What is the Well School?
Well School is a global initiative focused on developing thriving school communities. Our primary focus is on teacher wellness and their capacity to bring wellness to themselves and their classroom. Learning and living with wellness brings out the best in people. For teachers it can help reconnect to ones passion for teaching, for students it can help them reach their full potential – in their physical, social, mental and spiritual development.
High rates of student obesity, diabetes, depression and anxiety reflect the failure of our society to provide young people with knowledge and skills to become healthy productive adults. Teacher health is also suffering with the stress of classroom management & systems that undermine teacher wellness. Research shows that the most important factor impacting student behaviour & health is a student’s connection with their teachers! Well School supports our most precious asset, the teachers, to maximize their resilience & effectiveness in this critical role.
By bringing teachers awareness and capacity to develop both their personal wellness and support others through collaborative communities and networks. This includes tools to assess their wellness, peer to peer training in practical wellness skill development and a connected community via the Well School Hub & the Well School Academy:
Well School is a whole systems, collaborative approach that supports educations most precious asset: the teachers, towards their health and optimal being. We think teacher and workplace wellness are essential part of creating a safe and healthy school culture for all. We focus on teacher well-being first and foremost as a strategy for student well-being. The animation below well expresses the need for systems change and was adapted from a talk given by Sir Ken Robinson, world-renowned education and creativity expert and recipient of the RSA’s Benjamin Franklin award.
In Finland, the home of arguably the most exemplary school system of contemporary times, teaching is a highly respected and sought after profession, attracting students from the top 10% of university graduates. In Asia the use of strong peer to peer support systems give teachers, especially those new to teaching, the support, guidance and feedback needed to improve the effectiveness of their teaching practice.
Unfortunately in Australia, with low wages and difficult work conditions, our teachers are denied the wages, status, support and respect deserved and necessary for the teaching community to realize its full potential.
Teachers of today suffer from the psychological stresses of teaching the 21st century technologically empowered child in a 20th Century learning paradigm. In addition, teachers are required to manage classrooms in which a significant percentage of children are health challenged; a consequence of our modern culture and its increasing rates of mental and physical illness in children.
What is more, teacher health is on the decline with many leaving the profession early or before they even begin their career.
Despite good intentions and valuable efforts on the part of schools and staff, most school wellness initiatives may suffer for a variety of reasons such as their short term nature being fragmented from the whole system, being inadequately supported by school policy, being too challenging or from being too dissonant with the existing school culture.
In his wonderful book Schools That Learn, Peter Senge speaks of the importance of the promotion, development, care and security of its teachers. He emphasises the role of teachers in acting as stewards for all children and the importance of commitment to lifelong learning and the craft of teaching.
The Well School Framework connects together several interrelated systems thinking approaches to bring wellness to the whole school system. These include the dimensions of wellness, coaching principles for change, the learning organisation and peer-to-peer principles.
The framework includes the ideas of:
1. Personal Mastery & Self-efficacy – Understanding what skills they need to master, where they stand in their skill development and then developing the skills they need to interact well in the world
2. Personal Coaching – Support teachers in creating a vision for their future, making choices based on this and having an action plan to move forward with these choices.
3. Shared Vision – Support schools developing collaborative shared common purpose, with guiding principles and practices that can take them to their destination
4. Peer to Peer Approach – Through first developing awareness of the possible limitations of ones current mindset, we support the seeding and growth of collaborative and supportive Peer to Peer thinking, acting and teaching into the school community
5. Wellness Systems Thinking – The importance of understanding interdependency between all the dimensions of wellness and how these can support positive change versus fragmented approaches to well-being and education.
Well School brings these core concepts to a framework in which communities of teachers can self-assess their health and wellness, be trained in wellness and coaching communication skills (the heart of growing wellness) and become personally empowered to share this learning with their students.
Well School Launch
Thankyou to all who attended, supported and contributed to our launch event @ Experimedia, The State Library of Victoria on Thursday 18th October 2012.
The event showcased a range of inspiring educators who showed their different approaches to bringing wellness to schools via cognitive coaching, mindfulness and meditation, technology and mentoring.We greatly appreciated the contributions and sharing of your challenges and ideas on how to achieve personal, student and school wellness.