Today’s students face increasingly more challenges each year. Students are expected to achieve more in a shorter amount of time while being bombarded with countless distractions from all sides. Knowing this, how can educators better support student wellness?
What Are the Dimensions of Wellness?
Traditionally, people considered “wellness” to be a marker of whether or not they were physically healthy. Nowadays this definition has expanded to include several different dimensions, including physical, emotional, social, environmental, intellectual, and occupational. All of the dimensions impact each other in a variety of ways, coming together to reflect a person’s wellness as a whole. It’s important for educators to understand these different dimensions and take a holistic approach in order to support student wellness.
How Can Educators Support Student Wellness?
There is no single approach that will work for every educator and every student body. Many universities are setting aside days throughout the year as “Student Health and Wellness Days” to allow students the time to relax and take a break from their studies. Schools often have social workers or psychologists on staff available so students can talk about anything they may be struggling with.
It’s important to spend some time getting to know your students’ needs in order to find the best resources that may help them. Below are some ideas of how you can support your own students’ wellness:
1. Incorporate social-emotional learning into the curriculum.
Give students space to explore their emotions. Many kids are still struggling to maintain a sense of stability and security after the upheaval caused by the pandemic. Social distancing and masks have created huge obstacles for socializing, making it difficult for children to learn how to express their emotions or recognize how others feel. Equipping classrooms with a Social-Emotional Learning Box™ can help guide students toward emotional regulation. Incorporating Emotion Cushions during circle time or working one-on-one with students using a social story can also help students identify how they feel.
2. Get moving throughout the day.
It’s probably not news, but exercise is an important component of physical health. Active movement throughout the day provides students with a variety of sensory input they don’t get from sitting at a desk in class. Even a five-minute break between classes to receive proprioceptive, vestibular, or deep pressure input from various activities enables students to be more focused and alert in class. If there is a sensory room on-premises then make sure to schedule time in it regularly. Even without a dedicated sensory room, there are many useful tools such as body socks, swings, and other active sensory equipment options that can be incorporated into a classroom or other areas of the school.
3. Challenge students at their level.
Meeting students at their intellectual level is a key component to helping them thrive. Try to adapt the lesson or assignment to challenge each student “just enough.” If the content is below a child’s intellectual level then they are more likely to become bored and possibly become disengaged and distractible in class. On the other hand, if the lesson is too advanced then a student may feel discouraged and incapable, resulting in the same disengagement.
4. Create a safe, sensory-friendly environment.
Students are more likely to explore their surroundings, experience new sensations, and better self-regulate when they are in a safe place because they aren’t spending their mental energy worrying. Educators have the unique opportunity to provide their students with a stable environment, regardless of what life outside of the classroom might be like for them.
Putting Wellness into Practice
As an educator, you have an opportunity to do so much more than simply teach a curriculum to your students. They may look up to you as a role model or an authority figure whom they can trust. Make sure that not only do you provide opportunities for your students' overall wellness but that you model that in your own life as well.
What do you do to make sure you or your students achieve wellness in everyday life?
Share your experiences by replying in the comments below!