As the impact of Covid19 on education continues to be felt around the world, a growing number of educators, thinkers and leaders are calling for a long term reconsideration of the purpose of school. The concept of teaching well being, and happiness, in schools has been steadily gaining traction for a few years. With the pandemic it has now come into much sharper focus. This post takes a look at how Aga Khan Academy Maputo is tackling this issue and poses some questions for the future.
Leading by example
From the beginning of the year the leadership team at AKA have been keen to embed well-being throughout school life. We make sure to check in on other leaders’ well-being at each meeting, and to ask divisional leaders how their teams are doing. This is a standing agenda item and places a strong emphasis on the importance of well-being for our community. This also transfers into meetings we each then lead with teams. By showing our own commitment to well-being we both look after our teachers, and empower them to look after their students.
Recently we have started to have a dedicated mindfulness practice at the beginning of each staff meeting/PD session. We ask teachers to lead these to share their ideas and to help us all pay attention to, and if needed to manage our emotions. Teachers have been excited to share feedback on this. They’ve let us know it helps them feel calmer, more focused, less stressed and, critically, happier. The biggest benefit to this is obviously that our teams are happier. But some secondary benefits include increased focus, greater receptiveness to change, and smoother collaboration.
Whilst our children are learning from home, a lot of thought went into their schedules. Each day has a mixture of live and on-demand learning to allow for both connection and self-pacing. Teachers regularly remind students to build breaks into their day. We add dedicated mindfulness, goal setting and reflection activities built into the week. There is also at least 1 day per month for fun activities for the children/low impact learning for the teacher. This helps us all to manage our workloads and take time to unwind.
Recognising the need for movement (for children and adults) has been really important too. We’ve made sure to keep PE built in daily for our kids in addition to regular reminders to take a break.
Many schools I speak to have been struggling to keep all of their staff and PE is an at risk subject in this sense. When faced with tough decisions about how to priortise the curriculum and the risks to literacy/numeracy for some children it’s a dilemma all educators can sympathise with. However, if its possible keeping that well planned, developmentally appropriate physical education is, of course, of huge benefit to children. Expending that energy, expressing ourselves through movement, having fun! These are all great reasons to move. This is a critical part therefore of well-being, and also happiness as we embrace the freedom to move, and also the ability regulate our emotions too.
Supporting with resources
Fortunately, many wonderful practitioners are sharing content aimed at supporting well-being, here are a few options to consider;
Go Noodle offers great options from guided meditation, to stretching break and beyond. Free to access and shareable with parents this is a powerful resources.
Class Dojo’s Big Ideas section has great videos on mindfulness, well-being, positive thinking and more.
Epic has some curated collections of books to support wellness too, read alouds are a great way to share this message.
What is your school community doing to promote well-being and happiness in both your students and staff?
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