Interested in starting a wellness initiative at your school. Here four key ingredients for building a success school wellness program…
First and most importantly, teachers must be the number one priority. Passionate teachers are the most crucial ingredient for the success of any school program and if teachers do not buy-in to the power of wellness then your school’s wellness initiative will die! For this reason, I suggest that before any planning beings, time is dedicated to providing teachers with a greater understanding of wellness and an opportunity for teachers to honestly appraise their personal well-being is given.
Second, I strongly believe that teachers must be the creative pulse of any school wellness movement. Teachers will serve as the main wellness advocates and educators, therefore, teachers must feel a personal connection to the initiative. After teachers have an understanding of wellness, I suggest giving teachers an opportunity to define wellness initiatives already in motion either in his/her classroom or in the school and to brainstorm manageable ideas. It is important to note that each teacher may choose to promote a different initiative in his/her classroom as long as students are exposed to each component throughout the daily school experience. For example, an English teacher may have a passion for emotion well-being and choose to focus on this component by having students journal on a regular basis. While a science teacher is passionate about recycling and promoting environmental health.
Third, let the programming being. As programming commences remember to Keep it simple and start small! I think energy is best spent on developing programs that can be easy integrated into the school day. For example, schools can promote physical health by creating a no processed foods + only water snack policy (I have personal used this policy in my classroom at a low-income, rural school and it works!). Additionally, let teachers focus on projects that they are passionate about. Don’t force teachers to put policies and program in motion. Simply put, it won’t work! I think it is okay to require a focus on wellness but I think it is counterproductive to stipulate what wellness education will look like within each classroom. With that being said, it is important that teachers, administers, staff, and volunteers pick a focus and commit to it for the duration of the initiative to ensure a high quality program and diverse exposure for each student.
Fourth, as you progress give students a powerful voice and let students dictate where the program leads. The ultimate purpose of a school wellness program is to define the needs of the students and create meaningful solutions. This means that the students’ voices must be heard and responded to. If students feel an ownership of the wellness initiative, they will participate and be changed by it!