Recently, I’ve begun to realize that eyes start to glaze over when I talk about wellness and my passion for creating a culture of wellness at school. I’ll admit, it’s not fun realizing that the message I am trying to promote isn’t understood in a meaningful way. But as they say, feedback is a gift. So after evaluating, I am attempting to shed light on school wellness for my fellow teachers with the goal of showing you how a school wellness program is the key to developing thriving students.
Let’s start with understanding what Project School Wellness is all about. The sole purpose of this blog (and the essence of wellness) can be summed up in a single word, thrive. Yes, it’s a bit buzz wordy but that doesn’t make it any less of an important or crucial word. If your school’s anything like mine, you know what I mean. Most of our conversations revolve around discovering ways to build resilient, growth mindseted, grit possessing kids. Kids who can overcome anything and thrive.
Simply put, educators are desperately searching for ways to increase student well-being. This is an admirable ambition but most of these programs seem to lose sight of the reality that no single aspect of life creates sustainable happiness. Yet, this notion is perpetuated throughout our school system and society, refusing to give equal weight to each dimension of well-being.
This multidimensional truth about health and happiness is what sets a total health education apart from other student improvement strategies. Simply put students (just like us) don’t thrive when they are only doing well in a single area of life. Therefore my belief is that if we truly want students to thrive (which we all do!), health and wellness education is the most powerful recipe for creating an environment and culture that empowers thriving students!
A New Look at Health
This approach to developing thriving students is founded on the belief that health (a.k.a. well-being, a.k.a. happiness, a.k.a. thriving) is the byproduct of creating balance within each of the core areas of life. Within this framework, health is divided into eight, interconnected components that stretch beyond what you eat, how you move, and whether or not your sick. The eight components of health I teach are: environmental, social, intellectual, occupational, physical, spiritual, mental and emotional and financial health (video above). It may seem like a lot but I bet even with a quick scan you can see how each area of your life fits into one or more of these categories. More importantly, an honest self-evaluation likely sheds light on the truth that you only thrive when you are balanced in each, not just some.
Creating a Foundation of Wellness
I believe a foundation of wellness is created in the health classroom. Throughout the year, during two dedicated health classes a month, my students are introduced to each component and learn why it’s important. They understand how to strengthen each area of life. And they learn how the components work together and influence one another. Additionally, students develop a common language and learn how to identify elements of health beyond the classroom. This final note of common language is where a total health curriculum becomes the foundation for a school wellness program.
Establish a School Wellness Program
When you hear the words “school wellness program” you may shudder, assuming that it entails detailed and intricate programing. But have no fear, this isn’t the case. The brilliant thing about total health and wellness is that it’s multi-dimensional. This means you are most likely already touching on each component throughout the school experience. Therefore the real challenge isn’t in creating activities. It is in identifying and classifying what you are already doing and attaching common language to it under the umbrella of wellness. As mentioned early, it is this common language and understanding of health that empowers teachers and students to connect the dots and see how each aspect of life plays a vitally important role in well-being!
Time to Commit to Wellness
I hope this lengthy post has clear confusion about total health and school wellness programs. Furthermore, I hope it has sparked an interested in intentionally improving student well-being. Just in case you’ve been intrigued, check out my post about how to start a school wellness program. And if you want to continue learning about total health education and school wellness, please subscribe to Project School Wellness.