Student wellbeing is more important than you think

eCampus News is focusing on student wellbeing this year

[Editor’s note: eCampus News is thrilled to partner with The Brzycki Group to help our audience navigate the growing body of work and best practices in student wellbeing and social-emotional learning (SEL). These are important topics for eCampus News, and we’re excited to work with the Bryzcki Group, who have provided leadership to student wellbeing for more than 30 years. We want to be the central source for our audience and help highlight the great work institutions are doing to address these issues and make wellbeing a core part of student learning.]

Through monthly articles on the eSchool News and eCampus News media platforms, The Brzycki Group & The Center for the Self in Schools will cover the latest psychological, educational, and wellbeing models, policies, and practices in social-emotional learning (SEL) and student wellbeing. These models address the psychological, emotional, and physical well-being of children and can be applied to K-16 classroom teaching best practices, curricula design, counseling best practices, and educational leadership.

Education professionals across all levels of K-16 education want to make a real difference for students, and many are aware of the growing bodies of work in SEL and student wellbeing. Yet there is general misunderstanding about what these bodies of work mean and how to use them to produce mental health and wellbeing outcomes through schooling. Additionally, there are numerous models from which to choose, such as SEL; multi-tiered systems of support (MTSS); school-based mental health curricula; bullying and school violence prevention programs; anxiety, depression and suicide prevention and treatment models; trauma informed instruction; school climate programs; whole child education; student success programs; life coaching; and academic advising; among others. We often hear educators ask, “Where do I start?”

An integrated wellbeing framework
One significant reason for the confusion is that these topics are written about and researched by separate professions within K-16 education—such as classroom teaching, school leadership, clinical psychology, school psychology, academic research, and non-profit SEL services, among others. The issues are described from the perspective of each separate profession, without a common framework or model that grounds and integrates them across the K-16 schooling experience. Educators need new clarity around how to produce mental health and wellbeing through educational processes, along with an integrated framework for educators to apply across K-16 education.

Another challenge is that SEL and student success are most often viewed narrowly through the lens of student achievement and academic outcomes. However, the research shows that positive academic outcomes follow wellbeing outcomes. The overarching framework for SEL, student success, and student well-being is grounded in the psychology of wellbeing, and it is time to put well-being first to empower resilience and success across the lifespan.

The compelling need for mental health through schooling
Life for most of us in today’s world takes a toll on our emotional, psychological, and physical wellbeing. Research demonstrates that people are not emerging from our educational system with the mental framework and associated mental capacities to adequately meet the overwhelming demands of modern life. This inadequacy leaves most people with growing levels of anxiety and depression; disconnection from their experiences of joy, love, happiness, and inner peace; and a lack of sense of purpose in life with related personal and professional meaning.

The issue of mental health and wellbeing is becoming more and more acute as life in modern society becomes more and more complex. K-16 students have expanded needs and more mental and physical challenges and illnesses. We are not adequately addressing or measuring these needs and challenges. As a result, we are seeing dire and overwhelming statistics on bullying, hate crimes, trauma, anxiety, depression, sexual assault, substance abuse, suicide, behavior-based physical illnesses, and more.

Wellbeing is at the core of learning
We are proposing an innovative contextual view that places student mental health and wellbeing at the center of all schooling processes. From this perspective, student success across the entire K-16 educational experience can and should be measured by mental health and wellbeing outcomes, not simply academic achievement or graduation and retention rates.

We can expose everyone in our society to mental health and wellbeing best practices. We can teach all school-aged children, adolescents, and young adults how to be healthy, build social-emotional learning and student wellbeing practices into K-16 classrooms, and integrate efforts across the entire K-16 experience.

Research demonstrates that people’s success comes only partially from the intellect, and it is more important to develop optimism levels, social supports, and the ability to see stress as a challenge instead of a threat. The lens through which we see the world creates our realities—from the inside out—and the K-16 educational system has the ability, and responsibility, to help students develop their own unique lens.

Transformative models and high impact practices are available. We can create wellness and the better society we envision. Please join us throughout 2019—and read our monthly articles on eSchool News and eCampus News—as we open a conversation with K-16 educators to transform our mindset to produce positive student health and wellbeing outcomes.

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