Well being and the Classroom
9 October, 2019
As educators, we naturally care a lot about our students. But, with the increasing amount of pressure that standardized testing and high-stakes university applications are placing on our students, are we really doing enough to emphasize well being in our classrooms?
Coming up, we’ll take a look at what well being in the classroom looks like and talk a little bit about the major things that are currently threatening our students’ well being. Then, we’ll discuss tactics you can use to help your students flourish in the classroom.
What is well being in the classroom?
Our primary and secondary school students are going through a time of tremendous change in their lives. Beyond the physical changes that our bodies go through as we grow into adulthood, primary and secondary school students are learning how to navigate in the world and create their own identity.
All of that, coupled with the pressure to do well academically and socially can take a huge toll on anyone, let alone a child. Often, a lack of well being in a student’s life manifests itself as anxiety, stress, depression, or non self-serving behaviors, like drug and alcohol use. Other times, a student that’s struggling with their well being exhibits low self-esteem and social isolation. Whatever the cause, a lack of well being is a problem for young students.
Alternatively, students that are flourishing will often come across as confident, excited, and engaged in their personal and academic lives. As educators, this is what we hope to see. Unfortunately, many of our students struggle with their well being and need our help to get themselves out of their rut.
How can we encourage well being in the classroom?
By now, it’s probably clear to you that well being in the classroom is of the utmost importance in our young students’ lives. Indeed, well being is important for all humans, though school aged children are often the most vulnerable to the negative consequences of poor well being.
So, as an educator, you might be asking yourself what you can do to foster well being in your students. Here are some tips:
Engage your students
Engagement is critical to the well being and success in daily life. Students that exhibit a lack of engagement often struggle academically and socially, which can have long term negative consequences for their self esteem.
However, just trying to engage students in anything isn’t going to work. For a student to actively engage with something, it needs to be a topic they’re interested. Unfortunately, it may be difficult to find out precisely what a student is interested in, especially if they’re isolating themselves in the classroom.
As educators, we can try to plan activities, classes, or even whole units to help students learn more about a topic that they’re truly interested in. A great way to do this while also engaging students in the outdoors is to use a framework called “Learning Outside the Classroom,” which seeks to engage students with learning about new topics of their own choosing, simply by observing the world around them.
Build meaningful relationships
As an educator, you’re more than just an adult at the front of the classroom. You’re a role model to your students and someone they look to for support, even if it doesn’t necessarily seem like it. Educators are trusted authority figures in many children’s lives, and can be a source of reliability and kindness for a student that’s struggling.
Both educators and students alike can gain a lot from creating meaningful, growth-oriented relationships that values each person’s contributions to the classroom. Not only can educators try to have frequent check ins with each of their students, but they can also encourage students to create meaningful relationships with each other so everyone has a person they can trust in the class.
Have a purpose
Often, students that are exhibiting signs of low well being lack a sense of purpose in their lives. If a student is struggling with motivation, it might be because they lack a sense of purpose in what they do in the classroom.
To help students find their purpose, educators can try out a variety of different goal-setting activities and ask students to create meaningful goals for themselves for things they hope to achieve throughout the year. The trick, however, is that these goals need to be checked-in on frequently and recognized, or they’ll just fall by the wayside.
Set the stage for open communication
While the traditional “educator-student” model has the teacher in a position of authority, it’s important to value a student’s own input in their learning. Students can bring a lot more to the table than just an inquisitive mind and an open dialogue between educators and students can help everyone get the most out of their learning experience.
If you foster a classroom environment that values two-way communication between educators and students, you’ll likely find that your students are more engaged in their work and willing to take ownership over their own learning.
Take it outdoors
If you’re worried about your students’ well being, bringing your classroom outdoors might do wonders for your teaching. When we’re outside, we are faced with innumerable real life challenges that require us to work together and communicate to achieve a common goal.
By moving your classroom outside, even if just for a short lesson in the school’s courtyard, you’ll likely find that your students are more engaged with the world around them. Longer expeditions and residential programmes stand to make even more meaningful change in a student’s life as these experiences require students to take on more responsibility and leadership both for themselves and their peers.
Ultimately, as educators, our students’ well being can’t be pushed off to the side. Only students that are functioning at a higher level of well being are ready to push themselves academically and socially, so the steps we take to foster more well being in the classroom can have a huge impact on a student’s life.
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