Wellbeing is a word that is often used in schools, but without putting the concept into practice, wellbeing is just that: a word.
Building a classroom on basic principles of wellbeing can set both teacher and students up for lifelong learning, successful relationships, engagement, academic development and enhanced social skills.
Wellbeing is a sense of safety and comfort, and the development of social and emotional literacy, which strengthens student welfare and academic success. A sense of wellbeing allows young people to thrive and achieve their potential.
By encouraging quality relationships and listening, teaching explicitly and differentiating, offering wellbeing in the hidden curriculum, and being inclusive, the classroom becomes a space where learning can truly thrive.
QUALITY RELATIONSHIPS AND LISTENING IN THE CLASSROOM
Encouraging children to develop quality relationships between themselves and their classmates, as well as with their teacher, makes a positive difference to their learning and wellbeing.
Relationships are built collaboratively, and leading by example is an excellent way of providing a positive environment for students. When students see teachers getting along and working as a team, they feel safe, valued and they are encouraged to treat their peers well.
In his book, Visible Learning: A Synthesis of 800 Meta-Analyses Relating to Achievement (2009), John Hattie discusses the contribution of the teacher in positive relationships as having “above average effects on student achievement”.
But it’s not just the relationships between student and teacher that assist in wellbeing. Teachers need to listen and observe to ensure their class is engaging in healthy relationships between themselves. On the surface, it could appear a group of girls in a grade three class is having the time of their lives, but scratch that surface and you might find one of those girls is going through severe anguish at the hands of the others. Or there might be a boy who seems to be perfectly happy sitting on his own every lunch time, but share a conversation with him and it might eventuate that he is, in fact, suffering in silence.
A teacher who listens, learns, knows their students and picks up on signals, will gain the trust of their class and be more proactive in solving issues that can affect wellbeing.
EXPLICIT TEACHING, DIFFERENTIATION AND INCLUSIVITY
Children respond well to clear instructions, accessible tasks and a teacher who knows their capabilities and limitations. Although teachers would all love their students to be able to conquer every task given to them, the reality is, there are children who need the curriculum to be differentiated, their assessments to be modified and a standard to be set that they can achieve. The best way to do this, which contributes positively to wellbeing, is to work with the young person and their family, so an individual learning plan is developed and the student feels safe, listened to and set for success.
EMBEDDED WELLBEING - THE HIDDEN CURRICULUM
Author, teacher and educational philosopher Rick Lavoie describes the “hidden curriculum” as social skills that everyone knows, but no one is taught. Rules, expectations and social cues are included in the hidden curriculum, which is why it’s important to embed wellbeing into learning, so that skills can be modelled, which allows students to lead by example and enhance their lifelong learning.
A teacher who considers the values and beliefs they are projecting, and makes allowances for the values and beliefs of a diverse range of students is one who will achieve a strong sense of wellbeing in the classroom.
A teacher who shows students a commitment to a positive learning environment, an interest in their wellbeing, and a dedication to their academic success, is a teacher who will help to grow their class’ social and emotional literacy, thus opening doors to success by improving children’s confidence and their ability to learn.