Keeping student wellbeing on the agenda in 2021

Understanding student wellbeing, and how it links to learning, has now become an imperative.
Rochelle Borton
Feb 4, 2021
Students wellbeing is imperative

Schools are all about learning…right? Absolutely, but they aren’t just about teaching the ABCs and the basics.

Schools are not just places where young people receive a structured, cognitive and curriculum-based education. They are diverse, dynamic and create rich opportunities for students to develop emotionally, socially, physically and spiritually.

Community members have never demanded more from educators, especially due to changes in expectations from parents. Research has shown the need to continually adapt to the individual and differentiated needs of students. Those student needs now, increasingly extend into understanding the part that wellbeing plays in helping students succeed and flourish at school.

For those in the teaching world, there is longstanding recognition of the strong links between student wellbeing and learning success. The rapidly changing and unpredictable world means that understanding student wellbeing, and how it links to learning, has now become an imperative.

More than ever, teachers need to develop even greater skills to assist students in building wellbeing and resilience. The ability to nurture and foster these skills in young people has the ultimate objective of increasing a student’s ability to engage in productive and successful learning.

In 2020, a significant number of Eduinfluencers partner schools made contact to discuss how we could support their teaching teams whilst they guided students in the areas of mental health, wellbeing and resilience building. It was clear that teachers found it more difficult to support young people in these areas, if they themselves did not have structures in place to maintain personal wellbeing and resilience. The schools and teams that thrived and continue to blossom through challenging times are those that have a taken the time to build and maintain a resilient culture.

To teach the underpinnings of wellbeing and resilience to students, educators must be given the opportunity to develop these skills personally. A good place to start is to consider the wellbeing and resilience theory in the following areas:

  • Understanding and building resilience
  • Emotional regulation
  • Conflict resolution
  • Problem solving and decision making
  • Responsibility and accountability
  • Adaptability

These areas when reviewed often, with vulnerability and in parallel to teaching and learning, can ensure that educators can continue to help students develop positive character strengths that contribute to an affirming and impactful learning environment.

Sounds lovely and kumbaya-like doesn’t it? Of course, in practice this is not without challenges. Each student, like each educator, comes to school as a unique contributor to the whole. Those individuals come with a set of characteristics that have been shaped by their own personal experiences, challenges, opportunities and pathways.

No path is the same, and no resilience or wellbeing building route is the same either. That’s why we need to steer away from just delivering content whether it is the latest ‘off the shelf’ wellbeing program for students or fixating on a one size fits all approach.

Whilst there is merit in mindfulness programs such as, wellbeing pulse checks and yoga lessons at lunch time, it may only tick one box. Schools must learn first to create a sense of psychological safety for students and staff. 

This is best done by focusing on the innate factors that drive satisfaction in life; building autonomy, a sense of belonging and connection, and competence to successfully achieve their learning goals.

If as a community, these ABCs could be the focus, then there is no limit to what can be achieved.

Rochelle Borton is Founder and Managing Director of Eduinfluencers, an organisation that provides professional learning programs, workshops, coaching and consultancy to schools in Australia.

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