Wellbeing in schoolsYou know yourself that if you come to school in a miserable state of mind it gets in the way of your being able to work effectively. Strong emotions activate the more primitive part of the brain, making it harder to exercise rationality and intellectual control over our thoughts. The same applies to the children in our classrooms – they won’t be able to learn if they are in the grip of difficult and uncomfortable feelings. Many children start school with very limited vocabulary and a poor understanding of how to express and deal with their emotions. Just as you can teach literacy and numeracy, so you can also teach children to recognise and name their feelings, and to express and manage them appropriately.
Promoting children’s wellbeing in school is most effective where it is delivered through a ‘whole school approach’, with all members of the school community – managers, teaching staff, support staff and children – working in a mutually supportive environment. Teachers, too, need to feel valued and respected at school in order to work effectively.
Even where there is no policy for the whole school, however, you can go a long way towards helping the children in your class become emotionally healthy. As well as fostering an atmosphere of mutual respect and tolerance, you can teach children specific skills: how to communicate with others so that they understand what we have to say; how to deal with issues such as conflict, change and loss, by generating their own solutions to problems. Well-evaluated curriculum materials can be extremely helpful, and Zippy’s Friends is one such programme for young children.