Teaching Wellbeing: Helping Students Tackle Social Issues

Teaching Wellbeing: Helping Students Tackle Social Issues

>>Anna: The first talking point
we’re going to use is this one. Boys shouldn’t wear pink
or play with dolls. Off you go.>>Student: I disagree, boys can wear
pink and boys can play with dollies. It’s their choice, if they–>>Lucy: The wellbeing
curriculum has a big impact on their social skills
and their behavior. It gives them a language to
resolve problems or explain emotions that are very complex, and that
then does facilitate learning in the classroom, which is really key.>>Student: What’s the difference? We’re all human.>>Peter: Wellbeing is incredibly
important to this school, and I think the center of what we do. Students are exploring in a really
sophisticated way their emotions, their qualities, what’s getting in the
way of their learning and getting on. So it’s building up their confidence.>>Lucy: Wellbeing is really
a focus on the emotional, social and behavior of children. We have a curriculum, it’s around areas
like identity, growth, confidence, kindness, and we have these big themes.>>Aaishah: I think wellbeing is
not judging people by the outside, but judging them from
the inside instead. It teaches you loads of things and
it’s about being respectful to others.>>Lucy: We focus on how we can help
children understand the things they feel, the things that happen around
them, and give a voice to it.>>Student: If I say that, “Oh, I don’t like your skin
color,” you can’t say that.>>Anna: Does skin color tell you
much about a person on the inside?>>Students: No.>>Student: If someone was rude to
somebody, and that rude person judged that person, it won’t be nice,
so it has to be a fair world.>>Lucy: We primarily
deliver our wellbeing through our assembly structure.>>Amy: Each week, we’ll begin
with a kind of larger assembly, and we’ll introduce the
wellbeing topic for the week. This term, we’re thinking
about diversity.>>Teacher: We investigated how we were
each unique, and how that wonderful mix of people made up this
diversity in our society. And today, we’re going to look at
another piece of that, culture.>>Alexia: So sometimes in assembly, we
talk about our culture, like how we are from different countries,
how we eat and celebrations.>>Student: You can see culture
by the way people dress.>>Student: Some Muslim people, they have to wear certain clothes
for their culture.>>Amy: In class that week, children
continue discussing that theme to get a little bit deeper
into that topic.>>Lucy: We are very responsive and very
fluid to the needs of our children. So for example, issues that come up
in the playground, or in their lives that we want to tackle
and give them a voice for.>>Anna: I had some occasions in my class where there were some real
misconceptions with race. And so we’re talking
about culture this week, but let’s talk about the
judgements that people make, and how that can be a positive thing,
how that could be very damaging. We would start with a
stimulus, pictures, or a short film, or a piece of music.>>I’m going to show you
a picture of a man, and I want you to think what
word pops into your head when you look at that photo, ready?>>Student: Bad.>>Student: Bad.>>Student: Tough.>>Student: Robber.>>Student: Rude.>>Student: Cruel.>>I’m going to show a picture of another
man, ad I want you to do the same thing. Off you go.>>Student: Life saving.>>Student: Gentle.>>Student: Peaceful.>>Student: Smart.>>Student: Helpful.>>Student: Kind.>>Anna: They are the same person.>>Student: I thought so.>>Student: I knew it.>>Anna: So this is our topic for today. You can’t judge a book by its cover.>>Lucy: So the teacher might
start with an image or a poem, and then she will ask the children,
what questions come out from this? And they have to be really
big philosophical questions. It’s like, is it okay
to leave someone out? What would happen if everyone
in the world was the same? We then write them down
and then the children vote on which one they’d like to discuss.>>Anna: We’re going to
vote with our feet. It looks like this one has the majority, so everybody could take
their seat again, please.>>Lucy: Sometimes there’s a question
that really grabs their imagination. They start to discuss it,
build on each other’s ideas.>>Student: Sometimes when you judge
someone, it could make them sad. For example, if I said to
someone, “Look at that person. They have weird tattoos and all of
that, so maybe I should run away,” it could maybe hurt their
feelings inside. You never know.>>Anna: True, okay, yes, Kaden.>>Student: If no one was judging
people, no problems would happen, but I also think that everyone
has a little bit of judge in them.>>Anna: Interesting, mm.>>Amy: Through the different
wellbeing topics that we cover and having the opportunity
to discuss those ideas, they’re able to understand
other people’s viewpoints, and that’s what helps you form
your own ideas about the world.>>Student: It doesn’t mean
because peoples have a skin color, it doesn’t mean that
you’re not the same. Everybody’s people, because–>>Anna: It’s developing their grit
and their ability to persevere when something’s challenging. The progress that the children
I’m teaching now is phenomenal, but it’s not just about that. It’s about how best you can equip
them to deal with the world.

About the Author: Garret Beatty


  1. Edutopia, so great to see you guys going international in your coverage of educational philosophies and practices!! 😀 This was a beautiful piece…I love seeing what a profound impact teachers can make in such young lives. These kids have such a well-developed emotional intelligence, and it makes me smile to think about who they'll become as they grow up in the world.

  2. I think it was insightful that the little boy said he felt 'everyone has a little bit of judging inside of them.' It shows me that they're not just creating a culture where students are just learning the right things to say 'be nice, don't judge, accept everyone' but also coming to grips with the realities that 'Hey maybe I judge sometimes…is that OK? Is there a time when it's necessary? What exactly do we mean by 'judge'? "

  3. The children are so engaged and really look like they are learning these concepts.  It seems like a wonderful school.

  4. I am highly impressed with the philosophy behind School 21's approach to integrate their well-being curriculum with oracy by using talking points that stir up controversial conversations in the classroom. I believe it allows the students opportunities to process their thoughts out loud & to articulate what they are learning/thinking at a much deeper level, rather than merely listening to the teacher tell the students how people should think & behave in society or even to have the students research this topic online. Instead, this allows them to hear their peers' multiple perspectives about a topic & it gives them a chance to verbalize their own opinions on issues that people usually don't think to ask kids about. (Practicing listening & speaking skills aids in developing their oracy, reading & writing as well!) This is not only a wonderful approach to engage these students using oracy, but it also empowers them to make critical decisions about how they feel & what they think about social/moral issues that are real to them in their lives! Choices (positive or negative) that children (as well as adults) make start with their thoughts, then proceed to come out in the words that they use & eventually lead to their actions. What a clever & effective tool…integrating well-being with oracy as a key element in the curriculum for all classrooms from primary up to the secondary grades as well! Great job, School 21!! 👍😊
    If I were an administrator in my school district in the US, I would seriously campaign for this approach to be in all classrooms as well! I would think that the most effective way to truly empower both teachers & students to embrace this philosophy would be to implement this framework district-wide or at least school-wide. But, who knows?!! Technology started out as a choice & now most teachers & students love & embrace it as a necessity in their classrooms! 💜

  5. This school's leadership has come up with some novel, yet wonderful ways to teach certain ideas and principles. I hope their ideas catch on. Continued success to them

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