the only one.
At our school, we address well-being with both students and teachers. There are at least five aspects of well-being* that are addressed in our Walden community.
Social well-being: Teaching and modelling the ability to develop meaningful relationships with others, communicate with others and building an environment of mutual respect and support.
Our IB PYP programme introduces our youngest students to the importance of exploring different approaches to our relationships with others, both in our school and the world at large. The IB aims to do more than other curricula by developing inquiring, knowledgeable and caring young people who are motivated to succeed. We expect that our students will help to build a better world through intercultural understanding and respect.
Physical well-being: Providing information and an opportunity to improve the functioning of our bodies through good exercise habits and healthy eating.
Through our curriculum and extra-curricular activities, we introduce students to the very real benefits to learning that arise from conscious self-care. Through our athletics programs, we ensure that students are exercising both their bodies and their minds. We’ll even send kids outside for recess when it’s raining just because it is so important that they remain active!
Emotional well-being: Introducing and practicing stress-management techniques such as mindfulness to build resilience and accept the adversity that life can bring.
Our students participate in mindfulness activities, which is a mandate of our programme. Evidence suggests that introducing mindful meditation into the classroom is an effective means of improving kids’ attention and emotional regulation. We recognize the importance of encouraging and modelling a healthy lifestyle that includes mindfulness.
Environmental well-being: Maintaining an environment where we can pursue our individual interests, shared values and purpose to do meaningful work and build skills.
We recently undertook many improvements to the physical environment at our school. From introducing a colour palette that encourages clear thinking and comfort to ensuring that our students have the space to move about and learn actively, Walden International School is a safe and nurturing environment.
Societal well-being: Providing the opportunity to actively participate in a thriving culture, community and environment.
Much of our time at the school is spent helping students learn how to help each other. Students are encouraged to think independently and critically, try different approaches to learning and to take responsibility for their own educational progress. Students learn to ask challenging questions, develop research skills proven to help them in higher education and are encouraged to be active in their communities.
It all makes sense and in theory it all seems so simple. And you’d be right in suggesting that these are actually fairly challenging concepts to bring to children when even we as adults can struggle to incorporate all of this into our daily life.
Here’s the surprising thing - children are naturally inclined to practice the habits associated with well-being. Often it is the intervention of adults that generates difficulty. That’s why we’re so very conscious of modelling these behaviours and introducing elements of the curriculum that help our students maintain their equilibrium.
Making clear and direct links between being well and doing well are just part of how we approach our mission to make good people.
*With a nod to Dr. Tchiki Davis, Ph.D., Berkeley Well-Being Institute