Wellbeing at the heart of the school curriculum

Wellbeing is at the heart of all growth. Be it physical or mental, growth happens in a state of wellness.

Schools today are becoming increasingly aware of the need to have wellbeing at the core of all curricular experiences. Imagine a school that focuses only on academic attainment and progress. It is a place where students are then valued if they are academically bright scholars. If they are at the lower end of that continuum of academic proficiency, students feel undervalued, pessimistic and extremely anxious. Growth and learning get eaten by the acidic corrosion of negative thought and lack of self-esteem.

Allowing students to build their self-esteem, peace of mind and optimism promotes the wellbeing of the individual and in turn gives them what is necessary to embrace all kinds of learning. When resilience, tolerance, optimism and generosity are taught as part of a school’s curriculum, students become responsible and the emotional climate for learning produces individuals who will attain well both socially and academically.

The My World Survey (Dooley and Fitzgerald, 2012) found that the presence of one supportive adult in a young person’s life is critically important to their wellbeing, sense of connectedness, self-confidence and ability to cope with difficulties. Over 70% reported that they receive support from one adult in their lives. Teachers are sometimes that “one good adult” acting as a powerful protective force in a child’s life.

It is essential therefore that schools create opportunities for children to form relationships with their teachers and with other students in a non-threatening, collaborative atmosphere. At The Kindergarten Starters, we teach an articulated curriculum of tolerance and generosity and provide opportunities for children to impact their own school and others in a wider community.

The sense of purpose that the students have achieved was made apparent one morning when students came to my office with a plastic container containing 1038 Dirhams and 50 fils equivalent to around 250 US dollars-a princely sum for children as young as 8 years of age to raise. The youngest who was six was holding up the container which had mostly 1 Dirham coins and small denominations of 5 and 10 Dirham notes. They had heard that one of their school mates had lost a parent and was now unable to attend school as the family could not afford to pay the tuition fee. These children had resolved to raise the money to pay the amount every month unknown to both the parent and to their schoolmate. I accepted their offering knowing that whatever else happened, they were able to understand the human condition of loss and adversity and were able to relate to it without adult intervention.

They might not be great scholars but the sense of accomplishment they felt in doing a good deed will undoubtedly fill them with hope and optimism. It is the sense of wellness and peace that allows one to succeed at all forms of learning.

A sense of purpose and belonging is necessary for children to succeed. As part of the opportunities provided by the school, students are raising funds through bake sales, art auctions and through making a saving by doing odd errands at home to build a school in Malawi for underprivileged children. The school will have two classrooms with gender specific latrines so that at least 160 students can have access to education within a school building. This project has enabled students to understand that a community is not who we are or where we come from but a human condition that we can all relate to.

Tolerance teaches each child that there is a physical as well as a mental space around each living being and it must not be intruded upon without invitation. Students are taught that our wonderful world can be sustained, resplendent in its diversity if we respect that space. As Max Ehrmann tells us in Desiderata- You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here.

Wellbeing and mindfulness must be articulated and consciously practiced in our schools, till child by child, we would have given them the fundamental tools without which learning and growth cannot be the joyful experience that allows each of us to realize our potential.