As the world takes ever greater notice of the issues surrounding mental health, we’re delighted to introduce you to our ebook Improving Wellness in the School Community. This fascinating guide has been written for us by Dawn Summerfield, a MiniPD coach whose three decades working in education have taught her “a great deal about how students and teachers handle the stress that comes with teaching and learning.”
Summerfield’s guide is underpinned by the belief that when wellness programmes are implemented effectively, they make a valuable contribution to the wellbeing of the school community and, ultimately, to students’ academic success. The guide takes you through a number of key themes around wellness in international schools, helping you understand the various ways in which it can be affected by factors such as stress, executive functioning, and mindset. Let’s take a look at each of the areas you’ll discover in the guide.
The importance of self-care for teachers
The first area Summerfield explores is the importance of teacher wellness and ensuring that your teaching staff are “healthy and healthy members of their school community”. Address teacher wellness, she argues, and you bring your school a raft of benefits including lower teacher turnover and absentee rates, and higher productivity and creativity. Stress is a key factor in teacher wellness, with research suggesting as many as 50% of teachers leave the profession within their first five years.
With this in mind, Summerfield provides some useful strategies and resources that your school can use to help improve the wellness of your teachers, both at a school-wide level and self-care for individual teachers themselves. For teachers, strategies range from the fundamentals, such as ensuring good exercise and nutrition, to creating a personal wellness plan. For schools, creating a mentoring system for new teachers and setting aside monthly faculty meeting time for completing paperwork are among the strategies Summerfield suggests.
Understanding and reducing stress
Stress is one of the main factors affecting wellness in the school community, and while it’s a normal part of life to a certain degree, it can reach a level when it becomes debilitating. In this section of the guide, Summerfield explores the causes and impacts of stress in the school environment, among both students and teachers, such as heavy workloads, lack of control, class sizes, and poor collegial relationships.
For international schools, there’s another particular cause of stress affecting both students and teachers that should not be overlooked: acculturative stress, or the “psychological impact of adaptation to a new culture”. To help tackle the various causes of stress in your school, Summerfield links to a number of useful resources for managing and alleviating it, also advocating practices such as introducing mindfulness into daily school routines.
The power of strong student/teacher relationships
When students have strong relationships with their teachers, Summerfield argues, they are more invested in their own education and typically have a more positive school experience, both emotionally and academically. To that end, she provides some practical strategies for building communication skills and developing strong relationships between students and their teachers and other school staff.
Wellness strategies and resources
While building individual relationships is key to improving wellness in schools, so too is putting in place school-wide strategies for working wellness measures into everyday school life and the culture underlying it. With that in mind, Summerfield discusses wellness practices such as meditation, mindfulness, and developing resilience and a growth mindset. She also links to some helpful wellness resources around social and emotional learning (SEL).
The importance of executive functioning
In the final section of the guide, Summerfield explores the link between effective executive functioning and improved wellness, referring to the obvious correlation between stress levels and aspects such as time management. Improving executive functioning benefits both students and teachers, giving both a more positive experience of school life. Linking to useful resources for developing executive functioning skills, she also looks at some of the common problems people face in this area and strategies for overcoming them.
A vision of wellness in your school
Ending on an uplifting note, Summerfield presents a final look at what wellness could look like for the teachers and students in your international school community:
- For teachers, it’s about feeling balanced and supported, having the freedom to be creative, and opportunities for career advancement.
- For students, it’s about understanding the expectations placed on them, having a balanced workload, and organised teachers.
- For both teachers and students, it’s about having a strong support network in place to help them meet the challenges of school life.
This last point is why, alongside this valuable wellness ebook, you might also find it helpful to read our recent post on five ways to reunite your school community – a timely subject as your students and staff return to school after months of fragmented education and blended learning. By building a strong school community, you’re in the best possible position to safeguard the wellbeing of your students and staff and to reap the many benefit of focusing on wellness.
Learn more from Dawn Summerfield about fostering wellness at your school by booking a 1-on-1 coaching session with her on MiniPD!
Read more about promoting wellness in schools on the MiniPD blog.