‘Every conversation is an intervention’

Wellbeing played a central role at Bett 2022.

In any classroom across the UK, 3 students will have a diagnosable mental health condition. This aligns with the figure that 90% of teachers have seen an increase in the number of students showing low-mood, anxiety, stress and depression. This may not come as a shock to many given the rise in social media, tougher exams, and negativity felt by current affairs. All are drivers of the increase in mental health disorders.

Our students haven’t missed out on algebra or assessments. They’ve missed assemblies and, for many, adolescence. What will it take to change the way we measure pupil success?

Highlights from GLUU’S Tara Jones’ presentation at Bett 2022:

We’re seeing mental health at the forefront of educational research and media at the moment, but wellbeing in education is nothing new. Though it may be new for us to see it so high on the agenda here at Bett this year. Whether we labelled it as so or not, wellbeing, for most teachers, has long been at the heart of what we do.

For any Primary teacher who’s tried to teach an afternoon lesson after a whole class lunchtime fallout on the playground, we get it. We know our pupil wellbeing is paramount to what and how our children learn. Simply put; you can’t progress your teaching until you’ve taken the time to sort any lunchtime problems out. Or you can, but you won’t be getting the best from your kids.

If you work with children, you know. 67% of students in the UK are reporting increased stress and anxiety. Globally the spotlight is on. It is no surprise then, that what we have seen is a shift and emphasis on not only teaching (SEL) but also measuring impact. It’s about time.

So let’s talk pedagogy – how can we implement a successful and meaningful wellbeing education in our schools. Further, how are we going to monitor effective mental wellbeing in our curriculum and ensure we’re getting it right? In the past many of us might confess to often paying lip service to wellbeing or mindfulness with one-off days here and there.

Like any good teacher, we need to tackle a few misconceptions…

Think wellbeing and what comes to mind? If you’re anything like most of us chances are health, happiness, pleasure and perhaps even yoga or alternative medicine are top of the list. Lots of people also describe wellbeing as an experience – of feeling good or healthy, for example.

While there’s no doubt feeling happy is a component of wellbeing, there’s actually a lot more to it. Living according to your values and reaching your full potential are key elements of wellbeing.

In fact if you type the word wellbeing into Word and right click for synonyms – do you know what you get? Comfortable, happy, safe, welfare…

So living according to your values and reaching your full potential are really important elements of wellbeing.

 It’s also possible to feel a sense of wellbeing about a specific event, as well as an overall sense of wellbeing about your life.

It’s not the absence of illness. This is so important. Wellbeing is much more than the absence of illness and diagnoses of depression and anxiety. In other words, wellbeing is about positive emotions just as much as the absence of negative emotions.

We’ve got to do some teaching then – we want to be, and should be, talking about mental wellness in our classrooms.

Technology is key here. Teaching wellbeing isn’t and simply can’t be a passive experience. Technology will be instrumental in your classrooms as a facilitator – we have got to be engaging with, and facilitating, conversations. Practically, and without the use of tech, this presents a problem. We’re time poor. Traditional methods of teaching won’t work here.

GLUU have experience in this area through eduu.school. We were the first service in the UK to bring therapists and clinical leads in to support curriculum crafting. Wellbeing isn’t a medicine or a quick fix,  there’s no fast track route to mental wellness. We’ve got to work at it and have wellbeing education as part of our daily diet.

As always, we’ve got to take a big step back and think – what do we want for our students?

We want our students to feel empowered. To demonstrate self-regulation and have the ability to self-help.

In schools we teach classes of 30, sometimes 30+. We haven’t got the time to get round to 30 answers, but tech can support that. Find out more about our solution, askOLA, here. With askOLA, students get affordable access to specialist Online Learning Assistants who tutor, coach and support with learning and wellbeing outside of school hours, giving you more time and capacity in your teaching day.

So, my very simple takeaway from Bett 2022 is this… If you want to support mental wellness in your classroom start by talking, daily; ask, share and connect with your students.

Post Bett 2022, we have welcomed two new schools to the GLUU wellbeing community. You can look forward to hearing from Matt Bawler (UK) and Despina Mallidou (Greece) on our upcoming podcast: (01.06.22) ‘Mental health and wellbeing’: the real core curriculum?’ Tara chatted with Matt last week who said, “Long term I want to change the narrative and help people to see the importance, power and impact this (proactive mental health, wellbeing and growth mindset) work can have on future generations by going back to the start and getting the foundations built right/strong.” A narrative well worth discussing.  Want to know more? Join our community here.

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